Thursday, November 18, 2010

Starship Troopers

Starship TroopersStarship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the reasons I like Heinlein's earlier works is because of its clear-eyed youthful skepticism and sense of wonder. Starship Troopers integrates general science/engineering principles and math in a way that is interesting and inspiring for the young teenager. I do wish more books like these were suggested to high-school students.

Heinlein is also quite political in his writings, and uses philosophy to enrich the social context of the book. Here, Heinlein introduces a principle that only those people who are willing to sacrifice, to "put one's body in between one's home and the war's desolation" are deserving of The Franchise (the right to vote and serve in public office). I am sympathetic to this viewpoint, although I don't think it's a viable replacement for the American basis of Franchise--however, it did make me think about how detrimental franchise imposition in places like Brazil and Australia where people are required by law to vote might be since it would probably sway politics towards demagoguery and lessen the influence of people who are genuinely motivated to vote and participate in public life. Heinlein is no strict ideologue, though. He makes a point that certain political philosophies are designed to meet the needs of a people or society, and that society generally deserves the political systems that it enacts. If that society has no morals or civic virtue (e.g., like those of our founding fathers' society), then we can't expect an American-style political system to 'work' in such a society.

It was an interesting book and I understand it is very different in many important respects from the movie (which I have not seen). For example, there is no reference to coed showers and bunking for soldiers, and the male-female relationships very much reflect the respect for sexual differences of the time in which it was written (late 1950s); although it does vary in its idea of gender roles in the economy (e.g., women were pilots because they were inherently more qualified to be pilots then men because of certain womanly characteristics such as gentleness, etc.).

View all my reviews

No comments: