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Starship Troopers: Interpretation and Analysis

Sabermane

Proud Fianna knight of hope and peace
Validated User
The real question is why can't your sensors tell the difference between harmless light bursts and anti-capital ship plasma bursts?
 

Nate_MI

Hail Tzeentch!
Validated User
I’m very interested in following the differing opinions on the book and films since it’s generated so much discussion and so probably deserves its own thread.

Since this tends to generate strong opinions, please be nice.
The book and the movie are such different beasts that I don't know if it's possible to build analysis between them. The characters involved are basically "in-name-only" versions and about the only impact that the book had on the movie was that Ververohoven hated the book and created the movie to rip it and its ideas apart.
 

Rachel Cartacos

Social Justice Dragon
Validated User
Of course, there's no need to fake an attack in the Starship Troopers setting, because the entire point of the setting is that no one except veterans can vote. It's already essentially a military dictatorship, so such extreme measures to swerve public opinion are completely unnecessary. If the military wants a campaign, it can get it. At least, it can get it cheaper than the cost of a city.
Nazi Germany wasn't a democracy at all... and yet still felt the need to fake a casus belli to invade Poland.
 

AbjectQuestioner

Low SAN Score
Validated User
I have been thinking about the "Big Three" lately, Clarke-Asimov-Heinlein, who together with editors like John W. Campbell more or less invented the genre of science fiction. Jules Verne and H.G. Wells were the progenitors, but the Big Three set the format.

Let's start with this position: a lot of SF readers don't like Starship Troopers. A lot of people do, but it's a book that galvanizes opinion, in the way that, say, The Fountainhead does but A Tale of Two Cities does not.

Of the Big Three, Heinlein is the best writer. I mean that in the objective, literary sense . . . more than Clarke or Asimov, Heinlein's stories had stronger characterization, better developed themes, and just plain better dialogue. That said, Heinlein's works never appealed to me . . . I'm an Asimov fan, though I recognize Asimov's faults as both writer and person. I don't think I'm alone in this opinion. From my experience, people either like Asimov-Clarke or they like Heinlein . . . that's the divide between them, and it may be the root of criticism concerning Starship Troopers.

The book is reactionary in a literal way: Heinlein wrote it in response to a political decision he didn't like concerning military nuclear testing, i.e. it stopped. Heinlein is often called a militarist and proto-fascist. I agree with the former but vehemently disagree with the latter. Heinlein wrote in a free society, and his works explored positive directions in race and individuality . . . he was NOT a fascist, as director Verhoeven would seem to argue otherwise.

While the film is satiric, the book is a straightforward examination of military virtue, arguing that military experience is superior to the civilian and that we're all going to hell in a hand basket if we don't toughen up. One may disagree with that argument (I do); but it's a well-wrought argument nonetheless, written in a thematic style neither Clarke nor Asimov could ever independently achieve in their own works. It's the idea many readers don't like, the pro-militarism. People either like Clarke-Asimov because their works tended not to laud the virtues of the military and being "tough" - they were pure idea men - or they like Heinlein because he does laud military virtue and toughness - Heinlein is a pragmatist.

So, my take is that Starship Troopers gets a lot of flack because of personal political leanings. I don't think it's as simple as leftwing and rightwing, liberal vs. conservative; rather, some people are pro-military, others are pro-peace, and the majority are neither here nor there and just looking for a good story. Starship Troopers is a good story, and the most vocal critics against the book wish it weren't because they don't like what it says.
 

Menocchio

Eccentric Thousandaire
Validated User
Nazi Germany wasn't a democracy at all... and yet still felt the need to fake a casus belli to invade Poland.
Germany was less settled in its government than ST's Earth seemed to be, and it also still required diplomatic relations, which the movie's Earth doesn't really have. And they didn't sacrifice a major city to pin it on Poland. Plus Earth had a CB, the bugs attacked settlers (or so we've been told). That's more than good enough for a militaristic society.

Again, that's my problem with the movie. It doesn't engage with the book. Doesn't refute it, doesn't even remove all the stuff showing the society actually working. It just makes wanking motions in its direction and pretends that's an argument.
 

Gussick

Registered User
Validated User
Why are they using grunts at all? The Earth is portrayed as the heart of a galactic civilization The amount of energy required to build and move starships around would of necessity include the ability to make weapons that could level planets from orbit. Yet the military in both book and film is shown operating with little more than 20th century technology. This could just be chalked up to the limitations of the author's imagination. But what if it was an intentional choice within the narrative by the leaders to ensure that wars are never won by button pushers? That supports the idea that the entire war on bugs has been ginned up to make sure the population remains under threat and therefore remains supportive of the junta and its vets-only power structure.
 

Iustum

RPGnet Newsletter Editor
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Why are they using grunts at all? The Earth is portrayed as the heart of a galactic civilization The amount of energy required to build and move starships around would of necessity include the ability to make weapons that could level planets from orbit. Yet the military in both book and film is shown operating with little more than 20th century technology. This could just be chalked up to the limitations of the author's imagination. But what if it was an intentional choice within the narrative by the leaders to ensure that wars are never won by button pushers? That supports the idea that the entire war on bugs has been ginned up to make sure the population remains under threat and therefore remains supportive of the junta and its vets-only power structure.
I don't have a Watsonian reason for the movie to take this approach - from a Doylist perspective it was due to production constraints.

