Who could take a novel about men killing giant bugs seriously if it was written by anyone but Heinlein? In his hands, Starship Troopers exterminating evil bugs is less about sci-fi action (there's plenty) and more about social commentary. Written shortly after the Korean War, the novel looks at the American military experience and the ethics of military action.
Juan Rico narrates his adventures as part of the Terran Mobile Infantry and of Rasczak's Roughnecks, a commando platoon known for their own exploits and for the reputation of their commanding officer, Lt. Rasczak himself. Rico moves from rookie to veteran, making constant observations about treatment of the enemy, the nature of combat, and soldierly cameraderie.
While not wholly an indictment of the U.S. military, Heinlein raises important questions concerning the ethical extent of foreign involvement as well as the structure of miltiary hierarchies and the dehumanization of soldiers. By making the enemies bugs, Heinlein also comments on the dehumanization of the enemy.
But this isn't just philosophical reflection and social commentary—Starship Troopers is brilliant science fiction, and an awesome interstellar war story. Heinlein's grasp of the language makes us feel as though we're reading about an actual conflict....which, after all, we may be.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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