Saturday, December 1, 2007

Starship Troopers

When I was a kid of thirteen, I read a book that had a great, and lasting, impact on me. It was a book called "Starship Troopers" by the late Robert A. Heinlein.

You might be familir with that title as the reult of the REALLY awful movie of the same title that came out several years ago.

Well, this book was initially written as a serial for a science fiction magazine, and was otiginally published in 1959. The novel, set in the not-so-far-off future was about a war between earth and an alien species called the Arachnids... or "Bugs".

In this future, in which there was a planet-wide government, only veterans could vote. The rest of the citizenry enjoyed all o f the blessings of a free society, but the franchise was only extended to those who had actually laid their asses on the line to defend the planet.

An important thing to note in this novel was that while only veterans could vote, active duty soldiers could NOT vote.

The book was really a treatise on the realtionship between government and the goverened, as well a a moral philosphy play.

You can read a much more detailed description of the book and the politics behind it, here.

In any event, as a boy, the book had a large impact on me.

When I was growing up, I was already predisposed to military service because my dad was a career military man, and my brother joined the Air force when I was 13, but this book went deeper than just some sort of literary recruiting pitch formilitary service.



In chapter ten (I think it's ten), a drill instructor gave the young soldiers in his charge a class on tactics when a recruit asked him why they were being trained in tactics of a bygone era, when they (and the enemy) had all sorts of more dangerous weapons. The sergeant replied:

"you've got it all wrong, son. There ARE no dangerous weapons. Only dangerous people. That's what we are trying to teach you here, to be dangerous... to the enemy. So dangerous that if you only have one foot left, you'll still be able to kill the enemy if he gets too close" (I may have some of those words wrong, but that is the gist)


This passage and others, set me on my way. They were the beginnings of my indoctrination in the warrior culture.

I first read that book in 1976.

I have had three copies of that book in my life, all regularly re-read.

It's still important to me.

12 comments:

Grandmere said...

As a former English teacher who worked a lot with literacy, it is always wonderful to hear how a book affected someone's ife when they were young. I have been a reader all my life and raised three book lovers who read even though they are busy with their own kids. I have two grands who read and love to go to the bookstore with me. The three toddlers all have books they play with and books they have read to them. The four year old sleeps with her favorites.

Form your description, I am adding Starship Troopers to my "To Read" list!

Joelogon said...

Re: the badness of the movie -- director Paul Verhoven claimed at the time that he made the film specifically evoking WWII propaganda films, and to make a statement about totalitarianism. No one really believed him at the time, but history seems to have validated this explanation.

Plus, the nude scene in the co-ed showers is pretty hot.

Gunfighter said...

I don't know about the validation of what Verhooven was babbling about,, and I can't speak to the shower seen as I didn't see it.

All I can say is that if you really loved that book, I don't see how it is possible to have loved that movie.

Joelogon said...

Easy: Compartmentalization. (Or at least being more accepting of the differences crossing media.) While I don't love the movie, I enjoy it for what it is. It's kind of like the difference between Dune the book, and Dune the David Lynch movie -- practically unrelated (and the movie has its own problems, like being virtually incomprehensible), but each has its own charm.

Gunfighter said...

Fair enough,... I'm just not that smart or that deep.

I can't compartmentalize when it comes to books that were special to me being made into movies.

I read Dune as a teen, and say the Kyle McLachlan movie, and was able to enjoy it... but then, the book was just something to read for me... it wasn't particularly special. (Sci-fi heresy, I know)

NYD said...

Anyone who has read this book and understood what Heinlein was talking about is alright with me. The overall military overtones were nothing but a way for him to tell people to stand up and do what is right. Those who are too weak to contribute to society (no matter where you are living) are nothing more than pets who get the occasional pat and a dish of grub.

melissa said...

I LOVE this book! Especially the idea of voting being tied to service. I always thought that was really brilliant, even in HS. It's been a while, but wasn't there also a stipulation that if you could vote, you HAD to?

Great stuff. Thanks for reminding me of it.

Wholly Burble said...

Thank you for sharing this. Interesting to hear what some of the influences in your life have been, and how you came to be the blogging GF we know now.

For me the one thing I can say about books that influenced me, was the entire situation of "story telling"--which led me to become a writer and teacher of writing. I am always surprised and pleased as I see all the ways to tell a story effectively.

And from what you're saying, this author told this story in a way that has influenced you and stayed with you low these many years--pretty impressive story-telling.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Heinlein has been such an influence on so many. He has his good and bad sides, more in terms of his dogma than his writing, but he seems to retain his hold on scifi readers.

Fourier Analyst said...

Another reason why I like you so much!! I was an early RH fan, starting when I was about 10-11 years old. One of my early books that was not one of his best but still inspired me was "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel", A pulp novel that he admits he wrote for the money. Still it had enough to spark my imagination and helped fuel my ambitions. And it led to read everything of his I could get my hands on. I became an early Sci-Fi nut. And was probably influenced even more than I realise by his writings.

Hmmm, 10.January coming up, might need to find my old copies and spend the day re-reading...

Amy Barry said...

I need to pick me up some Heinlein again. Haven't read him for years but I loved Stranger in a Strange Land, I Will Fear No Evil, To Sail Beyond the Sunset. The thing I love about Heinlein is his ability to tell a tale with ideas that in real life would seem way too far out there and make them seem fairly acceptable and normal. To the point you find yourself disturbed to be accepting such concepts as normal even in the context of a story! Especially so in TSBTS which presents incest (which never in a million years would I ever want to see accepted as ok or normal!) in a way that seems like it is no big deal. It takes a VERY skilled story teller to draw you into a character(s) to the extent to get you to accept, even only through suspension of belief for a story, concepts that are otherwise reprehensible. I read it in my late teens or early 20's and remember being awed by his ability to toy with my mind that way. To me the term "thought provoking" is synonymous with Heinlein.

Matt said...

I loved the book "Starship Troopers". I've also seen the movie countless times, but only because of Denise Richards.