When examining military science fiction, all roads, at one point or another, lead to Starship Troopers, written by Robert A. Heinlein in 1959 and rooted in his service in the U.S. Navy. So much has been written about this book that it’s a bit intimidating to approach it as a reviewer, but in re-reading it for this series, I found something I can add to the conversation. While the book holds up even better than I expected, there are a few things in it that a modern audience might not appreciate. All fiction reflects the time in which it was written, and while I am not quite old enough to remember the world of the U.S. Navy in the 1930s, I am old enough to have seen remnants of that era during my own youth, and my service in the Coast Guard, which started in the 1970s. So let me proceed in putting some aspects of the work in context for modern readers.
Heinlein was an Annapolis graduate in 1929, who served briefly on one of the first aircraft carriers, a marvel of the technology of the day. His career as a naval officer was brief, before he received a medical discharge. His time in service gave him a lifelong respect for military discipline, self sacrifice, and dedication to a higher ideal.
But the military Heinlein served in was racist, sexist, and hidebound by bureaucracy. The military that he imagined in “Starship Troopers” was none of those things.
By the way, the 1997 movie has little to do with the novel. The movie was a dumb summer blockbuster; the novel is philosophical, with long lectures about patriotism and duty.