- Starship Troopers
name = Starship Troopers
image_caption = First edition cover
Robert A. Heinlein
language = English
Science fiction Philosophical novel[http://www.salon.com/col/shoa/1997/11/13shoa.html Salon | Ill Humor ] ] James, Edward & FarahMendlesohn. "The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction". Cambridge UniversityPress, 2003. pp 231
" [Heinlein's] works include some that are sensitive to the realities of politics, and some that decidedly are not, but which do embody the imaginative exposition of a political philosophy. The best example of the former is "Double Star"; of the latter, "Starship Troopers"."]
G. P. Putnam's Sons
release_date = December 1959
media_type = Print (
pages = 263 pp (paperback edition)
isbn = ISBN 0-450-02576-4
"Starship Troopers" is a
science fiction novelby Robert A. Heinlein, first published (in abridged form) as a serial in " The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction" (October, November 1959, as "Starship Soldier") and published hardcover in 1959.
first-person narrativeis about a young soldier named Juan "Johnnie" Rico and his exploits in the Mobile Infantry, a futuristic military unit equipped with powered armor. Rico's military career progresses from recruit to non-commissioned officerand finally to officer against the backdrop of an interstellar war between mankind and an arachnoid species known as "the Bugs". Through Rico's eyes, Heinlein examines moral and philosophical aspects of suffrage, civic virtue, the necessities of war and capital punishment, and the nature of juvenile delinquency. [cite web| url=http://www.luna-city.com/sf/novel.htm|title=ROBERT A. HEINLEIN: THE NOVELS| publisher=Luna-City.com| accessdate=2006-03-04]
"Starship Troopers" won the
Hugo Award for Best Novelin 1960. The novel has attracted controversy and criticism for its social and political themes, which some critics claim promote militarism. [cite web|url=http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/1997/11/07starship.html|title=Scott Rosenberg's critic of the movie from Salon.com, describing a fascist "G.I. Joe" novel| accessdate=2006-04-18] "Starship Troopers" has been adapted into several films and games, with the most widely known — as well as the most controversial and criticized — being the 1997 film by Paul Verhoeven.
Heinlein's military background and political views
Like several other authors who have written in the
military science fictiongenre (such as David Drake), Robert A. Heinleinserved in the United States military. Heinlein graduated from the U.S. Naval Academyin 1929, and served on active duty in the U.S. Navyfor five years. He served on the new aircraft carrierUSS "Lexington" in 1931, and as a naval lieutenant aboard the destroyerUSS "Roper" between 1933 and 1934, until he was forced to leave the Navy due to sickness: pulmonary tuberculosis. Heinlein never served in active combat while a Navy officer, and he was a civilian during WW II doing research and developmentat the Philadelphia Navy Yard. [cite web| url=http://www.heinleinsociety.org/rah/biographies.html| title=Biographies of Robert and Virginia Heinlein| accessdate=2007-12-16] Heinlein's non-combat Naval service would become a point of contention in later criticism of "Starship Troopers".
According to Heinlein, his desire to write "Starship Troopers" was sparked by the publication of a newspaper advertisement placed by the
National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policyon April 5, 1958 calling for a unilateral suspension of nuclear weapon testing by the United States. In response, Robert and Virginia Heinlein created the small "Patrick Henry League" in an attempt to create support for the U.S. nuclear testing program. During the unsuccessful campaign, Heinlein found himself under attack both from within and outside of the science fiction community for his views. "Starship Troopers" may therefore be viewed as Heinlein both clarifying and defending his military and political views of the time. [cite book|last=Heinlein|title=Expanded Universe| pages=468–69, 481–82| publisher=Baen Books, page numbers vary depending on edition.]
Writing of the novel
Some time during 1958 and 1959, Heinlein ceased work on the novel that would become "
Stranger in a Strange Land" and wrote "Starship Troopers". It was first published in " The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction" in October and November 1959 as a serial called "Starship Soldier". Although originally written as a juvenile novel for Scribners, it was rejected.cite web|last=Gifford| first=James| url=http://www.nitrosyncretic.com/rah/ftp/fedrlsvc.pdf| title=The Nature of Federal Service in Robert A. Heinlein's "Starship Troopers"| accessdate=2006-03-04| format=PDF] The novel was eventually published as teenage fiction by G. P. Putnam's Sons. [cite web| url=http://www.heinleinsociety.org/rah/biographies.html| publisher=The Heinlein Society| title=Biographies of Robert and Virginia Heinlein| accessdate=2006-03-04] With their rejection of his novel, Heinlein ceased writing juvenile fiction for Scribners, ending his association with them completely, and began writing books with more adult themes. [cite web|last=Causo|first=Roberto de Sousa| url=http://www.wegrokit.com/causost.htm| title=Citizenship at War| accessdate=2006-03-04]
"Starship Troopers" is a novel set in an unspecified time in the future, although probably not in the far-flung future. It chronicles the experiences of Juan "Johnny" Rico, the story's narrator, during his enlistment and training in the Mobile Infantry, and his participation in an interstellar war between the
Terran Federationand the Arachnids (referred to as "the Bugs") of Klendathu. It is narrated as a series of flashbacks — one of only a few Heinlein novels to use that narrative device [cite web| url=http://www.enter.net/~torve/critics/Dimension/hd05-3.html| title=Heinlein in Dimension| accessdate=2006-03-04] — and contains large sections of character discussion and introspection, as well as exposition, all meant to detail the political theory and philosophical beliefs underlying the society that Juan Rico lives in.
