Tag: military

Starship Troopers

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In my opinion, Heinlein is generally pretty good. Starship Troopers is a classic science fiction work, and classic Heinlein. It is a classic science fiction work in that once you read it, chances are you will recognize elements of it in many other military science fiction works. It is classic Heinlein in that the writing is generally very good at creating a cohesive setting with characters who fit in very well, interesting, and compelling. However, there are also many pages of lecturing (literally, in-setting lectures) and philosophizing about why the only possible society is one that is paternalistic, libertarian, enmeshed in total war, denying representation to non-military personnel, etc. (Keep in mind, the first publication date of this novel is 1959.) There definitely were parts I found provoked thought, and parts which I found did not, or were thoroughly unconvincing in that they did not try to convince, but simply stated and assumed truths. So, quite simply: some people will love this, some people will hate this.

The story follows the life of a private of the Terran Mobile Infantry. It is a detailed depiction of the daily life and overall career path of a trooper, as opposed to a singular depiction of rare and heroic actions. I have no idea how accurate it is to the actual process of military training, but it feels quite realistic, albeit simultaneously idealized and romanticized.

Also, the enemy is a species of giant alien space bugs. This is a firmly established trope in sci-fi by now, and I think this is one of the works that launched it into prominence.

Cover Art Review: Aside from reminding me of a certain Star Wars prequel movie that was not terrible but not great, this is a pretty decent cover. I like that it is a full wrap, not just one image used on the front/back covers. There is also a lot of detail given on the military choppers, and the infantry being small and not in the foreground gives you a proper sense of scale. It sticks to its color palette a bit too much for my taste, though, and the font face clashes distractingly with the illustration.

Side Note:If you want to play Starship Troopers: Basically The Book But A Video Game That Only Has The Fighting Bits, Earth 2024 B-Movie Edition, then you should check out a video game that just came out called Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Terror. You play as a member of the EDF, fighting giant insects and alien robots that are invading Earth in 2024. Just saying, slaughtering giant ants by the hundreds, getting killed by scores of giant spiders, experiencing the joys of friendly fire… fun times!

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Rogue Clone

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Reading this book was not fun. The writing was flat and uninteresting, quite possibly intentionally (more later), but that does not redeem it for that. The plot was probably alright, but given some horrific worldbuilding choices that destroyed my suspension of disbelief, it felt very artifical and badly structured, with long stretches of either the main character doing nothing, or secondary characters doing important things.

The main character is a clone who, despite having the capacity for independent thoughts and actions, has no capability for human sentiment. In that light, sure, this particular character’s perspective might be limited. However, that does not excuse a boring, flat, predictable characters, who repeatedly hammers home how flat and inhuman he and other clones are in order to convey his/their emotionlessness. It is quite possible to make emotionless, inhuman characters interesting: a great example of this is Franks in the Monster Hunter International series (which I probably will get around to reviewing someday). Additionally, on top of being boring, the characters in Rogue Clone never seem to be up to much, either traveling towards an objective, not being present while another character does something important, or being present while someone else does something important that hurtles them off somewhere else towards a new objective.

There are some startlingly bad worldbuilding choices: for starters, race has been bred out of humanity. The book’s exposition literally states this. Of course, about halfway through the book, you learn about a Japanese Empire, who emerge from the shadows as one of the sector’s most powerful players. And there is also a separate colony world of Africans (although being neo-Baptists, they are more likely space African-Americans), which are a minor power but play a very important role in the plot. So, despite the fact race has been bred out of existence by intermingling and human society is totally racially integrated… both the most powerful faction and one of the most important factions in the main character’s journey are pure racial enclaves. And in the intermingled racially integrated society, the only character names you see are white western European / American. And the only cultural touches you see are white western European / American touchstones.

Secondarily in terms of worldbuilding awfulness, there seems to have been very little attention paid to connecting technological developments, political events, and societal or cultural changes. For example, the U.A.’s military ranks are made up almost entirely of clones. Yet this is barely touched upon until the end of the book, where it is drawn upon to manufacture a crisis for the book to continue. It’s merely a plot point that shows up once or twice, and most of the worldbuilding aspects are similarly there to artificially prod the book along, rather than to create a place where the characters, institutions, and plot make sense.

This book is apparently the sequel to Clone Republic. Perhaps reading the first book may have been rendered Rogue Clone a better experience, but it seems unlikely.