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July Book Discussions > July 2011 - Starship Troopers, the book not the movie

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I'll admit it - I saw the movie long before I read the book (I didn't see the followup ones though) and there were some things I really liked about it such as the cheesy Movie Reel quality to the news segments.

But, then I read the book and It was such a different story even if the two shared some elements with each other. There are parts of the book that were very dull - the moral philosophies and such - but overall, it's a fantastic book. So, to kick things off, what different elements did you especially like in it?

Personally, I liked how brutal book camp was. It exhausted me just reading it. It was bleak and demanding and I pretty much couldn't put it down.....


message 2: by Charles (last edited Jul 16, 2011 01:25PM) (new)

Charles (nogdog) I liked the M.I. boot camp stuff and the actual battle sequences. The long expositions on the citizenship stuff got to be a bit much, though. It's OK with me for it to be in there (whether I'm on board with it or not), but the book might have gone from good to great if a lot of it had been replaced with more character development, both for Rico and maybe one or two other secondary characters who could have been fleshed out more.

Still, it's a good read, especially if you keep in mind when it was written, as it still holds up for me pretty well today.

PS: I read it once many, many years ago, then again shortly after the movie came out a few years ago (and again this month). I think as a young man a lot of the moral philosophy/citizenship stuff just washed over me as I paid more attention to the military and action portions. Now it seems to get more in the way of the story -- or perhaps the time I've spent working on projects for the military has changed how I view the idea of only veterans having the vote. ;-)


message 3: by Al "Tank" (new)

Al "Tank" (alkalar) | 231 comments I read the book a long time before the movie came out, so I was fairly disappointed with the film. Have read the book several times since then. I keep losing copies of it. I loan it out, forget to who, and never see it again. I currently have two copies "just in case".

I was in my teens, going to college (if I recall correctly) the first time I encountered the book and the political stuff helped to form my overall political view (which was at that time finely balanced between "conservative and liberal" -- although today, we'd call that ultra-conservative since the public media definitions have wandered so far to the left since then). The duty to earn the right of franchise struck a cord with me. How can you value freedom if you've been gifted with it and never had to do anything yourself to gain/keep it? If someone doesn't care enough to put his life and property on the line, then he doesn't deserve it, nor a voice in governing a free state.

Most people don't know that most of the signers of the Declaration of Independence who pledged their "lives, fortunes, and sacred honor" lost either or both their lives and their fortunes. The British targeted them and their families as "traitors to the Crown" and harried them whenever possible, often putting their homes to the torch and arresting their wives and children (never to be seen again).

Rico's personal reason for the war is intensified when Buenos Aires is destroyed. An unintentional parallel to the modern event of the World Trade Center destruction (or pick any other massive attack that destroys a homeland somewhere in the world, such as some African states). Heinlein may have been thinking of Pearl Harbor as a parallel? But the London blitz or Hitler's early push into Poland could serve as inspiration just as easily.

MI boot camp was indeed a rough passage. The closest I can think of today would be one of the training programs for the best of the best, such as Marine, Special Forces, or Seal camps. Heinlein, as an Annapolis alum, was probably familiar with at least the UDT (as Seals were called at his time) training camps.

I don't see any meaningful parallels between the "skinnies", the "bugs" and Earthbound "bad guys". They seem to be a convenient "enemy" to complete the story and give meaning to the military actions. You can't fight a war without an enemy.


message 4: by Donna (new)

Donna (donnahr) This was my GR review for the book (I gave it 5 stars):

"I'm not quite sure what I expected from this book, just a 1950's era shoot-em-up space opera I think. This was certainly not that book. I was surprised actually how little real action there was. Instead it is the story of a young man's journey to become a man.

I have an unexpected interest in these kind of military training stories (I love to watch shows about Navy SEALS on TV) so that aspect really captured my interest. But the story was so much more than that. I have never seen the movie and have no idea how well it is done but I have hard time imagining that a Hollywood movie could do justice to this book--it's just so thoughtful. I would highly recommend this book."

I was also struck by how modern the book felt to me. I was confused for quite awhile during the book on what constituted citizenship until he went into the long explanation of it. It's an interesting concept to be sure. There is an attraction there as one would like to think that votes (I'm thinking of the USA here) are being cast and decisions made by people who appreciate their rights and freedoms. However, I can't support the idea of limiting the right to vote to people who have served in the armed forces. Even in the book Heinlein mentions that many of those that serve and gain citizenship didn't put their lives on the line, they sat in an office or did menial work somewhere for their contract time. I teach school--am I not serving my country? (Believe me, there are days when I think I deserve hazardous duty pay.)

