Book Review: Starship Troopers

I follow a rule when I eat: I always try at least two bites before I decide if I hate it.  Why not follow that same rule with authors?

Last year, I read Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, one of my least favorite books of all time.  Today, I talk about my second bite.

The Book

51a2bjzrpn3lStarship Troopers
Author: Robert Heinlein
1959
Amazon Link

I think my goals with this book are simple: read the Heinlein classic, the one which spawned a movie I know I like (but don’t remember in enough detail for comparison’s sake), and see if I’ll ever spend time reading Heinlein ever again.  This is his last shot, mates, and he has a loooong way to climb before I decide I like his books.

Non-Spoiler Review

The way I can best describe my feelings about this book was ‘meh.’

It wasn’t bad – definitely readable, at least in most places, and the character of Juan Rico was enjoyable.  But when I consider the piece as a whole, I’m not entirely sure what I was supposed to get out of it.  My best guess is that the book was looking at Juan’s development of the sense of duty, but this was done through a lot of descriptions of procedure and stuff.

I’m also not entirely sure the book showed its absurdity as well as the movie version.  I admit openly that I’m very, very bad at detecting jokes based on absurdity (I often believe absurdist humor to be too on-the-nose, and I can’t see through it enough to realize it’s a joke).  While the book is sci-fi, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to believe it takes itself seriously or not.  My best guess, however, was to take it about as seriously as Slaughterhouse V by Vonnegut.

There was one more thing: as I read this book, I got the sneaking suspicion I’d read a lot of things like this before…

The Navigators was, in many ways, a near spit-image of the Camp Currie part of Starship Troopers (though I have to admit Troopers was much better written).  I can also recall some of the development, the suits, the brainwashing, and general sense of importance and duty being present in Approaching Shatter.  Beyond these two obvious links, I can believe that most military sci-fi has been inspired or at least influenced by Starship Troopers.  For that reason alone, I’m glad to have read it.

My verdict on Heinlein?  Meh.  I won’t purposefully avoid him yet, but neither will I seek him out.

3/5 Discoball Snowcones

3 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

There won’t be too many spoilers because I don’t think the book was very plot-oriented.  Sure, there were battles against the Bugs, but the contents or even outcomes of the battles didn’t matter much.  Nor did the people in them – most of them died, just when you thought the person might stick around for the next part of the story.

Because of this constant shift in character makeup, I felt like the narrative of the story was different.  It wasn’t terrible, but that’s mostly because Juan Rico was at least interesting as a character.  He was at least more interesting than Smith from Stranger in a Strange Land.

I did like the very last bit, in the very last chapter, where the story resolves itself.  Juan Rico’s father, who joined the army about 2/3 the way through the book, serves under Juan.  It’s a pretty fulfilling ending, all told, since it fits in with the themes of duty, love, and trust.

Next week:

When next you read one of my book reviews, you’ll get to feast your eyes on Babel-17.  I’m excited to read some weird sci-fi.

9 thoughts on “Book Review: Starship Troopers

  1. joanne the geek says:

    I’ve never had much interest in reading Heinlein, so I doubt I’ll ever read this book.

    I love absurdist humour thought I don’t put a lot of it in my writing. At least I don’t think I do.

  2. Alexander Elliott says:

    I saw the movie and thought it was awful! From this review I would say the book wasn’t much better. I won’t waste my time reading it, though perhaps YOU might need some brain bleach to scrub the memory out.

    • H.R.R. Gorman says:

      It wasn’t my favorite read, by no means. Like I said with Stranger in a Strange Land, I don’t think Heinlein ages well. Also, even though I wasn’t a huge fan, I thought it was a valuable read. Starship Troopers’ influence is all over the place in military sci fi, so that alone made it a worthwhile adventure. Still, could have spent my time more enjoyably…

    • H.R.R. Gorman says:

      The people who have failed my two-bite rule the hardest are Orson Scott Card and Frank Herbert. I was disappointed that I just didn’t like their styles or content enough to hate multiple of their books. 🙂

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