Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
|".....Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at it's worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms."|
Starship Troopers (Hugo, 1960) is the controversial classic that spawned the subgenre of military science fiction. It changed modern warfare and is required reading for each and every U.S. soldier and Marine to this day. It is the novel whose voice was so strong, it forced Heinlein to set aside Stranger In A Strange Land to pen it. Beyond being one of the most influential, most important, and absolute best science fiction novels, it's also one of my very favorites.
See, it's dedicated to me.
Well, to be completely forthcoming, it's dedicated to a very many thousands. All Sergeants anywhen, in fact. I fail to hold that against it, however.
A political pamphlet on civic duty as well as a novel, Starship Troopers purports that suffrage ought to be the privilege of those who have earned it, and those alone. In Heinlein's society this group was solely veterans of military service. Though this idea (and many others in Starship Troopers) was very attractive to me in my youth, I can not help but notice Heinlein's shortsightedness in limiting his civic service to military service alone. For instance, do doctors not serve society with as much import as the soldier? I can almost hear RAH sighing when I say that; about to point out how doctors are economically rewarded for their service exponentially more than a soldier. Then I would point to teachers, nurses, firefighters, police officers, and more. I believe he would assert that I would find most of these professions filled with veterans of military service, but some or most, even in the world of his own making, is not enough to make his point valid.
I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for Robert Heinlein, and do not doubt that my mind is far inferior to what his was, but I do believe I would win this argument.
This one small point aside, I do believe that Johnnie Rico's adventures as a member of the mobile infantry is the most enjoyable, infuriating, and wondrous science fiction tale ever told.
Starship Troopers has become something of a handbook for my former service, The United States Marine Corps. It purports the superiority of an all-volunteer, highly trained, technologically superior elite force, which is exactly what the Marine Corps works constantly towards being. Heinlein envisioned night vision goggles, which are standard issue throughout military forces across the globe, but were first used tactically by the Marine Corps. He also envisioned thermal viewers, now known as forward looking infrared (FLIR) which is used on most tactical aircraft and tanks. The most famous idea from Starship Troopers, the powered armor, has been in development by the U.S. Army for nearly a decade, but has yet to see tactical use.
Starship Troopers was also the basis of somewhat comedic movie of the same name in 1997.
It occurs to me that I've not given any plot summary whatsoever. I don't intend to. You've probably already read it, but if you haven't, you absolutely must. Now. Starship Troopers is one of the five most important novels of science fiction.
Starship Troopers, due to its relative importance and the collectiblity of Robert A. Heinlein, is a very expensive book in first edition. (Original cover pictured above) A signed first edition in very fine condition is selling on ABE Books for about six thousand dollars. There is also a copy on ABE, unsigned, for sale by Barry Levin for $4,500. I have inspected this particular copy myself, and it is finer than I believe he represents.
The UK first hardcover edition was published in 1975, and is nowhere near as valuable. (~$500)
There have been many reprints, but none worthy of note for collectors. Meisha Merlin, in the process of publishing The Virginia Edition of Heinlein's complete works, will be producing a limited leather edition at some point. However, due to Meisha Merlin's history of poor quality and repeated untimeliness, I would urge caution prior ordering this series.