However, whether or not I agree with his philosophy, he presented it in the book in such a way that made me stop and think about it and it certainly didn't lessen the reading experience for me.


message 5: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jennyc89) I'm not done yet, but I'm really enjoying it. I too was surprised by how little action there has been. I thought the part about physical punishment was interesting. I've always been against physically punishing children, but the author had the best argument for it that I've ever heard. I am a bit disappointed that Carl is only in the beginning of the book, I liked the character in the movie and I hoped he and Johnny would meet up again. I'm hoping to finish today or tomorrow, it's such a quick read.


message 6: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jennyc89) I finished Starship Troopers last night. I liked the book but I think I would have liked it more if it didn't ramble on about certain topics, like the chain of command in chapter 13. However I know that others do like that sort of thing. I don't actually know a lot about the military so those kind of details don't usually interest me. Although thinking about it I do enjoy quite a few books that take place in the military so maybe I should have paid more attention to the chain of command (I never know if a Sergent is above a Lieutenant, etc.).


message 7: by Al "Tank" (new)

Al "Tank" (alkalar) | 231 comments Heinlein once said that science fiction is basically a "what if" situation. What if such and such happened or was invented? What would happen as a result and how would people react and function.

Ultimately, like all really good SF, his stories revolved around people presented through the eyes of a single protagonist. In fact, he was one of the masters of first person singular stories. He never "head hopped" (the lazy writer's way of telling the reader what ANOTHER character is thinking or feeling).

Starship Trooper is a great example. The entire story is told from Rico's viewpoint which makes it intensely personal to the reader and makes Rico into a sympathetic character, the reader can care about. And he "grows" into a better man and soldier as a result of his experiences.

He's not alone. He has friends and mentors (if you can call a DI a "mentor") around him to help him succeed and to improve.

If I were called upon to criticize the book, my first negative comment would be that the enemy is too simplistic. They have no personalities presented. They're just there to shoot at the humans and try to conquer them. The bugs are presented as almost a mindless insect society, run by "brain bugs". Not what you'd expect of a space-going race. This is a problem many stories have. The bad people/beings are truly bad and deserving of destruction. But the bad guy is rarely a "bad guy" in his own mind. Dickson's Bleys Ahrens (Dorsai series), for instance, had his own agenda and thought of himself as a good guy.


message 8: by Al "Tank" (last edited Jul 18, 2011 08:32AM) (new)

Al "Tank" (alkalar) | 231 comments Jenny wrote: "I finished Starship Troopers last night. I liked the book but I think I would have liked it more if it didn't ramble on about certain topics, like the chain of command in chapter 13. However I know..."

From the bottom up (bear in mind that their are sub-grades within ranks and where two officers are the same rank, time in grade predominates): private, corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, colonel, general. Sergent and below are "enlisted personnel". Above that, you're in "officer" country.

Just to confuse the issue, the Navy has a different chain, sometimes using the same names. For instance, a Navy lieutenant is the equivalent of an Army captain. Let's see if I remember this correctly: Enlisted: Seaman, bosun (boatswain) mate, chief bosun mate, master chief bosun. Officers: Midshipman, lieutenant, Lt. commander, commander, captain (there's only ONE captain on a ship -- the skipper; if another officer of that grade is aboard, he's referred to as a commander), rear admiral, admiral. (I left out a few sub-grades).

BTW, this is the U.S. Army/Navy/etc. Other countries have slightly different titles. For instance, some armies have "Marshals" (not Matt Dillon).


message 9: by Donna (new)

Donna (donnahr) Al wrote: "If I were called upon to criticize the book, my first negative comment would be that the enemy is too simplistic. They have no personalities presented. They're just there to shoot at the humans and try to conquer them. The bugs are presented as almost a mindless insect society, run by "brain bugs". Not what you'd expect of a space-going race. "

That's interesting because I actually liked this depiction of the aliens. To me it can seem very realistic when we don't understand what's going on in the alien mind. To imagine that we would actually process thought in the same way seems unlikely and there is certainly an efficiency to the "hive" type of mind.

I remember reading a story years ago where humans explore a planet and there are these rat-like vermin everywhere messing things up and the humans just kill them as we would rats...and of course, it turns out they are the intelligent species on the planet, they just had no way of communicating with us.

In Starship Troopers, maybe we are just rats to the "bugs".

Going back to Heinlein's idea of citizenship, I was telling my husband about it last night and we ended up having a very interesting discussion about it.


message 10: by Charles (last edited Jul 18, 2011 11:52AM) (new)

Charles (nogdog) If ST were a 3rd person omniscient novel, then it definitely would make sense for it to look into the Bugs' motivations and such, but as a 1st person narrative from a front-line "grunt", there is a certain sense in not doing so. If anything, soldiers are conditioned not to care about the enemy and only think about how to defeat them. (Whether that is a good thing is a totally different discussion.) Is it possible that Heinlein was trying to make a point by having Rico and his compatriots dehumanize the enemy and illustrate how easily humans partake of jingoistic behavior? Is the fact that some of you have questioned this, in fact, what Heinlein was after? (Your guess is as good as mine.)


message 11: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jennyc89) Al wrote: "Jenny wrote: "I finished Starship Troopers last night. I liked the book but I think I would have liked it more if it didn't ramble on about certain topics, like the chain of command in chapter 13. ..."

