Sci-fi and Heroic Fantasy discussion

Starship Troopers
This topic is about Starship Troopers
203 views
Book Discussions > Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

Comments Showing 1-50 of 136 (136 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1 3

message 1: by [deleted user] (last edited Sep 01, 2013 08:32AM) (new)

This is the discussion topic for our chosen September, 2013, Classic SF/F Novel read and discussion:


Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein (1959)


(The second of three of our Robert Heinlein retrospective series of discussions.)


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I need to go back and 're-read this one, but I can say off the top of my head what RAH was asking in this one was "what price freedom?"...the answer was one word: service...and RAH beloved strongly in military service...he served in the US Navy before taking up writing (he had a medical discharge, lung problems, and served with honor). He tried to enlist in every conflict the US was involved in after that, turned down each time for medical reasons or age. STARSHIP TROOPERS is one of his most controversial works, many did not like the overt pro-military stand it took. Harry Harrison went so far as to write Bill, the Galactic Hero (a minor classic, and funny to boot) as a reply to ST.


message 3: by Jonathan, Reader of the fantastic (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jonathan Terrington (thewritestuff) | 525 comments As a classic Starship Troopers is interesting and definitely a case for me where the book is far better than the film. The film removes a lot of subtlety and turns everything into a kind of neo-Nazi twist.

Also, hey I'm back again, sorry for not participating as much in groups...


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

the film was ok as a film, but not as good as the book....

Would YOU like to KNOW MORE?


message 5: by Jim (last edited Sep 03, 2013 12:20AM) (new)

Jim | 0 comments Never seen the film but the book is interesting.

However I'd ask if anyone has read 'Space Cadet?' Also by the same author. It struck me that whilst they're not a pair, together they illuminate the author and set him in his time and place

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Space-Cadet-R...


Daran | 73 comments If we're going to start off talking about the movie, then I'll say this; they are not as thought-provoking as the book, but I laugh every time I watch them. By the third sequel it is practically a farce, and it's hilarious. In summary; the movies fail at sociology-politcal commentary, but succeed brilliantly as comedy.

There was a cartoon series called Rico's Roughnecks which was more faithful to the books, and more successful with its improvisations. It's available on Netflix. I recommend watching an episode or two.


Pickle | 92 comments i thought the movie was popcorn sci-fi at its finest, great movie but so different to the book.


message 8: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 337 comments The really great STARSHIP TROOPERS movie has yet to be made, but we may hope. My daughter went to college on an ROTC scholarship, and the US Army has the cadets read this book. (Probably better than OLD MAN'S WAR, eh?)


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

One of the interesting scientific/scifi advances Heinlein introduced in this novel was the power suit or power armor, complete with protection for the soldier, added speed and strength and even jet pack assisted flight. Plus a heads-up display to add real-time radar/infrared maps.

The concept has been used in lots of stories since (including Haldeman's "Forever War" and Steakley's "Armor".)

It also influenced Japanese manga and anime, synthesizing "piloted robots" from the established giant, automated super robots, influencing such series as Gundam, Votoms & Macross (US Robotech).

(BTW, The movie totally ignored the power suits - as well as a long list of other things from the book.)


message 10: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 337 comments Was Heinlein really the first? It seems so logical. A current (silly) iteration of the power armor meme is in the movie PACIFIC RIM.


message 11: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2227 comments Brenda wrote: "Was Heinlein really the first? It seems so logical. A current (silly) iteration of the power armor meme is in the movie PACIFIC RIM."

Heinlein sort of did it first, although not really, depending on how you look at it. E.E. "Doc" Smith did something similar in his Lensmen series, but didn't get technical about it - more like magic science. It's been too many years for me to recall details well, but one of the heroes had to assault a place & did it in a suit that carried way more than a man could & protected him. Put that idea together with a space suit & you get Heinlein's armor.