The novel opens with Rico aboard the corvette "Rodger Young", platoon transport for "Rasczak's Roughnecks", about to embark on a raid against the planet of the "Skinnies", allies of the Arachnids. We learn that he is a "cap" trooper (called this because they are dropped in capsules from the ship in orbit toward their drop zones) in the Terran Federation's Mobile Infantry (M.I.). The raid itself, one of the few instances of actual combat in the novel, is relatively brief: the Mobile Infantrymen land in the capital city, destroy their targets while trying to avoid unnecessary Skinny casualties, and withdraw, suffering three injured (one fatal) in the process.
The story then flashes back to Rico's graduation from high school and his decision to sign up for Federal Service over the objections of his wealthy father rather than attend
Harvard University. This is the only chapter that describes Rico's civilian life, and most of it is spent recording the monologues of two people: retired Lt. ColonelJean V. Dubois, Rico's school instructor in the subject of "History and Moral Philosophy", and Fleet Sergeant Ho, a recruiter for the Armed forces of the Terran Federation.
Many readers have felt that Dubois serves as a stand-in for Heinlein throughout the novel. He delivers what is probably the book's most famous
soliloquy, on how violence "has settled more issues in history than has any other factor." [cite book|last=Heinlein|title="Starship Troopers"| year=1987| pages=26] Fleet Sergeant Ho offers a separate angle on military service to that of Dubois. (Ho has prostheses for several limbs, but does not wear them on duty at the front door of the federal building. This is calculated to remind applicants of the real risks of service, and to weed out those not willing to take such risks in the service of the Federation).
Interspersed throughout the book are other flashbacks to Rico's high school "History and Moral Philosophy" course, which describe how, in the Terran Federation, the rights of a full Citizen (to vote, and hold public office) must be earned through voluntary Federal service. However, the franchise cannot be exercised until after honorable discharge from the Service, which means that active members of the Service cannot vote. Those residents who opt not to perform Federal Service retain the other rights generally associated with a modern democracy (e.g. free speech, assembly, etc.), but cannot vote or hold public office. This structure arose "ad hoc" after the collapse of the 20th century Western democracies, brought on by both social failures at home and military defeat by the Chinese Hegemony overseas (i.e. looking forward into the late 20th century from the time the novel was written in the late 1950s).cite web|url=http://www.kentaurus.com/troopers.htm| title=Thoughts on "Starship Troopers"| first=Chris| last=Weuve| accessdate=2006-03-04]
After enlisting in the Mobile Infantry, Rico is assigned to boot camp at Camp
Arthur Currie. Five chapters are spent exploring Rico's training, under the guidance of his chief instructor, Career Ship's Sergeant Charles Zim. Boot camp is deliberately so rigorous that fewer than ten percent of the recruits complete basic training; the rest either resign (with no penalty, save never being able to vote); are expelled (likewise); are given medical discharges (which may however be refused); or assigned to lesser duties (enabling them to vote after their service is finished); or die in training. One of the chapters deals with Ted Hendrick, a fellow recruit and constant complainer who is flogged and expelled for striking his sergeant. (Flagellation and hanging having become the principal forms of both civil and military punishment in the novel's world). Another recruit, a deserter who kidnapped a small child, held her for ransom, and then murdered her while AWOL, is hanged by the battalion after his arrest and transfer from civilian to military authorities. Rico himself is flogged for his negligent handling of his equipment during a simulated nuclear weapons drill. Despite these experiences, he graduates with his class and he is assigned to an active duty M.I. unit.
At some point during Rico's training, the
Bug Warmoves from police action and border skirmishes to outright war, and upon graduation, Rico finds himself taking part in combat operations. The war "officially" starts when an Arachnid attack annihilates the city of Buenos Aires, in which Rico's mother is killed, although Rico makes it clear that there had been many prior "'incidents,' 'patrols,' or 'police actions'". [cite book|last=Heinlein|title="Starship Troopers"| year=1987| pages= 131] Rico briefly describes the Terran Federation's catastrophic defeat in the Battle of Klendathu; his own unit was slaughtered and its transport ship destroyed. The Terran Federation suffers such tremendous losses that it is reduced to making hit-and-run raids similar to the one described at the beginning of the novel (which chronologically would be placed between Chapters 10 and 11) to gain time to rebuild. Rico meanwhile finds himself posted to Rasczak's Roughnecks, named after Lieutenant Rasczak (whose first name is never given). This part of the book focuses on the daily routine of military life aboard ship, as well as the relationship between officers and non-commissioned officers, personified in this case by Rasczak and Sergeant Jelal.
Eventually, Rico decides to become a career soldier and with the encouragement of his fellow trooper "Ace", applies for and is accepted to
Officer Candidate School, which turns out to be just like boot camp, only "squared and cubed with books added." [cite book|last=Heinlein|title="Starship Troopers"| year=1987| pages= 172] Rico is commissioned a temporary Third Lieutenantas a field-test final exam and, under supervision, commands his own unit during Operation Royalty; eventually he is commissioned as Second Lieutenant. At the end of his field exam, it is revealed that Rico's platoon sergeant during his final exam was Zim, his drill sergeant from Camp Currie.
