Starship Troopers (ST)
by Robert A. Heinlein
Text-based facts about the book, rather than interpretations, are presented on StarshipTroopersTheBook
Comments about the 1997 Paul Verhoeven film Starship Troopers
, based (loosely, some say) on the Heinlein novel, at StarshipTroopersTheMovie
Considerable verbiage has been written and deleted here about whether Heinlein was a fascist and whether the ideology expressed and/or satirized in the book is fascism. The fact that the wilder and more critical views have been deleted itself smacks of fascism, or at least intolerance. Then again they were pretty much crap.
- The book concerns itself with soldiers. Soldiers have a necessarily militaristic outlook. Other Heinlein books do not concern themselves with soldiers but still maintain a smattering of paranoia grounded in skepticism - which may be interpreted as militarism. Whether this is realistic or not depends on whether you yourself maintain a smattering of paranoia grounded in skepticism.
- The book promotes meritocracy. But it is all too easy for meritocracy to transform into fascism. And all fascist regimes justify themselves as meritocracies. The book describes no mechanism whereby meritocracy is prevented from transforming into fascism.
- The book describes warfare as essential to the survival of humanity. And so it is; anyone who has had to deal with an infestation of wasps or ants in their house knows this. You may want to find a way to tolerate or enjoy social intercourse with "the bugs", but by their definition you cannot. You can let them destroy your way of life or you can fight them. This is also true of infestations of fascists.
- It is, perhaps, regrettable that RAH did not situate his anti-fascist revolution book, "Revolt In 2100", after the time of StarshipTroopers. At the very least a sequel in which the ST society falls to fascism and is remade in some new form sounds like a good read.
A theme carried in this book is a theme that appears in a number of his other writings: nothing is free, you have to work for whatever you have (no FreeLunch
). Heinlein's own later commentary brings up this point.
In The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress
it's expressed as TANSTAAFL -- ThereAintNoSuchThingAsaFreeLunch
This book adds a dimension: No Authority Without Responsibility.
The framework has led to the above-mentioned ideology arguments, but I found it more interesting that he was diametrically opposed to the "free ride" in any form, even down to internal slogans like "everyone works, everyone fights" (expressing the sentiment that in this military there are no completely specialized jobs that allow for context-specific down time, e.g. a cook suits up and fights; a sniper rolls sleeves and washes dishes). People who have only seen the movie will recognize the slogan, egregiously misquoted, as "everyone fights, no one quits," the misquote completely loses the spirit of the original line.
My biggest beef with the movie was its deliberate and systematic mis-characterization of the book. I can live with "character folding" (where e.g. Colonel DuBois?
becomes Lieutenant Rasczak) which saves character development time in a screenplay, and even the sacrifice of the personal armor so you can see people's faces, but inserting scenes with frenzied kids stomping bugs and other allusions to the evolution of the Nazi state (uniforms, mannerisms), and the idiotic inclusion of a TV personality (scientist?) insisting that he finds the idea of a "bug that thinks offensive
," that's certainly not high art. The producer or director kept justifying this in the name of satire, but I find that "offensive" inasmuch as he had to know that most of the action flick fans that would see it would have no context
having never read the book, even after the reprinting.