Starship Troopers Starship Troopers question

Can you love a book you disagree with?
Matthew Duncan Matthew Nov 02, 2014 05:58PM
I say yes. In Starship Troopers we follow the story from the perspective of a young man who doesn't want to be a soldier at first and his journey to a leader of men.
There are parts that aren't that well written and the story drags in places, but it is still one of my favorite books. Partly because it is simple and partly because I became emotionally invested in the character that moved me through the entire book.
Yet there is a theme in the book that honestly promotes the idea that good leaders should always have training and experience in the military. It implies that mandatory service to earn citizenship should be the norm. It was something I could not buy into. Yet even though I didn't agree with the ideas, I still enjoyed the characters and story.

Have any of you read a book where you disagreed with ideas presented in it, but still enjoyed the read.

Yes, of course. Heinlein is actually a great example. I harbor a deep and abiding love of Heinlein and MANY of his novels are part of my personal favorites list. That said, many of his novels are part of my personal hate list. If I read only what I loved or agreed with, I would miss out on quite a lot of Heinlein's work which would be a real tragedy. I don't have to agree with Heinlein's underlying message, but I can appreciate and enjoy the alternate ideas of the world and the stories he wrote. Reading everything, even books we don't like or agree with, can only open our minds to new ways of thinking, new ways of seeing the world and new perspectives that we may never have considered.

First of all, many historical nations were based upon the concept of the right to vote or participate in government only after serving the country. Many modern nations still have national service. So the basic concept is not so way out there.

But although Heinlein used the military as the example, the concept of a nation/world where being a full voting citizen is dependent upon directly putting yourself in the service of the nation, whether that be military, police, emergency services, helping the poor, building infrastructure etc. for a fixed period of time is not so fascist or dictatorial.

If you wish to spend your life simply doing what you enjoy, pursuing wealth, being a bum, etc without first serving the nation, then by all means do so, but forfeit the right to have a direct say in the running of your nation. There could even be a provision to do the service in parts.

Paraphrasing Heinlein (from his Expanded Universe, as I recall, but I can’t look it up right now) he said that it would be a mistake to assume that he necessarily believed in all the positions he had his characters take.

It’s an interesting point, and allows an author to dodge around a lot of issues. Furthermore, Heinlein originally intended Starship Troopers as a juvenile coming-of-age story (Alexei Panshin, Heinlein in Dimension, at, originally published back in 1968):

“This book was written to be published by Scribner's as a juvenile, but they refused to accept it, thereby ending their long and profitable association with Heinlein.”

So, maybe the world was crafted to mature a spineless young protagonist into a hard adult. I suspect that some of the details (public flogging) were added for Heinlein’s own amusement, just to keep things different and to show that even in some future “utopia” there were still details that would be shockingly hard for us to accept. On the other hand, he went through the Naval Academy at Annapolis, back in 1929. What kind of hazing and discipline did they have in those days?

Heinlein certainly had a penchant for writing loudly opinionated characters who were often wrong (although they’d never believe that of themselves). It made for better tension, conflict, and drama, and was entertaining to watch. Why not use the same technique on an entire world?

Face it, the fun of Starship Troopers is the cool power suits, basic training, and the combat scenes. This isn’t an ambiguous-morals war novel, it’s kill-or-be-killed, by aliens that are irredeemable monsters. Need something different? Read Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War – a direction reaction to Starship Troopers (and if Starship Troopers is a WWII’s “the good war” take on fighting, Haldeman’s is a Vietnam “What are we doing?” take on the same situation).

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE Starship Troopers. It fills me with wonder, and reckless gung ho, and the urge to take on the universe. It pushes the buttons the author wanted to push, and in that sense, it’s masterful.

BUT, just because I love the novel, doesn’t mean I want to live there. There are a lot of things in it that the characters accept, a lot of the moral lessons that seem to be aimed at the readers, that I disagree with. Heinlein’s ambiguity lets me believe that the author was playing with me, raising the issue and asking, “what do you think of this?” Maybe.