I think these books were written in the 30's & 40's for the pulps, then published as books in the early 50's, so well before Starship Troopers which came out in 1959. Heinlein did technology very early & well. His idea was pretty unique, but I think its time had come, too.


message 12: by Sue (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sue | 39 comments I don't think I'm a Heinlein fan. I didn't really enjoy the Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and I didn't really enjoy Starship Troopers. I think I got bogged down in the military command structure and battle formations a little too much. There was entirely too much time devoted to basic training (my favorite was when we are told "I'm not going to go into much more detail about basic training" but then the next several chapters were more details about basic training.), and then again to officer training. Parts of it got a little preachy, and it's clearly written during the "Communists are the Enemy" era of our history, with the bugs being the ultimate in communist enemies.


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Rember RAHs story Waldo...power armor is really just a full-body waldo...DARPA, the blue-sky research arm of the military (and the folks that gave us the internet) is tossing real money at trying to develop power armor for the infantry, MIT is working on it...think of it as a scaled down Iron Man suit


message 14: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 337 comments So much body mod is already being done from the medical side -- I am typing this while looking through two plastic lenses implanted in my eyeballs -- that nothing would surprise me on the armor front.


message 15: by K.R. (new) - rated it 5 stars

K.R. Cox (krcox) | 3 comments I enjoyed this novel. I read it after watching the movie, and enjoyed how the bugs had technology instead of just evolved or manipulated biology.

I need to add this to my books read list. I've read so many I don't remember them all when I think about them.


message 16: by Bart (new)

Bart Hill | 11 comments I read this one about 20 years ago. I was working in Yosemite NP and a co-worker gave me several Heinlein titles (we didn't have tv in the High Sierras). I devoured the book, and it has long stood out as my favorite Heinlein. Yes, all the stuff about basic/officer training did seem a bit much, but I thought it did a fine job as to how the military "brainwashes" recruits to think of themselves as a unit, not as an individual. Then, the battles with the bugs really opened my imagination. The movie: it was mindless entertainment.


message 17: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2227 comments Sue wrote: "I don't think I'm a Heinlein fan. ..."

While most seem to remember Heinlein for this book, 'Stranger in a Strange Land' & others, my favorites of his are his juveniles & short stories. The first mostly feature young men, often Boy Scouts, as the heroes, although Have Space Suit—Will Travel also has a young lady, Peewee, who is a hoot. He tends to preach less & illustrate the wonders of the universe more. His explanations about space travel & terraforming (ecology) in Farmer in the Sky are wonderful.

His short stories are available in a lot of different books, but if you can find a copy of The Past Through Tomorrow, you'll get a great sampling. It's a brick, but his short stories usually are short & to the point. Some are funny like "Gentlemen, be seated" where (view spoiler) Others are heartwarming with nifty heroes like "The Green Hills of Earth" or "The Long Watch". "The Menace from Earth" is told by a young girl who lives in Luna.

I grew up on these stories & loved them. While his 'greatest' books wowed me back in the day, I find they haven't aged all that well for me, either. He IS preachy in them. In many cases, that's what made them at the time, but our society has moved on past the points that he was once on the bleeding edge of. His juveniles & short stories tend to deal with more timeless themes, though.

If you have trouble finding them, let me know. I have some extras around & don't mind sending them to you.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

The Green Hills of Earth...that was one of the finest SF tales of all time...also, if i rember right, one of the first times a major SF author broke into the "slicks", the mainstream, upscale magazines as opposed to the "trashy" SF pulp magazine market.


message 19: by Sue (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sue | 39 comments Jim wrote: "Sue wrote: "I don't think I'm a Heinlein fan. ..."

While most seem to remember Heinlein for this book, 'Stranger in a Strange Land' & others, my favorites of his are his juveniles & short stories...."


Jim, thank you. I'll see if I can locate those and give them a try.

Whenever I don't enjoy something that has such a good reputation or large fan base, I always wonder if it's me. I am sometimes afraid to admit that I didn't really like LOTR, for example. I read the books twice and didn't really like them either time.


Brian Hammons (bphammons) | 5 comments If you like Starship Troopers then check out- Armor by John Steakley. My opinion is that it is even better. NOT knocking Starship Troopers. Great book and I love all things Heinlein.


message 21: by Randy (new)

Randy Harmelink | 930 comments There's also Timothy Zahn's Cobra series:

http://www.goodreads.com/series/41502...

