#RRSciFiMonth: Starship Troopers — Well That Wasn’t Like the Movie At *All*

Sci-Fi MonthSci-Fi November is a month-long blog event hosted by Rinn Reads and Over The Effing Rainbow this year, created to celebrate everything amazing about science fiction! From TV shows to movies, books to comics, and everything else in between, it is intended to help science fiction lovers share their love and passion for this genre and its many, many fandoms.

starship troopersStarship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein

Genre: Military Science Fiction

Publisher: Ace (June 2006, first published 1959)

Wendy’s Rating: 2 of 5 stars

In my continued quest to read some of the works by classic authors considered to be instrumental in the shaping of genre fiction, I finally decided to check out Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein. I’d already read and loved his Stranger in a Strange Land, and who doesn’t love the movie, Starship Troopers, starring Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer, and Neil Patrick Harris? Reading this book was a no brainer. Alas, the experience ended up being a disappointment.

First of all, I came here for Diz and I came here for giant bugs.


Technically, both those things were in the book, albeit briefly, and I’m not totally hating on it for not being the movie. There were good things about the book, but I think the movie did a better job of streamlining it and pulling out the parts that are important to me–namely, character development.

Heinlein’s story follows Juan (Johnnie) Rico as he joins and trains for the mobile infantry in the war against the Bugs. A lot of time is spent in this training, very little of which makes Johnnie or any of the characters he briefly comes in contact with particularly endearing. Similarly, I had little investment in the war itself (which we don’t see much of) or Heinlein’s political message because of the amount of time it spent delving into the everyday details of Rico’s training, but not so much into how he felt about it.

The movie also gets bonus points for expanding the role of women. Not that Heinlein’s work is overtly sexist. In fact, I will first praise the diversity of the cast which, unlike the movie, is not predominantly white. But the book is predominantly male. We see Carmen initially, as the woman Rico would like to get with, but who he knows is out of his league. In the movie, we know they are a couple, but more importantly (my dislike of Carmen aside–#TeamDiz forever!), we get to see what Carmen actually does as a pilot, and we get to see other women fighting for their civilian status as well.

And most importantly, we get to see, in the movie, a lot more heart and soul when it comes to the soldiers fighting in this war, which is what makes soldier stories work for me. In the book, Rico just isn’t interesting enough on his own to make me care, but in the movie, I salute all the soldiers who give their all against the bugs. Yes, Carmen, even you.
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11 Comments on “#RRSciFiMonth: Starship Troopers — Well That Wasn’t Like the Movie At *All*”

  1. It’s been a few decades since I read “Starship Troopers” so my memory of it is all but sharp, yet I remember enough to agree on the scarce character development and personal interaction between the soldiers, which was explored more deeply in the movie. Other points – like the lack of diversity and limited focus on women – might be attributed to the different outlook of the time in which the book was written.
    I often think what the movie industry would do with another Heinlein classic like “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”… 🙂

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    • It depends on the book. In this case, there was a political aspect that was lost on me, but others who’ve read it do love that element. The movie itself is only really loosely based on the book, similar to films like I Am Legend and I, Robot.

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    • I’d say that, like I, Robot and I Am Legend and other such films, they are only loosely based on the classic novels, picking out only certain elements and running with them and relying on the name to fuel the marketing.

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  2. I’ve only watched the movie and it was entertaining enough (still have nightmares of bugs eating my brains out!) and definitely a classic! I think it’s time for a re-watch…

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    • The movie took certain elements of the book and did its own thing, which worked for our time, where the book probably worked well in the more serious manner for its time. Both certainly have their merit.

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