As far as the book goes, however, there's a lengthy passage devoted to explaining exactly why they still use infantry (power-armored infantry, but still) instead of just glassing things or dropping rocks.* It's pretty much the same reason that conflicts today are fought with infantry instead of just carpet bombing everything - sometimes your goal in the conflict isn't wholesale destruction and/or it involves holding an objective instead of just destroying it.

*I don't have my copy handy, but I distinctly remember it. I believe it's during it opening attack on the Skinnies.
 

petros

Registered User
Validated User
Why are they using grunts at all? The Earth is portrayed as the heart of a galactic civilization The amount of energy required to build and move starships around would of necessity include the ability to make weapons that could level planets from orbit. Yet the military in both book and film is shown operating with little more than 20th century technology. This could just be chalked up to the limitations of the author's imagination. But what if it was an intentional choice within the narrative by the leaders to ensure that wars are never won by button pushers? That supports the idea that the entire war on bugs has been ginned up to make sure the population remains under threat and therefore remains supportive of the junta and its vets-only power structure.
They're trying to capture a brain bug. Seems like you can't do that from orbit.

It's also a ginned up war for domestic policy reasons. It might be that the quasi-fascist government in the film has bitten off more than it can chew with the Bugs.
 

Gussick

Registered User
Validated User
Sure, but is that the reality or is that the official narrative covering up the reality? My bet is that Heinlein truly believed that we'd always need ground pounders. But that's not coincidentally the same position a future junta would have to take in order to prop up this massive system of veterans to support them. And it's not difficult for them to create situations where the grunts are required, in order to call for more grunts and create more vets.
 

DarkStarling

Brilliantly Crazed
Validated User
I have been thinking about the "Big Three" lately, Clarke-Asimov-Heinlein, who together with editors like John W. Campbell more or less invented the genre of science fiction. Jules Verne and H.G. Wells were the progenitors, but the Big Three set the format.

Let's start with this position: a lot of SF readers don't like Starship Troopers. A lot of people do, but it's a book that galvanizes opinion, in the way that, say, The Fountainhead does but A Tale of Two Cities does not.

Of the Big Three, Heinlein is the best writer. I mean that in the objective, literary sense . . . more than Clarke or Asimov, Heinlein's stories had stronger characterization, better developed themes, and just plain better dialogue. That said, Heinlein's works never appealed to me . . . I'm an Asimov fan, though I recognize Asimov's faults as both writer and person. I don't think I'm alone in this opinion. From my experience, people either like Asimov-Clarke or they like Heinlein . . . that's the divide between them, and it may be the root of criticism concerning Starship Troopers.

The book is reactionary in a literal way: Heinlein wrote it in response to a political decision he didn't like concerning military nuclear testing, i.e. it stopped. Heinlein is often called a militarist and proto-fascist. I agree with the former but vehemently disagree with the latter. Heinlein wrote in a free society, and his works explored positive directions in race and individuality . . . he was NOT a fascist, as director Verhoeven would seem to argue otherwise.

While the film is satiric, the book is a straightforward examination of military virtue, arguing that military experience is superior to the civilian and that we're all going to hell in a hand basket if we don't toughen up. One may disagree with that argument (I do); but it's a well-wrought argument nonetheless, written in a thematic style neither Clarke nor Asimov could ever independently achieve in their own works. It's the idea many readers don't like, the pro-militarism. People either like Clarke-Asimov because their works tended not to laud the virtues of the military and being "tough" - they were pure idea men - or they like Heinlein because he does laud military virtue and toughness - Heinlein is a pragmatist.

So, my take is that Starship Troopers gets a lot of flack because of personal political leanings. I don't think it's as simple as leftwing and rightwing, liberal vs. conservative; rather, some people are pro-military, others are pro-peace, and the majority are neither here nor there and just looking for a good story. Starship Troopers is a good story, and the most vocal critics against the book wish it weren't because they don't like what it says.
Aside from everything else I do tend to agree about Heinlein people vs Clark and Asimov people. I’m a Heinlein person myself.

Talking about Heinlein as a pragmatist and, I think, idealistic cynic, I’m reminded of a quote from Friday. “Amateur Assassins: Should They All Be Killed?” By which I mean he in general seems to value a lot of democratic virtues but also believes you may have to be willing to fight and get your hands dirty to preserve them. Which is an idea that I’m... becoming more sympathetic too than I used to be I think?

And then of course he’s very big on the Renaissance Man archetype, and self improvement as an ideal, which is where I think he’s tying civil service to enfranchisement in this story. That to be a part of society you have to contribute to it, and that service is an avenue to improve yourself. Many of his other protagonists, of course, would see the society like this and opt the heck out. Which under the rules presented is their right.

In general I do think he tends to be very skeptical of government and authority in his writing and much more in favor of accomplishments by individuals and voluntary groups.
 
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