Instead of an exoskeleton of armor, their weapons and armor were surgically implanted.


message 22: by [deleted user] (last edited Sep 05, 2013 07:55PM) (new)

Brian wrote: "If you like Starship Troopers then check out- Armor by John Steakley. "

Randy wrote: "There's also Timothy Zahn's Cobra series:."

Lest this discussion of Starship Troopers turn into a book recommendation thread, let me remind you all that we also have an extant Military SF recommendation topic


message 23: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 337 comments ST is actually the only really militaristic SF Heinlein ever wrote. Oh, and maybe SPACE CADET. Everything else he wrote that has the look of military SF is actually quite rebellious in nature. Look at MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS or CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY. He was far too much of a libertarian to ever really write a lot of military SF.


message 24: by Daran (last edited Sep 05, 2013 09:24PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Daran | 73 comments As a topic let me introduce the topic of his treatment of suffrage, and how my opinion toward has changed.

It was almost fifteen years ago when I first read the following about why Western democracy collapsed because, "people had been led to believe that they could simply vote for whatever they wanted, and get it, without toil, without sweat, without tears."

The idea of service being required for suffrage seemed repugnant to me. As an American I believed that every citizen had the right to vote, to a say in how their government's affairs were managed.

Wasn't that why the American Revolution was fought? And the U.S. Civil War? How many people have fought and died for the idea of Universal Suffrage?

But that was before I really saw how politics worked. And single issue elections, and candidates, and the general sense of entitlement that marks most politicians these days. And I think there needs to be some sort of qualification for holding public office other than age, and "a body temperature near 37 °C."

So my belief in Universal Suffrage is shaken. But I can't say that I think that military or federal service as it currently exists is any kind of improvement.

In Starship Troopers, the government must find a way for anyone willing to serve. People with few qualifications have to endure dangerous labor or experiments, which limits their chances of holding public office.

Does that necessarily mean that we would get a better class of politician, or voter? I've known many veterans, both peace and war time, and their reasons for serving were varied (from money for college to access to advance self defense techniques). And they are generally no less entitled or better informed than those who haven't served.

And what about family traditions? Is it really a choice if your father marches you down to the recruitment office on your birthday because he did it, and his father did it. Also, from a practical standpoint, what is to keep families in the system from giving their children special consideration for assignments.

I think Heinlein brings up some good points about the weak points of democracy, but the system he would replaces it with is, in my opinion far to open to corruption. A fact I think he was blind to because of his respect for the US Armed Services.

So what do others think? I think this is the kind of debate that Heinlein intended to spark when he wrote the novel. So, I think we should have it


message 25: by Jonathan, Reader of the fantastic (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jonathan Terrington (thewritestuff) | 525 comments G33z3r wrote: "One of the interesting scientific/scifi advances Heinlein introduced in this novel was the power suit or power armor, complete with protection for the soldier, added speed and strength and even jet..."

It is interesting considering the ways power suits and mechs have become part of pop culture to see where they started...

What do you all think of the corporal punishment ideas featured in this novel? Too confronting?


message 26: by E.D. (new)

E.D. Lynnellen (EDLynnellen) | 126 comments I don't know how much brainwashing I'd find acceptable before allowing 20-somethings to jump around with tactical nukes, tossing them willy-nilly on impulse.

It had better be damn thorough.


message 27: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2227 comments Daran wrote: "As a topic let me introduce the topic of his treatment of suffrage, and how my opinion toward has changed...."

Heinlein asks a lot of questions about politics in his books. In The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, he sets up the Luna Free State with a republic similar to the U.S. & points out a lot of issues with it on the way. Prof questions how they'll get their money, how people should be represented, & who should do so. Neither he nor Manny is all that pleased with the way things work out, but it's better than the old system.

As I recall from my school days many years ago, the ideal democracy allows everyone a vote on everything. We live in a republic where we vote for representatives who then vote on most everything. I believe the terms are used interchangeably because a true democracy isn't possible among large groups, although we're getting closer now. The other major advantage to a republic is the representative knowledge/experience with the issues fostered by the knowledge of those he represents in a perfect world.