WHAT I FEAR is people who take a work of fiction as some sort of evidence for the points offered in FICTION. The largest example being Ayn Rand, who seems to have used works of pure fiction to sell her ideology to people as influential as Alan Greenspan, Ron Paul, Paul Ryan, and others who have taken up the banner of “objectivism.” She wrote STORIES.

So, feel fine enjoying Starship Troopers. Your enjoyment isn’t approving or advancing the cause of public flogging (or their many other oddities) one whit.

Gary (last edited Nov 02, 2014 07:18PM ) Nov 02, 2014 07:17PM   1 vote
I say absolutely.

I don't agree with a lot of the underlying but pervasive religiosity of C.S. Lewis' work, but I've read him my whole life, and continue to enjoy his ideas. I don't think I can say I agree with Hemingway's views on life, politics or... let's say "gender relations" shall we? At least, not as expressed through his characters, plots and themes. In this case, Starship Troopers is a good romp, and has a lot of amusing ideas so long as one doesn't take them seriously--probably not as seriously as the author took them, if I can put a bit of a fine point on it.


Just because you do not like what is written about any given subject does not mean you cannot enjoy the book especially if it is well written. You do not have to like the authors politics, personality, lifestyle, or belief system if you enjoy what they wrote. On a different thread I was asked can a person enjoy novels by a person that was horrible. My answer was it is a very personal decision. If you can separate out one from the other, then by all means enjoy the works. If you cannot separate them, then reading the works will make you miserable. I say the same thing here, it is very personal and it is up to you if you enjoy the works. I enjoyed both Starship Troopers and The Forever War even though they are from very different points of view.

Heinlein had a sort of split personality. He believed in service to one's country -- as seen in Starship Troopers -- and yet he had a strong distrust of government, as seen in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. And during the 1960s, he became an unwilling icon of the Flowerchild movement.

I've always wondered if leaving the Navy (apparently for health reasons) after enduring the Academy for four years had some impact on him.

Yes. I wouldn't want to live in that society - definitely fascist outlook. Still, it's a great action book.

Yes and no. It depends completely on the execution. I value when an author portrays a fresh perspective on a matter, as in Starship Troopers. However, when an author drones on a point to the extent that it's tiring and approaching on offensive I do not appreciate it.

In Starship Toopers, I agreed with the first debate about child rearing, but disagreed with the second debate, which was about government. However, since they were both portrayed as opinions and fit the theme of the book, I appreciated them very much.

Unfortunately, I can't quite think of any book that fits the negative. I recall one of the quest lines in Skyrim (if you'll forgive me), which the script writer apparently justifies murder of an unarmed old lady because she beats children. I could not disagree more, but the game gave no second option, completely disregarding opinion and forced theirs' on every person that bought the game. I do give negative marks for that sort of thing.

Yes, absolutely. I read books sometimes, in which the writers seem to push a political, or socioeconomic ideology. I love the story lines and characters. The messages, I just ignore, or say to myself,"it's fiction; anything is possible".

Yes, you can love a book you disagree with. I do it all of the time.

If you only read and enjoy things that you agree with politically, you are doing yourself a disservice. If you never challenge your ideals, then you never know if they are actually valid.

Seeing how our democratic republic seems to be moving toward an oligarchy, perhaps not unlike that of Ancient Corinth, and seeing how only 1.5% of the citizenry actually participate to defend such a republic, I think I like Heinlein's notion of military service as a condition to obtain citizenship.

R.a. Thank you, Martin. I agree.
Oct 04, 2015 07:58AM · flag
Francis Homer Thank you Martin, seems most people miss that part of the book. It says (And I'm quoting from memory) Federal service. He even has a part where the do ...more
Nov 11, 2015 03:10PM · flag

W. Nov 21, 2014 01:07PM   -1 votes
We read to try out alternatives. I doubt I would CHOOSE to change the major decisions of my life (I am alive...that was never a safe bet). Reading is safe immersion.

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