Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

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Starship Troopers

On Sunday, I read Heinlein's Starship Troopers for the first time.

I'm not a fan of Heinlein. To be honest, I'm not really a fan of any of those old science fiction guys, unless it's Fritz Leiber. It's a shame, really, that Leibers not more wildly known--perhaps then Michael Chabon wouldn't feel so at ease taking too liberally from the Mouser and Fafhrd in Gentlemen of the Road. Though perhaps that is too uncharitable of me, given that i've only read the first few pages, and not the rest of the book, and I don't know what he's done there. Still, the character descriptions run a little too far out of homage and into Guess-Who-I've-Stolen-From. We'll see. First impressions never last. Anyhow, not to jump off the track of Heinlein, who lets face it, I'm not a fan off, simply because I like my writing styles to be more than that flat meat and potatoes that he has. The politics I don't agree with, but that's really not something to turn me off, and in truth, I had a good chuckle reading Starship Troopers, and especially its lines about psychologists and social workers making it impossible for children to properly beat their child as they raise them in the same way you would a dog. Frankly, that's just awesome. You couldn't get that said with a straight face in a book these days.

But it was a weird reading experience, all up, because I couldn't quite shake Paul Verhoeven's satirical Starship Troopers as I went along. The book is played straight, but it's not difficult to take what is written and twist it upon its side, and make something that, in a small way, offers a counter argument to the book. In fact, in many ways, once I had finished the book, I emerged with a little bit more respect for the film. For one thing, Verhoeven chopped out content wisely: the father angle, which, when you find out that he has joined the army, and that his early anger at his son for joining was based on his own short comings and failure to do what he wanted is a real what the fuck kind of moment and when, at the end of the book, the two of them are standing together and sharing a familial touch before a drop, the son ranked higher than the father, a reversal in their roles from the start of the book, you can't help but want to laugh at the stupidity of it. Likewise, the film made stronger connections with the three main characters than the book did: the death of Carl, done absently, done with a flick of the narrative wrist, shows where Heinlein's interests lay, and where they did not. Likewise, the relationship between Johnny and Carmen isn't any kind of thing at all, and she, like all the females in the book, are either parental figures, or hot little chickie babe pilots that the men want to get into the sack. I wouldn't exactly say women get the best portrayals in the film, but it's winning over the book.

Like I said, it was a strange reading experience. I think, if I hadn't seen the film, I would not have made it to the end. It's fairly preachy for such a tiny book, but the two make an interesting conversation between each other, and while I'm not sure what Heinlein would have made out of that, I must admit, I have to give Verhoeven a few props for pulling that off. I'll have to track down a copy of the film and watch it again, I reckon, if only so I can see how well he subverted the legless soldier scene.
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