The final chapter serves as more of a coda, echoing the opening few scenes of the novel and bringing the novel a sense of return and closure. In the preparation for "this" drop, however, Rico is aboard the "Rodger Young" as the lieutenant commanding Rico's Roughnecks, preparing to drop onto Klendathu as part of a major strike, with his father (who has joined the M.I. earlier in the novel after his wife's death) as his senior sergeant and a Third Lieutenant-in-training of his own under his wing.
"Starship Troopers" is a political essay as well as a novel. Large portions of the book take place in classrooms, with Rico and other characters engaged in debates with their "History and Moral Philosophy" teachers, who are often thought to be speaking in Heinlein's voice. The overall theme of the book is that social responsibility requires being prepared to make individual sacrifice. Heinlein's Terran Federation is a limited democracy with aspects of a
meritocracybased on willingness to sacrifice in the common interest. Suffragebelongs only to those willing to serve their society by two years of volunteer Federal Service — "the franchise is today limited to discharged veterans", (ch. XII), instead of anyone "...who is 18 years old and has a body temperature near 37°C" [cite book|last=Heinlein|title=Expanded Universe| pages=485] The Federation is required to find a place for "anyone" who desires to serve, regardless of his skill or aptitude.
There is an explicitly-made contrast to the democracies of the 20th century, which according to the novel, collapsed because "people had been led to believe that they could simply vote for whatever they wanted... and get it, without toil, without sweat, without tears." [cite book|last=Heinlein|title="Starship Troopers"| year=1987| pages=93] Indeed, Colonel Dubois criticizes as unrealistic the famous U.S. Declaration of Independence guarantees concerning "
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". No one can stop anyone from pursuing happiness, but life and liberty are said to only exist if they are deliberately sought and paid for.
"Starship Troopers" is also widely-regarded as a vehicle for Heinlein's anti-communist views, best summed up by Rico's (and his Federation's) belief that "correct morals arise from knowing what man "is"—not what do-gooders and well-meaning old Aunt Nellies would like him to be." [cite book|last=Heinlein|title="Starship Troopers"| year=1987| pages=186] Characters attack
Karl Marx(a "pompous fraud"), the Labor theory of value("All the work one cares to add will not turn a mud pie into an apple tart...") [cite book|last=Heinlein|title="Starship Troopers"| year=1987| pages=92] , and Plato's "The Republic" ("ant-like communism" and "weird in the extreme"). [cite book|last=Heinlein|title="Starship Troopers"| year=1987| pages= 181]
Military history, traditions, and Military science
Korean Warended only five years before Heinlein began writing "Starship Troopers", and the book makes several direct references to it, such as the claim that "no 'Department of Defense' ever won a war." [cite book|last=Heinlein|title="Starship Troopers"| year=1987| pages=133] Heinlein also refers to the American prisoners of war taken in that conflict, including the popular accusations of Communist brainwashing. [cite book|last=Heinlein|title="Starship Troopers"| year=1987| pages=184] After the Korean War ended, there were rumors that the Chinese and North Koreans continued to hold a large number of Americans. [cite web| url=http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/pmkor/index.htm| title=DPMO: Korean War Missing Personnel| accessdate=2006-03-04. Similar accusations would be made during the Vietnam and Gulf Wars.] Rico's "History and Moral Philosophy" class at Officer Candidate School has a long discussion about if it's moral to never leave a single man behind, even at the risk of starting a new war. These positions may reflect popular views in the America of the late 1950s, and may have influenced Rico's (and others') commitment to his fellow Troopers when he concludes it "doesn't matter whether it's a thousand — or just one, sir. You fight." [cite book|last=Heinlein|title="Starship Troopers"| year=1987| pages=178]
Several references are made to other wars: these include the name of the starship that collided with "
Valley Forge", " Ypres", a major battleground in World War I, as well as Rico's boot camp, Camp Arthur Currie. (Named after Sir Arthur Curriewho commanded the Canadian Corpsduring that war). Another World War I reference was the phrase "Come on you apes! You wanta live forever?", which comes from Gunnery Sergeant Dan Dalyat the Battle of Belleau Wood(Although instead of "apes", Daly said "sons of bitches"). The "Rodger Young" was named after a World War II Medal of Honor recipient on New Georgia Island. Another war reference, this one from the War of 1812, is the implications of the court-martialof Third Lieutenant William Sitgreaves Cox, which are discussed in some detail.
In addition to Heinlein's political views, "Starship Troopers" popularized a number of military concepts and innovations, some of which have inspired real life research. The novel's most noted innovation is the
powered armor exoskeletons used by the Mobile Infantry. [cite web| url=http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20010630/bob8.asp| title=Dances with Robots| publisher=Science News Online| accessdate=2006-03-04| first=Peter| last=Weiss] These suits were controlled by the wearer's own movements, but powerfully augmented a soldier's strength, speed, weight carrying capacity (which allowed much heavier personal armament), jumping ability (including jet and rocket boost assistance), and provided the wearer with improved senses (infrared vision and night vision, radar, and amplified hearing), a completely self-contained personal environment, sophisticated communications equipment, and tactical map displays. Their powered armor made the Mobile Infantry a hybrid between an infantry unit and an armored one.