I don't think Heinlein intends to provide answers so much as questions. He asks a lot in this book & says up front that this system of representation isn't perfect, simply one more that seems to work after a fashion. Intelligence & knowledge aren't prerequisites to voting (supposedly an intelligent choice) only the ability to show moral responsibility for a minimum of 2 years through service. Rico's father is successful by most accounts, yet doesn't have the right to vote & doesn't really miss it nor think much of those who do have the right. The subtext I read there is that he influences those who do have the right.

Heinlein points out in other books that any government is imperfect. Lazarus Long's sayings capture that succinctly:

Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How's that again? I missed something.

Autocracy is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let's play that over again, too. Who decides?

In a mature society, "civil servant" is semantically equal to "civil master."

In this book he says, "To permit irresponsible authority is to sell disaster."

I think this was another stab at pointing out a system to think about backed up by the History & Moral Philosophy courses, but the main theme was personal responsibility. No government or group is perfect & all depend on members doing their best. Something to shoot for, anyway.


message 28: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2227 comments E.D. wrote: "I don't know how much brainwashing I'd find acceptable before allowing 20-somethings to jump around with tactical nukes, tossing them willy-nilly on impulse...."

'Brainwashing' isn't what is needed, but intelligent, habitual behavior with swift, sure punishment for incorrect behavior, a point that I think Heinlein made well. I know corporal punishment isn't in vogue right now, but it has its place, especially in the handling of weapons. There often isn't time for discussion nor should any be needed by the time a person is holding a loaded weapon. Unfortunately, there are a lot of idiots out there & if you've never been in the position of dealing with them, it's hard to believe just how stupid & dangerous they can be.

I grew up with guns, so by the time I joined the Army, keeping my weapon pointed down range was a habit. You wouldn't believe, after all the classes, carrying one with continual reminders, & punishments that people would still forget to do so, but I saw it happen on many occasions.

One guy in my basic training group actually fired over our line on full automatic. We were only supposed to be shooting semiautomatic & he only had 3 bullets. Luckily, no one was hurt. Flogging not being an option, the drill sergeants made his life miserable for days, as did the rest of us. The guy quit a few days later. Took an 'other than honorable' discharge rather than the continual harassment. I think flogging would have been kinder. He had to work at being that stupid, but he was about 18 years old & that discharge probably haunts him to this day.

I had to help out on the range & it was hazardous, nerve-wracking duty. Rifles in the hands of a bunch of young men are scary, but other weapons are even scarier. Pistols are a lot easier & faster to change positions than a guy kneeling or laying prone with a rifle, so scarier. Watch a guy suddenly start arguing & gesturing while holding a loaded pistol sometime. The pucker factor is severe. Worse are something like LAW rockets where both ends can get you & the person is standing. It's amazing how many put the launcher on their shoulder, fingers on the button, & then twist around to make sure no one is behind them.

The worst was hand grenades, though. Any idiot can throw a ball, so how come so many people can't throw a freaking hand grenade? Luckily, we had concrete pits with wells in them. A couple would barely manage to throw the grenade out of pit & it wasn't all that rare for one not to make it out at all, hence the pit. I never knew anyone to get killed, although I heard stories. My squad leader had to hit a guy's hand to knock the grenade out & into the pit. He released the spoon & froze. It wasn't luck that I wasn't qualified to actually be in the pit as an instructor. It was sheer survival instinct.

Sorry, I go on, but the point of all that is that the only way to teach people to deal with dangerous weapons is to use them until they get very used to them & to punish them hard & fast when they get overconfident or stupid. I thought Heinlein's bit with Rico & the tactical nuke was right on target. (pun intended)
;-)


message 29: by [deleted user] (last edited Sep 06, 2013 08:13AM) (new)

Daran wrote: "In Starship Troopers, the government must find a way for anyone willing to serve. People with few qualifications have to endure dangerous labor or experiments..."

