Last December, I reviewed Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, one of my favorite novels. I had focused on the political dimensions of the novel, but the book is also a useful vehicle for thinking about war – even 55 years after it was first published. Popular Mechanics has an interesting article about the applicability of the novel to modern warfare. I don’t agree with everything it says about Starship Troopers, but the article is a quick and worthwhile read.
On a superficial level, Starship Troopers is a book about humans fighting alien bugs. As an action/adventure story, it works quite very well. However, Robert A. Heinlein also uses the novel to explore the relationship between citizens and government. The book is a surprisingly deep exploration of what it means to be a citizen in a political community. Starship Troopers is set on an Earth with a quasi-democratic government. Only those individuals who serve in the military are permitted to vote and participate in governance. The rest of the populace, “civilians,” are allowed to engage in commerce and lead productive lives, but are notably second-class citizens.