Once you get past the main action (
Denise Richards and Dina Meyer) you start getting a distinctive “1984” feeling about the whole proceedings, especially about the newscasts. Which is why I was curious to read the actual book, Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein, on which the iconic movie is based.
And unexpectedly different as it was after the movie, the book was interesting in its own way.
The book is set in an alternate future earth, where only those who have completed a term in army service get the franchise. Juan “Johnnie” Rico, the only son of rich parents, does not really need to be a “citizen”, but he signs up anyway, for no reason he can identify, to the chagrin of his father. Halfway through the boot camp under Sergeant Zim almost pushes him to turn his papers in, but he gets over that.
Narrated by Johnnie Rico, the story is his progress through the Mobile Infantry, through boot camp, as a rookie, NCO and then an officer, set against the background of intergalactic war of humans against a species called “the bugs”.
As I said, the newscasts of the movie almost give an impression of a fascist state, what with the recruiting ads of “everybody doing the part” and so on. The book has almost totally different background. Agreed, the franchise is limited to a few people, but nowhere is feeling that “civilians” are in any way inferior in the society compared to “citizens” (veterans).
Indeed, in sharp contrast to the movie, the recruiting officers in the book do their best to discourage the candidates, and getting out in boot camp is as easy as turning in the papers and walking out. (Running away is another matter altogether, and the discipline is army standard).
Even more interestingly, Johnnie Rico in the book makes a completely unlikely hero. He is a disciplined soldier and conscientious leader who challenges himself, but he is not exactly hero material or college star as in the movie (e.g. his grades make is necessary for him to settle for his last combat choice in army: Mobile Infantry). Either too humble (as a narrator), or too common a soldier, you never find yourself cheering him on as you would for heroes in most sci-fi/fantasy books. Of course, this makes Rico more approachable, and I found myself identifying with narrator, instead of wishing to be a hero.
The first person narrative structure of the book makes it one person’s story only, other characters’ lives seen only through, and limited to Rico’s perspective. Also, true to the nature of MI trooper’s life (long periods of inactivity/training interspersed with short bursts of action), the book lingers more on his training as a soldier and later officer, his own psychological growth into those roles, with only 10-15% of the book devoted to actual fighting.
In short, narrative of the movie? No. Action story? Mostly no. Enjoyable? Definitely.
P.S. Can anybody read that story summary again and tell me how different it really is from “Lakshya”?
Quote of The Day:
Anyone who clings to the historically untrue — and thoroughly immoral — doctrine that "violence never solves anything" I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and of the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee, and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon.
– Lt. Col. Jean V. Dubois (Ret.), Mobile Infantry
Read about other science-fiction here.