Starship Troopers

Starship Troopers is a book in Robert A. Heinlein’s 14-book Heinlein juveniles, a series of young adult novels.  It follows the life of Johnnie Rico after he graduates high school.  Like many boys his age, he is interested in joining the military for two years, long enough to receive a badge.  His parents are not enthusiastic about the idea, so they offer to send him on a vacation trip to Mars.  Johnnie is thrilled at this opportunity. He agrees to forego his dreams of joining the military.  He does, however, agree to accompany his best friend, Carl, to sign up.  There, they meet a girl who went to their school, Carmencita.  To Johnnie, she is “one of the nice things about being a member of a race with two sexes” (Heinlein, 33).  Carmen greets Johnnie and Carl and tells them that she is planning to “join up.”  Carl replies that he is also.  Then Johnnie finds himself saying this as well.

Johnnie is told to make a list of his preferences for jobs in the military.  His last choice is Infantry.  A few days later, he is shipped to Camp Arthur Currie for Basic training.  The work is brutal.  There are 2,009 men who start with Johnnie at Camp Currie.  By the end, only 187 graduate.  Some quit, others die.  Naturally, the main character makes it through training.  At this point in the book, the reader is informed that when Johnnie first enrolled there was peace, but by the time he finished training the world is in a state of emergency.

The First Interstellar War, or The Bug War, is fought against an alien race. The Bugs resemble giant spiders.  They live in elaborate tunnels under the surface of their planets.  Because they have a hive mind, the majority of the Bugs are just empty shells performing simple tasks.  Most importantly, because of the way that the Bugs reproduce, they can replace their soldiers as fast as they are killed.  If for every 1,000 Bugs killed 1 man dies, the men are losing.  With this new threat, Johnnie’s plans of being a part of the military for just two years are dashed.  He is sent to be a part of his first regiment.

These Infantry regiments perform what is called a “drop.”  Unlike the space wars in movies, this war is not fought on ships that are shooting lasers at each other.  The battles are fought on planets.  Men are sent down in capsules for a “drop.”  They exit the capsules upon landing, complete whatever their mission is, then return to the retrieval boat to be taken back to their ships.  The Bugs execute similar drops.  The war is in a tailspin as Bugs destroy Argentina and fearful men drop to the surfaces of Bug planets.  With every mission, more people “buy the farm” and humanity becomes more desperate.

I enjoyed reading this book.  It dealt with ethical issues and was written in a way that made you feel like you were there.  The military system is well explained.  I wish that there had been more characters, particularly females.  I give this book an 8.8 out of 10.

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3 thoughts on “Starship Troopers

  1. Did Carmen end up being an interesting character, or just a way to get a character to enlist in the military unexpectedly?


  2. Hmm. There’s some sense of equality in Heinlein’s world, in that Carmen gets to enlist in the military, so it seems odd that she’s not mentioned more. I wonder if Heinlein was held back by his own sensibilities, or if he just thought that typical sci-fi readers in 1959 wouldn’t be interested in a woman with a bigger part.


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