Whether directly inspired by "Starship Troopers" or not, the United States military has attempted to develop "real world" technology that would give the abilities of the MI's powered armor to its soldiers. [cite web|last=Pinkerton| first=James | url=http://www.techcentralstation.com/051203B.html| title=Starship Trooperization|year=2003| accessdate=2006-03-04] Equipment which replicates many of the individual abilities of powered armor (night vision goggles, infrared goggles, and
Global Positioning Systemlocators) are now standard issue military equipment. [cite web| url=http://www.strategypage.com/articles/msf/default.asp| title=Military Science Fiction and the Army Transformation| first=Michael K.| last= Robel| accessdate=2006-03-04] Between 1996 and 2007, the U.S. Armyconducted its Land Warriorresearch program, which would have given many of the MIs integrated communications and tactical intelligence abilities to United States infantrymen. However, the program funding was eliminated in the army's 2008 budget. [http://www.asafm.army.mil/budget/fybm/fy08-09/rforms/vol2.pdf US Army Budget Request Documents FY2008] (page 4)] [http://www.strykernews.com/archives/2007/02/07/land_warrior_fu.html Stryker Brigade News - Land Warrior funds cut] ] The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agencyof the United States Department of Defensehas also spent some $ USD50 million in an attempt to develop a powered exoskeleton in its "Exoskeletons for Human Performance Augmentation" program, although apparently without any significant breakthroughs or the release of battlefield versions of its prototypes. [cite web| title = Exoskeletons for Human Performance Augmentation | publisher = DARPA| url = http://www.darpa.mil/dso/thrust/matdev/ehpa.htm | accessdate = 2006-05-26] [cite web | url=http://science.howstuffworks.com/exoskeleton.htm | first=Kevin | last=Bonsor | title=How Exoskeletons Will Work| accessdate=2006-03-04]
Another concept the book pioneered was that of "space-borne infantry". The heavily mechanized units of M.I. troops were attached to interstellar troop transport spacecraft, which then delivered them to planetary target zones, by dropping groups of Mobile Infantrymen onto the planet surface from orbit via individual re-entry capsules (hence the book's slang term "cap troopers" for M.I. troops). The uses for such a force - ranging from smash-and-burn raids, to
surgical strikes, conventional infantry warfare, and holding beachheads - and the tactics that might be employed by such soldiers are described extensively within the novel. The weapons, tactics, training, and many other aspects of this futuristic elite force are carefully detailed: everything from the function of the armored suits themselves, to the need for multiple variants of powered armor, to the training of personnel in both suit operations and the specialized unit tactics that would be needed, to the operational use of the suits in combat.
Popularity with U.S. Military
While powered armor is "Starship Troopers"' most famous legacy, its influence extends deep into contemporary warfare. Almost half a century after its publication, "Starship Troopers" is on the reading lists of the
United States Army, [cite web| url=https://www.infantry.army.mil/iobc/welcome/reading_list.htm| title=Infantry Officer Basic Course: Recommended Reading List| accessdate=2006-03-04| year=2005] the United States Marine Corps, [cite web| url=http://www.marines.mil/almars/almar2000.nsf/0/91c8a9b3b9a2b59785256a55005e129d?OpenDocument| title=ALMAR 246/96| year=1996| accessdate=2006-03-04] [cite web|url=http://home.comcast.net/~antaylor1/usmccommandant.html| title=Commandant of the US Marine Corps: Official Reading List| accessdate=2006-03-04] [cite web| url=http://www.lejeune.usmc.mil/2dmardiv/26/three.html| title=2nd Battalion, 6th Marines. Battalion Commander's Reading List| accessdate=2006-03-04] and the United States Navy. [cite web| url=http://www.navyreading.navy.mil/Covers/Starship%20Troopers.htm| title=Junior Enlisted Reading List| accessdate=2007-05-29] It is the only science fiction novel on the reading list at four of the five United States military academies. When Heinlein wrote "Starship Troopers" the United States militarywas a largely conscripted force, with conscripts serving two year hitches. Today the U.S. military has incorporated many ideas similar to Heinlein's concept of an all-volunteer, high-tech strike force. In addition, references to the book keep appearing in military culture. In 2002 a Marine general described the future of Marine Corps clothing and equipment as needing to emulate the Mobile Infantry. [Brig. Gen. James M. Feigley, Marine Corps Systems Command. Quoted in cite web|url=http://www.navyleague.org/seapower/last_ounce_of_combat_readiness.htm| title=The Last Ounce of Combat Readiness| first=Arthur P. Jr.| last=Brill| accessdate=2006-03-04]
The book is recommended reading within the U.S. Army and Marine Corps because of its emphasis on small-unit cohesion, the fraternity of service, and its focus on the forward-serving, elite mobile infantry units, that so closely resemble the infantry units of the United States Army, Delta Force, United States Army Rangers, the cavalry units of the United States Army, and the Marine Corps Force Recon.