Thanks for that! Yeah, it does get confusing when different parts of the military have different chains of command. This should be helpful in future reading! :)


message 12: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jennyc89) In regards to the Bugs, my guess is he didn't get more into them because the story wasn't really about the fight against the enemy. Heinlein just needed an enemy so he could have a war taking place. Although I do like Charles' idea. We really do have a pattern of belittling and simplifying our enemies.


message 13: by stormhawk (new)

stormhawk | 75 comments Al wrote: "If I were called upon to criticize the book, my first negative comment would be that the enemy is too simplistic. They have no personalities presented."

You mean like how the Germans, Italians, Japanese, North Koreans, North Vietnamese, Taliban, and Al-Quaeda have no personalities presented?

If you personalize the enemy (in positive ways, at any rate), you can no longer fight them effectively.


message 14: by stormhawk (new)

stormhawk | 75 comments Jenny wrote: "I am a bit disappointed that Carl is only in the beginning of the book, I liked the character in the movie and I hoped he and Johnny would meet up again."

Even action movies are about relationships, so I'm not surprised that the screenwriter chose to bring both Carl and Ibanez back into Johnny's life.

Movies are also about making sure that you get as much out of your actors that you've already paid for ... which explains additional appearances from earlier introduced characters ... for example, Doogie Houser's reappearance in a propaganda infomercial about the Bugs.


message 15: by Leonardo (new)

Leonardo | 6 comments READ IT FIRST IN SIX GRADE THAN RERAD IT AFTER THE MOVIE, SINCE IT DIDNT MATCH MY RECOLLECTIO AND STILL ENJOYD THE BOOK MORE ,IVE SEEN THE FOLLOW UP MOVIES ANDFOUND THEM MORE ON THEME WITH THE BOOK,AND NOW REALIZE THAT THE BOOK ACTUALLY INFLUENCED MY POLITICAL VIEWS


message 16: by Adam (new)

Adam Sylvester | 2 comments I was recommended the book by a friend a while back and enjoyed it immensely . I liked the author's use of a classroom or school to drop his philosophy into the book. OCS classes ended up being my favorite parts of the book, I actually disliked the fighting parts. It was a great novel of an individual who ends up getting caught up in things and kind of goes along with it. Along the way he matures and begins to develop his own wisdom and philosophy. The protagonist reminds me of Croaker for those who've read The Black Company. He begins to take responsibility because there's nobody else to do it (or because they've gotten killed off) and he ends up the unlikely hero/leader.

The movie is a whole separate animal. It was a fantastic movie but the only thing it really shares with the book is it's name and some locations. I took it for what it was, a movie about space marines killing bugs in a very cheesy yet entertaining way. Still one of my favorite movies. :)

All-in-all, movie & book, two big thumbs up. :)


message 17: by L. (new)

L. Gibbs (ldgibbs) Adam wrote: "I was recommended the book by a friend a while back and enjoyed it immensely . I liked the author's use of a classroom or school to drop his philosophy into the book. OCS classes ended up being my ..."

I agree: both were good and should not be compared. But don't get me started on John Carter vs A Princess of Mars!
Elldee


message 18: by Jim (new)

Jim | 418 comments I've read the book two or three times over the years and because I liked it I never went to see the film. Having talked to friends who did, I'm glad I made the decision.
As for the political ideas, actually his version of citizenship is very old.
It was the Greeks who made Military Service a duty of all citizens, depending on wealth and age. So the richer you were, the more kit you had to bring with you. You couldn't use your money to avoid serving.
I found the whole book interesting. The boot camp stuff is based after a fashion on a lot of boot camps, the citizenship concepts are interesting in themselves and trying to see them applied in a world.
With regard to the aliens, there I feel he probably did them right. At Rico's level he'd have no means of communicating with them anyway. That sort of stuff goes on a lot further up the chain.
But actually, it raises a good question. If they're alien, why should we expect to understand what drives them?


message 19: by Randal (new)

Randal Carter (randal6393) First read this book in 1962 -- was originally published in 1958 and Heinlein was trying to clarify his thoughts on the need for developing atomic weaponry versus the risk to the world. (See Wikipedia on Starship Troopers.) Have read the book several times, is one of my favorites. I retired from the U. S. Navy in 1997. Have always felt that Robert Heinlein was about as reasonable as anyone who lived through World War II and the Korean War. His chauvinism and jingoistic themes, I feel sure, were a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor. Am so glad the movie has led a new batch of readers to his work.


message 20: by Nathaniel (new)

Nathaniel Danes | 11 comments I finally read it a few months ago and to be honest I was disappointed. It felt like the plot was disjointed and kinda boring. Probably just me, but that is my opinion.


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