Today  I'll review Starship Troopers, a science fiction novel written by Robert A. Heinlein. Published in 1959, Starship Troopers is considered to be one of Heinlein's best known works. It also happens to be the first novel I read from this author. I was an adolescent (or even younger) when I picked it up. What impressed me the most was the way this book encouraged critical thinking. The plot was interesting and the characters endearing, but it was the philosophical aspect of this book that really got to me. Since then, I've read many works by Robert A. Heinlein, but this novel still holds a special place in my heart. When I look back to all the works by Robert A. Heinlein that I have read, I can say that my favourite thing about them remains the way they encourage critical thinking. 

Honestly, I'm surprised I haven't shared my review of this novel yet. I was sure I did, but searching through my archives revealed nothing. Why I haven't shared this review before? Perhaps I was planning to share it with an accompanying movie review. As some of you might know, a film adaptation exists. In fact, many people might be more familiar with the 1997 movie than with the book. Now that I think of it, it indeed possible that I was planning a separate blog post where I would compare the book versus the movie. However, the two are so profoundly different that it would have to be a very  long blog post! So that will have to wait until (or if ever) I find the time to write an in-depth analysis. My expertise lies more in reviewing books anyway. In the meantime, I'll just say that I found the movie interesting but not really connected to the source material.

 Taken on its own, the movie version is watchable and even though-provoking. Initially faced with bad reviews the movie version has since been reevaluated and its satirical message appreciated. Considering the source material, however,  the movie must remain somewhat disappointing to a Heinlein fab. For example, the principal character in Starship Troopers is a Filipino. Needless to say, there are no Filipinos in the Hollywood blockbuster. Moreover, if you're expecting an adaptation of this work, you really should look someplace else. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the 1997 movie adaptation was mean to be satirical. Both the movie and the book were considered controversial, but for different reasons. I'll just stick with the book reviewing in this post. Let's start with a quote from this novel: “Cast me into a dungeon;, burn me at the state, crown me king of kings, I can 'pursue happiness' as long as my brain lives -- but neither gods nor saints, wise men nor subtle drugs, can insure that I will catch it.”

                                       MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE AUTHOR

What Wikipedia says about Robert A. Heinlein:   "an American science fiction author, aeronautical engineer, and naval officer. Sometimes called the "dean of science fiction writers",[5] he was among the first to emphasize scientific accuracy in his fiction, and was thus a pioneer of the subgenre of hard science fiction. His published works, both fiction and non-fiction, express admiration for competence and emphasize the value of critical thinking.[6] His plots often posed provocative situations which challenged conventional social mores.[7] His work continues to have an influence on the science-fiction genre, and on modern culture more generally. Heinlein became one of the first American science-fiction writers to break into mainstream magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post in the late 1940s. He was one of the best-selling science-fiction novelists for many decades, and he, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke are often considered the "Big Three" of English-language science fiction authors.[8][9][10] Notable Heinlein works include Stranger in a Strange Land,[11] Starship Troopers (which helped mold the space marine and mecha archetypes) and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.[12] His work sometimes had controversial aspects, such as plural marriage in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, militarism in Starship Troopers and technologically competent women characters who were formidable,[13] yet often stereotypically feminine—such as FridayA writer also of many science-fiction short stories, Heinlein was one of a group of writers who came to prominence under the editorship (1937–1971) of John W. Campbell at Astounding Science Fiction magazine, though Heinlein denied that Campbell influenced his writing to any great degree.Heinlein used his science fiction as a way to explore provocative social and political ideas and to speculate how progress in science and engineering might shape the future of politics, race, religion, and sex.[12] 



 When I say that Starship Troopers is a novel that has had a profound influence on me, most people look at me like I'm crazy. If they haven't read it themselves, I can see why it might not seem too promising, especially if one isn't a SF fan to start with. Nevertheless, I must stand my ground here. I’ve read this novel a number of times now and one doesn’t reread a novel that many times for no reason. This novel functions wonderfully on many levels. In my opinion that is what makes it so great. It works well both as a Young Adult and Science Fiction novel. There are many great SF elements in it, for example the ingenious usage of power suit. Heinlein was not considered a master of science fiction without a reason and I’m sure SF fans will find a lot to like in this one.

  “Any group is weaker than a man alone unless they are perfectly trained to work together.”

“There are no dangerous weapons; there are only dangerous men.”
 Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers

Rico, the protagonist of our novel, is a Filipino growing up in a world set in future. I shall not describe this world in detail just yet but let’s just say it seems pretty believable and it creates some interesting moral dilemmas. The characters in this novel are surprisingly racially diverse considering the time period the novel was published in. Women being deemed superior pilots because of their better reflexes was, if I’m not mistaken, quite bold for that time. So, bonus points for that. The story is easy to follow and the protagonist himself is very likeable (I would say pretty adorable). We feel for the characters and we get engaged as readers. As far as the narrative is concerned, everything worked out perfectly. Nevertheless, there is another layer to this novel.