To Heinlein's surprise, [cite book|last=Heinlein|title=Expanded Universe| pages=482. "I still can't see how that book got a Hugo."] "Starship Troopers" won the
Hugo Award for Best Novelin 1960. By 1980, twenty years after its release, it had been translated into eleven different languages and was still selling strongly. However, Heinlein complained that, despite this success, almost all the mail he received about it was negative and he only heard about it "when someone wants to chew me out." [cite book|last=Heinlein|title="Expanded Universe"| pages=482]
The main literary criticism against "Starship Troopers" is that it is nothing more than a vehicle for Heinlein's political views. John Brunner compared it to a "Victorian children's book"cite web| url=http://www.enter.net/~torve/critics/PITFCS/pitfcsintro.html| title=Starship Troopers: The PITFCS Debate| accessdate=2006-03-04] while
Anthony Boucher, founder of " The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction", remarked that Heinlein had "forgotten to insert a story." Alexei Panshincomplained that the novel was overly simplistic — "the account of the making of a [Marine] ... and nothing more"cite web|last=Panshin| first=Alexei| url=http://www.enter.net/~torve/critics/Dimension/hdcontents.html| title= Heinlein in Dimension| accessdate=2006-03-04] — and that the characters were simply mouthpieces for Heinlein: "At the end you know nothing of [Rico's] tastes, his likes and dislikes, his personal life. The course of the book changes him in no way because there is nothing to change — Rico remains first and last a voice reading lines about how nice it is to be a soldier... The other characters are even more sketchy, or are simple expositions of an attitude." Richard Geib adds "The real life 'warriors' I have known are all more multi-faceted than anyone we meet in "Starship Troopers". And the ones I know who have killed are much more ambivalent about having done so."cite web|last=Geib| first=Richard| url=http://www.rjgeib.com/thoughts/athens/robert-heinlein.html| title="STARSHIP TROOPERS" by Robert A. Heinlein. An opinion.| accessdate=2006-03-04] He further complained about the almost complete lack of sexuality among the characters and the absence of any serious romance.
Allegations of militarism
Another complaint about "Starship Troopers" is that it is either inherently militaristic or pro-military. There was a two-year debate in the "Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies" (PITFCS) that was sparked by a comparison between a quote in "Starship Troopers" that "the noblest fate that a man can endure is to place his own mortal body between his loved home and war's desolation" [cite book|last=Heinlein|title="Starship Troopers"| year=1987| pages= 91] (paraphrase of the fourth stanza of "
The Star-Spangled Banner") and the anti-war poem " Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen. Dean McLaughlincalled it "a book-length recruiting poster." Alexei Panshin, a veteran of the peacetime military, argued that Heinlein glossed over the reality of military life, and that the Terran Federation-Arachnid conflictexisted simply because, "Starship troopers are not half so glorious sitting on their butts polishing their weapons for the tenth time for lack of anything else to do." Joe Haldeman, a Vietnam veteran and author of the anti-war Hugo- and Nebula-winning science fiction novel " The Forever War", similarly complained that "Starship Troopers" unnecessarily glorifies war.cite web|last=Haldeman| first=Joe| url=http://www.scifi.com/transcripts/1998/JoeHaldeman.html| title= 1998 SciFi.com interview| year=1998| accessdate=2006-03-04] Others have pointed out that Heinlein never actually served in combat, having been a Naval Academy graduate who was medically discharged for a tuberculosisinfection and spent World War IIas a civilian doing Research and Developmentat the Philadelphia Navy Yard.
Defending Heinlein, George Price argued that " [Heinlein] implies, first, that war is something 'endured,' not enjoyed, and second, that war is so unpleasant, so desolate, that it must at all costs be kept away from one's home." In a commentary on his essay "Who Are the Heirs of Patrick Henry?", Heinlein agreed that "Starship Troopers" "glorifies the military ... Specifically the P.B.I., the
Poor Bloody Infantry, the mudfoot who places his frail body between his loved home and the war's desolation — but is rarely appreciated... he has the toughest job of all and should be honored." [cite book|last=Heinlein|title="Expanded Universe"| pages=484] The book's dedication also reads in part "... to all sergeants everywhere who have labored to make men out of boys." [Berkley Medallion paperback edition. The [http://www.nitrosyncretic.com/rah/dedications.html nitrosyncretic site] 's "Heinlein’s Dedications" incorrectly uses the "anywhere" word instead of "anywhen".] However, he thoroughly disagreed that "Starship Troopers" was militaristic, arguing that the military personnel in the Terran Federation were not allowed to vote while on active duty — since "the idiots might vote not to make a drop" [cite book|last=Heinlein|title="Starship Troopers"| year=1987| pages= 162] — and that the military was thoroughly despised by many civilians. Interestingly, Heinlein also received some complaints about the lack of conscription in "Starship Troopers" (the military draft was the law in the United States when he wrote the novel). [cite book|last=Heinlein|title="Expanded Universe"| pages=483–84] Heinlein was always vehemently opposed to the idea of conscription (calling conscripts "slave soldiers" and arguing that a nation which was not able to find volunteers to fight for it did not deserve to endure).
