“Come on, you apes! You wanta live forever?-Unknown Platoon Sergeant, 1918.
Juan “Johnnie” Rico lives in a society where citizenship is not promised, but offered as a trade for military or other government service.
Starship Troopers follows him through his high school Economics and Morality class, through a basic training which only 10% of recruits survive, all the way to officer. Nothing is easy for Johnnie Rico on the way, though, and if there is one thing that he can count on, it is brutality.
Starship Troopers was one of the first of Heinlein’s young adult titles to be questioned, and it was finally published as an adult title in 1959. Heinlein wrote the novel in a matter of weeks as a response to current events, and some argue that the novel suffers for that reason, that it is far too focused on the military. At the same time, the focus is on a military infantryman, whom Heinlein hoped to bring more attention to.
Despite the controversy often surrounding the novel, its influence on the science fiction genre cannot be denied. One of the standout elements of the book is Heinlein’s imagining of soldiers with super-powered armor, a clear influence on the science fiction genre. For example, the armored supersoldiers in the Halo video game world, and the recent technological developments in real-life armor today.
Juan “Johnnie” Rico joins the military against the wishes of his father. His society’s military, however, operates out of outer space, as a war is being fought against an alien species known as “The Bugs.”
About the Author
Robert A. Heinlein was born in 1907 in Butler, Missouri. There, he attended the University of Missouri, and soon after joined the U.S. Naval Academy in 1925. He was discharged from service after contracting tuberculosis, but by then he had reached the rank of lieutenant.
Similar to Frank Herbert’s first publication, Heinlein’s was a short story which was accepted for publication in Astounding Science Fiction in 1938.
During World War II, Heinlein worked as a civilian engineer, and convinced Isaac Asimov and L. Sprague de Camp to join him. These writers had a strong component of science in their science fiction, which Heinlein included in his writings for young adults. His last novel written for young adults, before continuing the writing of adult fiction, was Starship Troopers.
-Would you ever join the military? How about the military of the future? Would you join the military in order to gain the right to vote?
Reading Level/Interest Age
This particular novel is known for drawing controversy, particularly by people who believe that Heinlein was promoting different forms of government. There is no doubt that Heinlein wanted to strike a controversy here and there, but it is difficult to pinpoint his exact beliefs when it comes to Starship Troopers. What has been agreed upon is that the book is about the responsibilities and duties of citizenship, in our own society and in those imagined.
Some scenes in Starship Troopers are traumatizing, as they describe the what it is like to fight in a bloody war. Basic training, in the book, includes deadly exercises and intense consequences for wrongdoing. This book is not recommended for younger teens, but for those who can generate their own ideas about philosophy, democracy, war, and citizenship.
Why Did You Include This Book?
Starship Troopers was the Hugo Award Winner for Best Novel in 1960. It is a classic in the arena of science fiction and it is a thought-driven work which has influenced the genre greatly.