“Our behavior is different. How often have you seen a headline like this?--TWO DIE ATTEMPTING RESCUE OF DROWNING CHILD. If a man gets lost in the mountains, hundreds will search and often two or three searchers are killed. But the next time somebody gets lost just as many volunteers turn out.
Poor arithmetic, but very human. It runs through all our folklore, all human religions, all our literature--a racial conviction that when one human needs rescue, others should not count the price.”
 Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers

What layer would that be? The one that deals with individual responsibility and morals, the one that questions the way any society is organized, the one that asks important questions. Yes, that layer. The philosophical aspect of this novel was what I enjoyed the most. Remember those essays Rico had to write? I remember one instant where he had to prove with scientific arguments what causes wars and it turns out to be population pressure. Yes, increase in population (and hence reduced resources) is that triggers wars. I mean there is an intellectual aspect of this novel that often (for whatever reason) gets ignored, but it exists nevertheless. In other words, this novel asks questions that deserve to be asked. Moreover, it provides answers that are quite logical.

 “Man has no moral instinct. He is not born with moral sense. You were not born with it, I was not - and a puppy has none. We acquire moral sense, when we do, through training, experience, and hard sweat of the mind.”

I think I was about 14 or 15 when I read Starship Troopers for the first time, which is perhaps appropriate because this novel can be labelled as young adult (and I can recommend it if that’s the genre you go for). If I say this novel was one of those life- changing books for me, would I be going too far? I don’t think so, because when I look back at my life, I can see its influence. That in itself makes it a pretty special book. I remember so clearly the effect it had on me the first time I read it. I’m sure it wasn’t only the story that moved me so.

“The instinct to survive is human nature itself, and every aspect of our personalities derives from it. Anything that conflicts with the survival instinct acts sooner or later to eliminate the individual and thereby fails to show up in future generations. . . . 
A scientifically verifiable theory of morals must be rooted in the individual's instinct to survive--and nowhere else!--and must correctly describe the hierarchy of survival, note the motivations at each level, and resolve all conflicts. 

We have such a theory now; we can solve any moral problem, on any level. Self-interest, love of family, duty to country, responsibility toward the human race . . . .
The basis of all morality is duty, a concept with the same relation to group that self-interest has to individual.” Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers

You see, the story is interesting but it is not the main merit of his novel. Likewise, the character development of Rico is handled very well, but that is not the only significant aspect of this novel. Yes, this could be deemed a fantastic YA read, but it is also so much more than that. This novel contains some very important messages, but as you read it, you almost don’t notice them. Everything is so well balanced. You have this feeling of being in Rico’s head. Perhaps that is why I keep on reflecting on I when I finish reading it. While I’m reading it, I always have this impression of only following the story, yet when I’m done with reading, I always end up thinking about it a great deal.

“I told you that 'juvenile delinquent' is a contradiction in terms. 'Delinquent' means 'failing in duty.' But duty is an adult virtue—indeed a juvenile becomes an adult when, and only when, he acquires a knowledge of duty and embraces it as dearer than the self-love he was born with. There never was, there cannot be a 'juvenile delinquent.' But for every juvenile criminal there are always one or more adult delinquents—people of mature years who either do not know their duty, or who, knowing it, fail.”
― Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers

That’s the thing. The point is that this novel made me think. That is what I originally loved about it and that is what still attracts me to it. Seemingly simple, but having a lot of depth, this novel stayed with me. It influenced the way I think. It made me question the relationship between society and the individual. Deep inside, there was an even more profound message and lesson to be learned. Nothing in life is free. As Heinlein put it in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, there ain’t such a thing as free lunch. We have to work hard for everything in life. 

Thinking that we can lay back and let the government or whoever worry about our problems is so fundamentally wrong that it is not even funny. If one wants to live in a decent world, one must pay the price for it. If one wants to be a parent, one must be prepared to punish their child when they do something wrong, not just stand back and be lazy about it, because punishment of any sort (according to modern psychology) results in trauma. You know what results in real trauma? When a child knows his or her parents couldn’t care less. Everything in life requires effort, from relationship to work, there is no simple way and there are no easy answers. This book teaches us a lesson about life and it does it in such a casual and effortless way it is almost hard to notice it.

“Social responsibility above the level of family, or at most of tribe, requires imagination-- devotion, loyalty, all the higher virtues -- which a man must develop himself; if he has them forced down him, he will vomit them out.”  Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers

There are those who call this novel militant but I don’t think this world that Heinlein created was supposed to be taken as a strict model to build on. What I think Heinlein was doing (and doing it well) is examining human history, proposing certain ideas and bringing things to their logical conclusions. Yes, he created a society where only veterans ( i.e. those who enlisted to serve their society ) got to vote This enlistment could be prolonged should a need arrive (as for instance in case of a war). The point was that the individual should not be given the right to vote if he wasn’t willing to die in the protection of the society he lives in. In other words, he or she shouldn’t be able to take an active part, unless took an active part in protecting that society. I don’t think this novel was written as a celebration of military life and I certainly don’t think it is militant in any way or form. On the other hand, it might make you better understand military men and be more compassionate towards veterans, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, wouldn't you agree?

