Thursday, July 02, 2020


Yeah I know, you wouldn't think I'd be caught dead reading juvenile literature along the lines of a fifties science fiction novel such as this. Well, I've done way worse in my travels towards the goal of being a Complete Human Being and hey, once you think about it what the heck is wrong with reading a book like STARSHIP TROOPERS, one which really shakes you to the core and makes you glad that you're a thriving, breathing MAMMAL just like Lester Bangs said the Dolls would make you. Well, gotta admit that both the Dolls and Heinlein know how to do their job shaking one to the quick and pretty durn well at that.

STARSHIP TROOPERS follows the exploits of one Juan "Johnny" Rico, a teenage Filipino who, against his parents' wishes tho that don't matter because it's legal for him to do so, joins the army in their battle against a foreign power of intelligent spiders, or to put it in more scientific terms "Arachnoids". They're a particularly fierce species who, besides attempting to conquer what is known of the extraterrestrial regions, show no mercy in their attempt to take over the human areas. Those who have survived battle with them sometimes have visual reminders of their efforts in the guise of missing limbs, a testimonial to their outright lack of any moral code which would figure because, for all intent purposes, they are but huge insects with an urge to destroy in their quest for it all.

The job ain't a cushy one but Rico leaps forward into his new profession with total abandon befitting a fresh outta high stool Filipino kid in his quest for a life of duty and a higher satisfaction. Along the way he (and perhaps you even at your stage in life) learns a few new thing as he transforms from Archie Andrews into Flash Gordon in a battle that is not gonna be won overnight but ya gotta start somewhere.

STARSHIP TROOPERS ain't some giddy World War II moom pitcher portraying conflict in some rather gosh-oh-gee terms. It can get pretty gnarly in its depiction of exactly what yer gonna be up against once you're eyeball to eyeball with the enemy, or in this case eyeball to eyeballs. None of that sappy sweet cloying entertainment bein' shoveled at'cha here...this is THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE for the Space Age and a pretty engrossing read that you just knew was gonna be made into a film that captured none of the novel's impact (and no, I haven't checked it out on Rotten Tomatoes and probably never will as if that really matters).

As we experience Rico emerging into a soldier worth his weight in body armor we get more than a loadfulla author Robert Heinlein's own personal views as the just exactly WHAT IS WRONG WITH NOT ONLY THIS WORLD, BUT WITH YOU!!!! The lack of a cohesive moral bond that keeps humanity on the straight and narrow seems to be one and going soft and flabby just ripenin' up for the enemy's the other. A long flashback to a high school class (spurred on by a fellow cadet's murder of an infant) has Rico reminiscing about his teacher's pro capital punishment argument, while another classroom lecture discusses juvenile delinquency in terms definitely not presented in a variety of Hollywood films for years to come. Some might think that Heinlein's advocating for a "fascist" state which limits rights to only the people who are willing to fight for them to the bloody end but once again I feel like commenting that if indeed Heinlein is fascist thenl gimme a square jaw and call me Benito! No wonder many wags tend to lump Heinlein in with Ayn Rand as concentration camp-rallying nabobs out to destroy the current political system as it stands and has stood for the past fiftysome if not longer years.

I will say for certain that Heinlein is a much better writer than Rand and that the naysayers who claim to be so worried about the supposed loss of liberties have been the first to be extremely cavalier in destroying many of the liberties that get in the way of their own rampages to create "The New Human". And now that I have read STARSHIP TROOPERS I've gotta say that each and every anti-Heinlein bleat from the more precious than thou set is pure hooey...the social/political questions that are addressed here, if not having been proven true over the past few decades, will be eventually.

Heck, STARSHIP TROOPERS is first and foremost a great teenbo novel that sure woulda instilled some interesting life mission views and values in me had I read it (and had been open minded enough about it) when I was developing into my own manhood looooong ago. The Sci-Fi is as fresh as a fanzine of the day and the overall tone of being a youth who turns into a man is something that I think should have been pushed on the last three or so generations that have resulted in the limpwrists and soy boys so common among us these days. But eh, I'm sure that the school librarians and moral overseers are more concerned with the nickname that was given to the Arachnoid enemy....mainly "bugs". Oh man, is that racist or what??? Sheesh, you can't even offend lobsters these sad 'n sorry days!


MoeLarryAndJesus said...

I read a bunch of Heinlein as a teenager in the 70s. It's a mistake to label him as some sort of hardcore right-winger. Stay away from "Time Enough For Love," Stigs, I'm not sure your heart could take it. In that book Lazarus Long goes back in time and bangs his actual mother. Casual sexual relationships include same-sex deals with no hint of disapproval from Heinlein. Transexuality is another topic both in "Time" and in "I Will Fear No Evil." "Stranger In A Strange Land" became a kind of hippie bible for a while, partly due to its depiction of free love and communal living in a positive way.

Heinlein is right up there with Ellison, Vonnegut, Dick, Lafferty and Herbert as far as 60s/70s sf-associated writers go, in my opinion. No one should shortchange any of them by trying to jam them into some mindless political pigeonhole. Good literature doesn't work like that.

Charles Hodgson said...

Wish we could trample the PC gender self-identification and BLM infestation underfoot like Johnny Rico does to the bugs.
Not read the book, but the movie plays well if you can ignore the satirical reading intended by the director, and just enjoy the carnage. Similarly with same dude's Robocop. You have no seconds to comply, looters!

New York 'Dolf said...

Parallel to a Brett Stevens post on Gab this morning re Rand and Heinlein.

HHH said...

Off topic, but I stand with Seattle's Mayor Jenny. Caught between the Antifa mob and the AltRight, she seeks a common sense middle road, much as I did in 1968 when I had to face down the SDS and the Birchers and the Ku Kluxers. Not an easy path. Let's hear three cheers for Mayor Jenny!