This Hugo Award-winning 1959 classic by “the dean of American science fiction writers” just happens to take place in the 22nd century and involves intergalactic warfare against insectoid monsters, but it nonetheless captures the feel of military service, and the ordeal of young recruits from basic training to battle-hardness, with a vividness that will resonate for any serviceman in any era. Heinlein, a Naval Academy graduate, brings these things to life through the story of Johnnie Rico, who denies his father’s wishes and joins the planet’s Mobile Infantry. The rigors of military life, the sacrifices that such a life entails, the raw fear before going into battle, the burdens of leadership—all are captured masterfully. Like most sci-fi that stands the test of time, Starship Troopers is about much more than futuristic hardware and shootouts with space creatures. It is, above all, a novel of ideas, a book that stimulates thought about citizenship, responsibility, duty, and the role of the individual in society. It remains to this day a controversial work—in Heinlein’s world of tomorrow, only those who have served in the military are allowed to vote, a concept that has rankled some and served as provocative food-for-thought for others. Above all, Starship Troopers is a gripping read that rises above the normal science-fiction novel.
For today’s Sailor, this novel is extremely worthwhile, for it shows that the travails and aspirations of those who serve are universal and timeless. Its point-of-view, that of an idealistic young man learning the ropes in the military, will seem refreshingly familiar to the reader. It is easy to relate to, and root for the protagonist as he goes from being a raw, naïve recruit to a tough leader of men, along the way learning the true meaning of discipline, loyalty, and courage.