Bring out the Bug Killer

Starship Troopers - Robert A. Heinlein

Sometimes it is really hard to drag up out of one's deep memory the names of all the books that I have read. Granted, I could list all of the Little Golden Books that I read as a child, but somehow I think that defeats the purpose of listing all the books that one has read on Booklikes (though I just entered Little Red Caboose into Goodreads to find that it has a rating of 4/5 with something like 439 listings), though since finding them sitting on my brother's bookshelf I have ended up doing just that (along with the Dr Suess Books and the Mr Men books). Anyway, this digression has little to nothing to do with Starship Troopers, with the exception of my long term memory kicking me in the backside and reminding me that I read this book a while ago.


I had seen the movie Starship Troopers prior to reading this book, and Starship Troopers is still one of my favourite, no-thinking, sci-fi action movies, but the book does have a little to do with the film (beyond the title that is). The book is about militarism when one's country is under attack. Earth is being bombarded with meteorites from another system that are being directed by a race of insects. This is not a story about two space powers slugging it out in space with star destroyers, but rather a race of insects who are able to launch their progeny through space and invade planets that way.


The enemy is clearly an unthinking race of creatures (they are not sentient, but still incredibly dangerous) that simply seeks to go out and destroy everything in their path. They are insects in the purest form possible. I have read a lot of books where the insects are sentient, but alien, creatures, however that is not the case here. These insects are what you would expect from insects, though most biologists would scoff at the fact that these giant insects are chitinous, particularly since insects this size would not be able to lift the shell. However this is science-fiction, and in a lot of cases, the laws of science get thrown out the window when dealing with this genre (and who knows, we might actually find a race of giant, chitinous, insects on a low gravity world).


This is more a book about life in the military than having some detailed plot. Heinlein seems to work his books like this, though fortunately the ending of this book did not come out as being tacked on in the same way that the ending of Podkayne of Mars did, though like the previous book, Starship Troopers is more like a journal of life in the military.


Heinlein's military is harsh though. Some have suggested that it is nothing like the film, and I must admit that I agree having read this book (albeit a while ago). The one thing I noticed is that there are no support roles (such as cooks), the soldiers are responsible for everything. These days it is suggested that for every soldier out fighting you need at least two auxiliary personal to support them. Granted, the cook does not cook for just one person, but for a number, however when cooking for 50 men, the head cook will need a lot of other cooks to help him (or her as the case may be). However, in this army everybody fights, and everybody also does the chores that are required of them. This, to an extent, makes for a much more efficient (and cheaper) army.


The problem that I do have with this book is the fact that the movie keeps on getting in the way. The movie is not necessarily what one would expect of the movie though in that it does not follow a traditional plot. It is not until close to the end that we discover the purpose of the film, and the main character is not moving towards a specifically defined goal. However it does not mean that it is a bad book, because the book is more about how the character becomes a soldier, and you could say it is the same in the film.