Just a couple of historical notes to add: when Heinlein volunteered for the Navy, there was no military draft in the US. But by the time he wrote Starship Troopers in 1959, the US used conscription (draft) to fill out its armed services for two decades. That ended in 1973 at the end of the Vietnam War. (I wish I saved my draft notice; I think I had to turn it in when I reported for my physical.)

It's not clear how during peacetime Starship Troopers's Federation would pay for a huge military if more people volunteered than were needed. (US experience in the 80's and 90's allowed the armed services to maintain higher enlistment standards, which could be lowered again during times of conflict when more troops were needed.

Edit: Any excess volunteers during peacetime could presumably be channeled into civilian-type jobs: public works and such, although that would in effect compete with the private sector.

It seems to be implicit that the US would resume the draft if needed for a larger conflict. (One could argue that the political difficulty in resuming the draft restrains US military action to what the volunteer rate can support.)

BTW, two years after Starship Troopers was written, in 1961, Pres. Kennedy created the US Peace Corps, which provided for "alternate service" via draft deferment. Perhaps surprisingly, it didn't prove that popular, even when the draft was still in effect. (According to Wikipedia, 210,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps, tiny percentage of the military during the Vietnam war era.)


message 30: by [deleted user] (last edited Sep 06, 2013 08:14AM) (new)

Jim wrote: "the ideal democracy allows everyone a vote on everything. We live in a republic where we vote for representatives who then vote on most everything...."

I would phrase that as a "direct democracy," rather than ideal, generally credited to the Greeks. Personally I can't imagine taking the time to study all the fiddly bits of every policy issue, so I guess I'm in favor of representative democracy.)

The Romans added the idea of laws, determined in advance and applied to all.) In "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress", Manny says, "Warden has Rules, but Loonies don't have Laws." Lunar justice is based on not annoying others, because anyone is free to "eliminate" anyone else, as long as they're prepared to accept responsibility (presumably in the form of retaliation by the friends of the eliminated, which is likely scant solace to the deceased.) How this doesn't degenerate into warlords and gangs is left as an exercise to the reader. As K.V. said there, "the society portrayed was one ... that only works if everyone living in it thinks enough like the author!"

During the Age of Enlightenment, driven by the rising merchant class, the notion of a "liberal democracy" arose. That asserts that there are individual rights and aspects of civil society that are outside the purview of government. Probably first codified in the US Bill of Rights, It's what most Americans (and Westerners) mean when they say "democracy": the winner of an election doesn't get to behead the losers. Heinlein's Federation of Starship Troopers mentions, "Constitutional liberties of citizens and residents", which appears to encompass noncitizens.


message 31: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2227 comments I looked it up & you're right, G33z3r. 'Direct democracy' is correct & all democracies are republics, but not all republics are democracies. Well, it's been a long time since school...
;-)

I agree that I can't keep up on all the issues. No one can nor can even the pros agree. I'm not meaning to start a political discussion with this, but I remember back when Reagan made a speech about his new economic package & I actually watched 2 hours of economic professors discussing the ramifications. Very learned men, all well meaning & sincere to the best of my knowledge, with completely different conclusions. They all seemed to have good reasons for their opinions, too. Wow. If they can't figure it out, how can the 'common man'?


message 32: by Jim (new)

Jim | 0 comments Jim wrote: "I looked it up & you're right, G33z3r. 'Direct democracy' is correct & all democracies are republics,..."


A lot of Europeans would disagree with that comment :-)


message 33: by Gene (new)

Gene Phillips | 36 comments I reread ST a couple of months ago, and I must admit that it's a good read. However, I don't think its philosophical points jab very deep.

My main example is when the instructor asserts his take on the homily that "violence never solved anything," by claiming that in fact violence has solved a great many conflicts. The rejoiner sounds clever, but it's no less a platitude than the one it strives to replace.

What does it mean, for instance, to "solve" a conflict? The slaughter of Native Americans "solved" the conflict between them and the invading Europeans. Heinlein glosses over the fact that a lot of military solutions are morally untenable, because it detracts from his theme: that the military plays a vital role in societal affairs.