Allegations of fascism
Another accusation is that the Terran Federation is a fascist society, and that "Starship Troopers" is therefore an endorsement of fascism. These allegations have become so popular that Sircar's Corollary of
Godwin's Lawstates that once Heinlein is brought up during online debates, "Nazis or Hitler are mentioned within three days." cite web|author=Godwin, Mike|title=Meme, Counter-meme|year= 2004-10-01|work=Wired| url=http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/2.10/godwin.if.html |accessdate=2006-03-24] The most visible proponent of these views is probably Paul Verhoeven, whose film version of "Starship Troopers" portrayed the Terran Federation's personnel wearing uniforms strongly reminiscent of those worn by the Third Reich-era Wehrmachtand the Nazi party and using fascistic propaganda; but Verhoeven admits that he never finished reading the actual book. [cite web| url=http://www.space.com/sciencefiction/movies/troopers_contrast_000610.html| title="Starship Troopers": Film and Heinlein's Vision| first=Robert| last=Peterson| year=2000| publisher=Space.com| accessdate=2006-03-04] Most of the arguments for this view cite the idea that only veterans can vote and non-veterans lack full citizenship; moreover, only veterans are permitted to teach history, and children are taught that moral arguments for the status quo are mathematically correct. Federal Service is not necessarily military, although it is suggested that a certain hardship and discipline is pervasive. According to Poul Anderson, Heinlein got the idea not from Nazi Germany or Sparta, but from Switzerland.
Defenders of the book usually point out that although the electoral franchise is limited, the government of the Terran Federation is democratically elected. There is
freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of conscience. The political system described in the book is multiracial, multi-religious, and multi-ethnic. The protagonist Juan Rico is Filipino and others in his training group are American, Armenian, Japanese, German, Australian, and Turkish, or Arab, and one or two have recognizably Jewishlast names. Many also argue that Heinlein was simply discussing the merits of a "selective versus nonselective franchise." Heinlein made a similar claim in his "Expanded Universe". [cite book|last=Heinlein|title="Expanded Universe"| pages=485] The novel makes a related claim that " [s] ince sovereign franchise is the ultimate in human authority, we insure that all who wield it accept the ultimate in social responsibility — we require each person who wishes to exert control over the state to wager his own life — and lose it, if need be to save the life of the state. The maximum responsibility a human can accept is thus equated to the ultimate authority a human can exert." [cite book| last=Heinlein| first=Robert| title="Starship Troopers"| year=1987| pages= 183–184]
Allegations of utopianism
More recently, the book has been analyzed as a
utopia(in the sense of a society that does not, and cannot, exist), and that while Heinlein's ideas sound plausible, they have never been put to the test and are, actually, impractical or utopian. This criticism has been leveled by the likes of Robert A. W. Lowndes, Philip José Farmer, and Michael Moorcock. The latter wrote an essay entitled "Starship Stormtroopers" in which he attacked Heinlein and other writers over similar "Utopian fiction." [cite web|last=Moorcock| first=Michael| url=http://web.archive.org/web/20021224193414/http://flag.blackened.net/liberty/moorcock.html| title=Starship Stormtroopers| year=1977| accessdate=2006-03-04] Lowndes accused Heinlein of using straw manarguments, "countering ingenuous half-truths with brilliant half-truths." Lowndes further argued that the Terran Federation could never be as idealistic as Heinlein portrays it to be because he never properly addressed "whether or not [non-citizens] have at least as full a measure of civil redress against official injustice as we have today". Farmer also agreed, arguing that a "world ruled by veterans would be as mismanaged, graft-ridden, and insane as one ruled by men who had never gotten near the odor of blood and guts."
However, this issue is still controversial, even among the book's defenders. James Gifford points to several quotes as indications that the characters assume Federal Service is military; for instance, when Rico tells his father he is interested in Federal Service, his father immediately explains his belief that Federal Service is a bad idea because there is no war in progress, indicating that he sees Federal Service as military in nature, or not necessary to a businessman during peacetime. Some Federal Service recruiters wear military ribbons, and a term of service "is either real military service... or a most unreasonable facsimile thereof." Moreover, the history of Federal Service describes it as being started by military veterans who did not originally allow civilians to join and are not described as allowing them to join later. Gifford decides, as a result, that although Heinlein's intentions may have been that Federal Service be 95% non-military, in relation to the actual contents of the book, Heinlein "is wrong on this point. Flatly so."
Allegations of racism
The supposedly racist aspects of "Starship Troopers" involve the Terrans' relations with the Bugs and the Skinnies. Some people are also uncomfortable with the idea of an interspecies war, viewing it as similar to a
race war. Richard Geib has suggested that Heinlein portrayed the individual Arachnids as lacking "minds or souls... killing them seems no different from stepping on ants." Both Robert Peterson and John Brunner believe that the nicknames "Bugs" and "Skinnies" carry racial overtones, Brunner using the analogy of " gook" while Peterson suggested that "not only does the nickname 'Bugs' for the arachnids of Klendathu sound too much like a racial slur — think of the derogatory use of the word 'Jew' — but Heinlein's characters unswervingly believe that humans are superior to Bugs, and that humans are destined to spread across the galaxy." [cite web| url=http://www.space.com/sciencefiction/books/troopers_book_000610.html| title=Militarism and Utopia in "Starship Troopers"| first=Robert| last=Peterson| publisher=Space.com| year=2000| accessdate=2006-03-04]
Robert A. W. Lowndes argues that the war between the Terrans and the Arachnids is not about a quest for racial purity, but rather an extension of Heinlein's belief that man is a wild animal. According to this theory, if man lacks a moral compass beyond the will to survive, and he was confronted by another species with a similar lack of morality, then the only possible result would be warfare.
"Starship Troopers" influenced many later science fiction stories, setting a tone for the military in space, a type of story referred to as
military science fiction. John Steakley's novel "Armor" was, according to the author, born out of frustration with the small amount of actual combat in "Starship Troopers" and because he wanted this aspect developed further. [cite web
author = Dave Alpern
title = Steakley Interviews — First Chat
publisher = The Official Unofficial John Steakley Site
year = 1997
month = November
url = http://johnsteakley.com/inter.html
accessdate = 2008-02-01 ] Conversely,
Joe Haldeman's anti-war novel " The Forever War" is popularly thought to be a direct reply to "Starship Troopers", and though Haldeman has stated that it is actually a result of his personal experiences in the Vietnam War, he has admitted to being influenced by "Starship Troopers". " Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Cardis also thought by many to have been either a direct response to or influenced by "Starship Troopers". Card has flatly denied this, saying that he never read the novel and did not read "The Forever War" until after writing "Ender's Game". [cite web
url = http://www.hatrack.com/research/questions/q0029.shtml
title = Student Research Area: Orson Scott Card Answers Questions
accessdate = 2006-03-04
year = 2000 ]
Harry Harrisonwrote a satirical book called " Bill, the Galactic Hero" which he described as "a piss-take on Heinlein's "Starship Troopers"." [cite web
url = http://www.octocon.com/1997/hharriso.htm
title = Harry Harrison
accessdate = 2006-03-04 ]
John Scalzi's novel "Old Man's War" is, according to the author, explicitly patterned after "Starship Troopers". [cite web
url = http://dshoffman.blogspot.com/2005/05/old-mans-war-distaff-view.html
title = "Old Man's War": The Distaff View
first = Douglas
last = Hoffman
year = 2005
accessdate = 2006-03-04 ] In recent years,
John Ringo's series " Legacy of the Alldenata" (also known as the " Posleen" series) featured a more explicit homage to Heinlein's book.
James Cameronmovie "Aliens" incorporated themes and phrases right out of the novel such as the terms "the drop" and "bug hunt" as well as the cargo-loader exoskeleton. The actors playing the Colonial Marines were also required to read "Starship Troopers" as part of their training prior to filming. [cite video
Sigourney Weaver(Lead actress)
date2 = 2003-12-02
title = "
Alien Quadrilogy" (Superior Firepower: The Making of "Aliens")
medium = DVD
20th Century Fox
location = California, United States
id = UPC 024543098478 ] In 1988,
Bandai Visualproduced a 6-episode Japanese original video animationlocally titled "Uchū no Senshi". [cite web
title = "Starship Troopers" (OAV) — Trivia
Anime News Network
date = n.d.
url = http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=4136&page=22
accessdate = 2008-02-01 ] The novel's name was licensed for
Paul Verhoeven's film adaptation in 1997. [cite journal
last = Robley
first = Les Paul
year = 1997
month = November
title = Interstellar Exterminators. Ornery insects threaten the galaxy in "Starship Troopers"
volume = 78
issue = 11
pages = pp. 56–66
American Society of Cinematographers
location = California, United States of America] The movie of the same name diverged greatly in terms of the theme and ideas with the novel. It received mixed reviews, [cite web
title = "Starship Troopers" - Rotten Tomatoes"
url = http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/starship_troopers/
accessdate = 2008-02-01 ] and was followed by a sequel (which premiered on the
Showtimetelevision networkFact|date=July 2008) ' in 2004; a direct-to-video third film, ' was released in the summer of 2008. An animated series "" which took inspiration from both the novel and the first film was started in 1999, and lasted for 40 episodes.
Avalon Hillpublished "Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers", a map-and-counter wargaming board gamefeaturing a number of scenarios as written in the novel. [cite web
title = Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers (1976)
date = n.d.
url = http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/670
accessdate = 2008-02-01 ] In 1997, as a tie-in with Verhoeven's film adaptation, they published "Starship Troopers: Prepare For Battle!" which entirely focused on the film. [cite web
title = "Starship Troopers"
Skirmisher Publishing LLC
date = n.d.
url = http://www.skirmisher.com/reviews_bg_sst-01.shtml
accessdate = 2008-02-01 ] A miniature wargame of the which used material from both the novel and the film was published by
Mongoose Publishingin 2005. [cite web
title = Starship Troopers Miniatures Game (2005)
date = n.d.
url = http://www.boardgamegeek.com/game/15435
accessdate = 2008-02-01 ] In 1987, a "
Choose Your Own Adventure"-style interactive book set in the "Starship Troopers" universe, "Combat Command in the World of Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers: Shines the Name" by Mark Acres, was published by Ace Publishers.