“Both for practical reasons and for mathematically verifiable moral reasons, authority and responsibility must be equal - else a balancing takes place as surely as current flows between points of unequal potential. To permit irresponsible authority is to sow disaster; to hold a man responsible for anything he does not control is to behave with blind idiocy. The unlimited democracies were unstable because their citizens were not responsible for the fashion in which they exerted their sovereign authority... other than through the tragic logic of history... No attempt was made to determine whether a voter was socially responsible to the extent of his literally unlimited authority. If he voted the impossible, the disastrous possible happened instead - and responsibility was then forced on him willy-nilly and destroyed both him and his foundationless temple.”
― Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers

Even if you’re a pacifist, I think you shouldn’t find this novel offensive. There is a sound logic behind that division between civilians and veterans that this novel proposes. It is known that revolution eats its own children. The society in this novel tries to bypass that, by separating those who want to be active participants in society from those who aren’t willing to do so. We know the history of mankind is a bloody mess. Here in this novel there are some suggestions how to avoid it. It is not to be taken too literally, it is not something you should preach but hopefully reading this novel will make you a little more open minded and make you questions thing. This novel isn’t dated. Precisely because of that philosophical aspect of it, I’m pretty sure this book won’t be dated any time soon.

“Let's skip [Mobile Infantry] tradition for a moment. Can you think of anything sillier than being fired out of a spaceship with nothing but mayhem and sudden death at the other end? However, if someone must do this idiotic stunt, do you know a surer way to keep a man keyed up to the point where he is willing than by keeping him constantly reminded that the only good reason why men fight is a living, breathing reality?
"In a mixed ship [men and women] the last thing a trooper hears before a drop (maybe the last word he ever hears) is a woman's voice, wishing him luck. If you don't think this is important you've probably resigned from the human race.”

What kind of novel is Starship Troopers? Well, one wouldn't be wrong if one described it as a classic SF novel. It is certainly considered a SF classic for a good reason. Like the best of science fiction works, this novel explores the complex creation that is human kind, using a future world to question our own as well as to propose possible corrections to our society. In addition, it could also be called a YA novel because the protagonist Rico indeed grows up before our eyes. From a young man that acts as a boy, he makes the transition into an adult which sadly (as Heinlein noted in his Stranger In A Strange Land) is not something everyone is capable of. Not all people turn into adults, some remain caught into the limbo of shifting and avoiding to take the responsibility for their own lives forever.

“Citizenship is an attitude, a state of mind, an emotional conviction that the whole is greater than the part...and that the part should be humbly proud to sacrifice itself that the whole may live.”
When I started writing this review, I mentioned the fact that I’ve been rereading this novel for years. When it comes to my favourite authors, I seem to do rereading in cycles, every five years or so. I think rereading tells us a lot about a quality of any work of literature. In my opinion, there are two reasons why a novel gets reread again and again. It is either very good or it has a sentimental value for its reader. In this case, it might be both. I have a copy at my home that I will probably read at least once more and here is why. Because it is a great novel that functions perfectly on many levels. What I liked most about it, is surely its philosophical and intellectual aspect, but it functions perfectly both as a great SF and YA novel.




Thank you for reading and stopping by. Have a lovely day!


  1. Like WoW - Does This Ever Take Me back - Like Way Back - You Sure Are Beautiful - Sending You And The Hubby Positive Vibes - Stay Strong


  2. Rico sounds so interesting! Thanks for the amazing review! BTW Love your scarf too. Such great graphics! So glad you did this review! Thanks for your suggestions on further Science Fiction reading!

  3. Gracias por la reseña .Tengo pendiente ese libro. Te mando un beso.

  4. Thank you for another in-depth SF book review, Ivana! xxx

  5. Jon would buy those books for the covers! xxx

  6. I've been a Heinlein fan since I read "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel" when I was about 13. I read "Starship Troopers" AFTER I saw the movie (which I LOVE - I saw it in the theatre when it came out). Heinlein is sneaky good at his messaging, even in his young adult fiction. His wife, Virginia (Ginny), was his first editor, and her input is clear all the way through his books, particularly in his female characters. My favourite book of his is "Stranger in a Strange Land" but it's got a horrific clanger in it about rape (being the victim's fault) that does not read well today - Ginny, you let us down!

    Great review and I love seeing your fun outfits, Ivana!

  7. I am so impressed by this author! I love this quote especially:

    “Social responsibility above the level of family, or at most of tribe, requires imagination-- devotion, loyalty, all the higher virtues -- which a man must develop himself; if he has them forced down him, he will vomit them out.” Robert A. Heinlein

    How very relevant in today's modern setting too! I love the outfit you wore with the brown jacket! So earthy and chic. I hope you are well and keeping yourself warm and cozy during these cold months :)

    Sending you warm wishes <3 xoxo


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All your comments mean a lot to me, even the criticism. Naravno da mi puno znači što ste uzeli vrijeme da nešto napišete, pa makar to bila i kritika. Per me le vostre parole sono sempre preziose anche quando si tratta di critiche.

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