Even leaving out moral considerations, it's highly debatable as to how often military force "solves" problems. More often than not, unless a rival group is wiped out, the survivors continue to plot against the victors in whatever way they can do so, nurturing resentments no matter how well justified they are in so doing. I'm sure everyone here can think of historical incidents in which military force did not "solve" the deeper conflicts.


message 34: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2227 comments Jim wrote: "A lot of Europeans would disagree with that comment :-)"

How so? I'm no good with labels & was just repeating a definition I looked up online. Not sure how good the source was, though.


message 35: by Jim (last edited Sep 06, 2013 06:16PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2227 comments Gene, considering the issues in the Mid East, you're right. Not much ever got solved, although I think the South Koreans weren't too upset with the outcome of that rather inconclusive war & the Vietnamese seem happy, too. WWII did solve the problem of Hitler, but that was a direct result of WWI not solving a damn thing, although I'd lay that blame on the politicians, not the armies. I'd say it goes both ways, but there is no doubt that a judicious use of the armed forces can & has changed things, at least in the short term. What happens after the fighting is done isn't the army's responsibility.

While the Army certainly imposed a lot of force, the Indian's way of life was doomed when Europeans flooded their lands. It was just a matter of how long the conflict lasted.

Added after dinner: The general, overall use of an army is not a moral decision on their part. As individuals, their last free choice was to serve their country. Then they're trained to obey orders & function as a unit. They're a tool. Individual units & such can do small things, but that's it.


message 36: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 337 comments Heinlein puts his thumb on the scale in a number of books. He's not striving for complete plausibility -- he's writing a mind experiment. What would happen if...?


message 37: by E.D. (new)

E.D. Lynnellen (EDLynnellen) | 126 comments Whether we call it "brainwashing" or "training" really doesn't matter. The end result is a rapid, enforced, change in thinking. Pre-planned. A system.

As to moral culpability in an army, one need only consider the Waffen SS to question if "following orders" is the end of an individual soldier's responsibility.

A society built on the basis of "citizens" who've been "properly trained" militarily, seems similar to a theocracy where only the dogmatically devout hold power.


message 38: by Jim (new)

Jim | 0 comments Jim wrote: "Jim wrote: "A lot of Europeans would disagree with that comment :-)"

How so? I'm no good with labels & was just repeating a definition I looked up online. Not sure how good the source was, though."


it's just that the UK does rather consider itself to be a democracy


message 39: by Jim (new)

Jim | 0 comments Gene wrote: "Even leaving out moral considerations, it's highly debatable as to how often military force "solves" problems. More often than not, unless a rival group is wiped out, the survivors continue to plot against the victors in whatever way they can do so, nurturing resentments no matter how well justified they are in so doing. I'm sure everyone here can think of historical incidents in which military force did not "solve" the deeper conflicts. ..."

survivors? You expect survivors?

remember you are thinking within the moral construct in which you are comfortable. It could well be that we are discussing an author who felt that part of his job was to place you inside a different moral construct and thus be forced to think


message 40: by Randy (new)

Randy Harmelink | 930 comments I remember some "Monkey's Paw" type story where someone wished for "Peace on Earth".

The result -- no life at all existed on Earth. No atmosphere. No oceans. Just a big rock in the universe.

Very peaceful.


message 41: by [deleted user] (last edited Sep 07, 2013 07:16AM) (new)

Randy wrote: "I remember some "Monkey's Paw" type story where someone wished for "Peace on Earth". The result -- no life at all existed on Earth...."

In Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven, which we discussed last April, such a directive causes George Orr to dream up an alien invasion, uniting Earth nations and moving war to outer space.

(By the way, we have another Le Guin discussion coming up next week in The Word for World Is Forest, set on a planet where the indigenous aliens do indeed live in peace among each other. - Shameless promotion of upcoming group discussion topic :)


message 42: by [deleted user] (new)

Gene wrote: "when the instructor asserts his take on the homily that "violence never solved anything," by claiming that in fact violence has solved a great many conflicts. The rejoinder sounds clever, but it's no less a platitude than the one it strives to replace...."