In 1998, Mythic Entertainment [cite web|url=http://www.mythicentertainment.com/history/ |title=Mythic Entertainment |accessdate=2006-05-02] released Starship Troopers: Battlespace which was available to
America Onlinesubscribers. The game in which players battled each other in overhead space combat allowed players to assume either Klendathu or Federation roles. Blue Tongue Entertainment via Atarireleased the top-down real-time tacticswargame ' in 2000 [cite web| url=http://www.mobygames.com/game/windows/starship-troopers-terran-ascendancy| title=Starship Troopers: Terran Ascendancy| accessdate=2006-03-04] . A first-person shootergame titled Starship Troopers was released November 15, 2005, based on Paul Verhoeven's film version rather than on Heinlein's novel. It was developed by Strangelite Studiosand published by Empire Interactive. "Starship Troopers" is also thought to have influenced numerous computer games, including ', ', "Tribes", and " Tribes 2, " [A training mission in " Tribes 2" uses the phrase "on the bounce" from the novel] ', [cite web
url = http://www.rpgdot.com/index.php?hsaction=10053&ID=63
title = Interview with Paul Neurath at RPGDot.Com
accessdate = 2006-03-04 ] "Halo", "
Warhammer 40,000", "Fallout 2", [The Enclave troopers encountered late in the game sing a line from the " Ballad of Rodger Young", which is prominently featured in Heinlein's novel.] and " StarCraft". [Heinlein was thanked in the credits of " StarCraft"] .
Markosiabegan publishing The Starship Troopers Comics Ongoing Series, using, and expanding on, the background from the Mongoose Publishingwargame.
1960-06-01, Putnam Publishing Group, hardcover, ISBN 0-399-20209-9
* May, 1968, Berkley Medallion Edition, paperback, ISBN 0-425-02945-X
* January 1984, Berkley Publishing Group, paperback, ISBN 0-425-07158-8
* November 1985, Berkley Publishing Group, paperback, ISBN 0-425-09144-9
* November 1986, Berkley Publishing Group, paperback, ISBN 0-425-09926-1
1987-05-01, Ace Books, paperback, 263 pages, ISBN 0-441-78358-9
1995-10-01, Buccaneer Books, hardcover, ISBN 1-56849-287-1
1997-12-01, Blackstone Audiobooks, cassette audiobook, ISBN 0-7861-1231-X
1998-07-01, G. K. Hall & Company, large print hardcover, 362 pages, ISBN 0-7838-0118-1
1999-10-01, Sagebrush, library binding, ISBN 0-7857-8728-3
2000-01-01, Blackstone Audiobooks, CD audiobook, ISBN 0-7861-9946-6
2006-06-27, Ace Trade, paperback, ISBN 0-441-01410-0
* Angelo, Carlos. [http://www.wegrokit.com/ Robert A. Heinlein, Dean of Science Fiction Writers] .
* cite news
first=Roberto de Sousa
title=Citizenship at War
publisher=O Jornal da Tarde
* [http://www.enter.net/~torve/critics/PITFCS/pitfcsintro.html Starship Troopers: The PITFCS Debate] : A two year debate about the novel in a Science Fiction publication occurring immediately after its publication.
* cite paper
title=The Nature of Federal Service in Starship Troopers
* cite book
last = Heinlein | first = Robert A.
authorlink = Robert A. Heinlein
id=ISBN 0-7434-7159-8 Contains Heinlein's comments on the writing and the politics of "Starship Troopers", as well as the polemical speech "The Pragmatics of Patriotism" on the moral basis of the military.
* Moorcock, Michael. " [http://web.archive.org/web/20021224193414/http://flag.blackened.net/liberty/moorcock.html Starship Stormtroopers] ", Cienfuegos Press Anarchist Review, 1978.
* cite book
last = Panshin | first = Alexei
authorlink = Alexei Panshin
url = http://www.enter.net/~torve/critics/Dimension/hdcontents.html
title = Heinlein in Dimension
* cite paper
title="Rite of Passage" and Robert Heinlein
url=http://www.enter.net/~torve/critics/HeinleinRoP/ropcontents.html Describes a correspondence with Heinlein over "Starship Troopers" in 1959.
* cite journal
first = James | last = Pinkerton
journal=Tech Central Station Daily
month=May | year=2003 | volume= | pages=
* Weuve, Christopher. " [http://www.kentaurus.com/troopers.htm Thoughts on Starship Troopers] ". Examines some of the issues surrounding Heinlein's version and Verhoeven's version.
* " [http://www.heinleinsociety.org/rah/works/articles/transnationalgovts.html "Starry-Eyed Internationalists" versus the Social Darwinists] " by Rafeeq O. McGiveron. Examines Heinlein's transnational governments, including the Terran Federation.
* " [http://www.space.com/sciencefiction/books/troopers_book_000610.html Militarism and Utopia in 'Starship Troopers'] " by Robert Peterson. Argues that Heinlein's Federation is a fascist government.
* " [http://www.wegrokit.com/causost.htm Citizenship at War] " by Roberto de Sousa Causo. Review from a Brazilian newspaper.
* [http://www.scifi.com/sfw/issue43/classic.html SciFi.Com book review] by Craig E. Engler.
* [http://www.gotterdammerung.org/books/robert-heinlein/starship-troopers.html Gotterdammerung.Org book review] by Branislav L. Slantchev.
* [http://www.sfreviews.net/starshiptroopers.html SFReviews.Net book review] by T. M. Wagner.
* [http://www.rjgeib.com/thoughts/athens/robert-heinlein.html "STARSHIP TROOPERS" by Robert A. Heinlein. An opinion] by Richard Geib.
* [http://www.kentaurus.com/troopers.htm "Thoughts on Starship Troopers"] by Christopher Weuve.
* [http://www.heinleinsociety.org/rah/works/articles/rahrahrah.html Rah, Rah, R. A. H.!] - essay by Spider Robinson in defense of Heinlein mostly against Panshin's "Heinlein In Dimension"
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