I think Dubois's example, Carthage being crushed by the Romans in the Punic Wars, was intended to indicate that if your opponent is willing to use more force than you, you will be "solved". I don't think it's a moral assertion, just a statement of reality.

As Brenda observed, Heinlein has "his thumb on the scales" in Starship Troopers: the war begins with a Bug attack on Earth. That removes most of the moral ambiguity, justifying force in response. (On the other hand, if Earth began the war attacking a Bug planet because it wanted some rare resources, the author might have to spend time confronting the moral issues.)


message 43: by Gene (new)

Gene Phillips | 36 comments Jim said:

"survivors? You expect survivors?

remember you are thinking within the moral construct in which you are comfortable. It could well be that we are discussing an author who felt that part of his job was to place you inside a different moral construct and thus be forced to think"

Survivors are always a possibility, not my "expectation," unless the military group in question makes it a permanent policy to wipe out any opponents through genocidal elimination.

I can entertain alternative moral constructs as much as anyone. I'm criticizing Heinlein for having made his construct a little too simplistic in some respects.


message 44: by E.D. (new)

E.D. Lynnellen (EDLynnellen) | 126 comments Von Clausewitz touched on this line of thought, by advising war be waged as brutally and viciously as possible. A quick and savage victory being the most moral outcome for both sides. Ending the war and suffering of the enemy.

Of course, he intended it as a way the victors could justify their brutality. He just didn't say so forthrightly.

Being attacked justifies a response. Does it justify genocide?

I believe Heinlein "tipped the scales" precisely to raise these questions, not to glorify militarism.


message 45: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Clough (brendaclough) | 337 comments Exactly. The great charm of SF (and to some extent all fiction) is that we can explore these concepts in the cheapest possible way -- i.e. without actually building space armor, having wars, and wiping out planets.


message 46: by Gene (new)

Gene Phillips | 36 comments I'll say this much: in some sections of the book, Heinlein does succeed in raising legitimate questions. I just gave one example of an instance where I felt he didn't explore a question adequately for my tastes.


message 47: by Bart (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bart Cline (lordrocco) | 8 comments I read this book twice. Once before and once after the movie. I definitely enjoyed it more the first time. The second reading I felt too much time was spent explaining how things worked, like technology, political structures, military procedures, and so on. But it's only a minor gripe. It was the first book that introduced me to a truly believable alternative future history -- you know, one that wasn't peaceful. I was just a naive kid at the time. His "violence never solves anything" discussion made a big impression on me.


message 48: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2227 comments I was always disappointed that Heinlein didn't do a bit more with the logical proofs in the Moral Philosophy course, but I think that's because he cheats. They're questions to ponder, not to answer. Still, I would have liked to see the logic worked out because I've often thought about the one posed by the number of prisoners for obvious reasons.

"Are a thousand unreleased prisoners sufficient reason to start or resume a war? Bear in mind that millions of innocent people may die, almost certainly will die, if war is started or resumed."
.....
He said sharply, "Come, come, Mister! We have an upper limit of one thousand; I invited you to consider a lower limit of one. But you can't pay a promissory note which reads `somewhere between one and one thousand pounds' -- and starting a war is much more serious than paying a
trifle of money.


The monetary unit was interesting, too.


message 49: by Gene (new)

Gene Phillips | 36 comments Jim said:

"I was always disappointed that Heinlein didn't do a bit more with the logical proofs in the Moral Philosophy course, but I think that's because he cheats."

Similarly, he implies-- without actually stating outright-- that everyone who's become a career military man has become a model of decorum and right-thinking. The only flawed soldiers are those who join but prove themselves unworthy, as with the goof who makes the mistake of admitting that he struck a superior officer. I suppose that this is part of the thought-experiment, though.


message 50: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim (jimmaclachlan) | 2227 comments Gene wrote: "...Similarly, he implies-- without actually stating outright-- that everyone who's become a career military man has become a model of decorum and right-thinking...."

You're right & that's definitely a stretch for my suspension of belief. Maybe that's why I don't care for this book as much any more. It's too simplistic & unreal in too many ways - too pro-military, team oriented. I've never been a team player & become less so over the years.


« previous 1 3
back to top