Last Updated on August 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 654
Starship Troopers is told in a narrative format that uses various flashback sequences to help flesh out the narrator and protagonist Johnny Rico. The book opens during a military assault which Rico is taking part in while using a power suit. The assault is meant to cause significant losses to "the skinnies," who are human (or humanoid) allies of the bugs (Earth's enemy in an ongoing war). Most of the violence is described in a very detached manner.
After the raid, the narrative moves backward in time and focuses on Rico towards the end of his high school years. Most of this focuses on his civics and moral philosophy class. The class itself, along with the instructor, leads Rico to enlist in the Mobile Infantry. It appears initially that this is a move to gain citizenship, though later, Rico will decide to make the Mobile Infantry a career. His decision causes significant tension between him and his parents, who essentially disown him.
The story then moves to Rico's basic training experiences, which are told in sufficient detail to understand the difficulties and hardships he faces while training. One of his fellow recruits is flogged and discharged for striking a superior officer, while another is hung for a murder committed during basic training. During training, Rico is given command of a small group for maneuvers. During these maneuvers, Rico violates safety protocol, and he is removed from his group command and flogged.
After training, Rico moves into the Mobile Infantry. He visits several planets and engages in raids and border skirmishes with the bugs and the "skinnies." These escalate towards full war with the bugs. During this time, Rico receives a letter from his mother seeking reconciliation. Before Rico can supply a reply, the bugs destroy Buenos Aires, where Rico's parents live. Rico believes that both of his parents have died in this attack.
The Mobile Infantry then partakes in an invasion of the bug home world, but it is a significant failure, with Rico's unit taking heavy casualties that force its dissolution. Rico recovers and is assigned to Rasczak's Roughnecks, where he continues to participate in raids. On one of these raids, the leader, Rasczak, is killed in an effort to save Rico and other members of the roughnecks. Rasczak's second in command, Jelal, takes over the unit and promotes Rico to corporal. Rico, at the recommendation of another member of the unit, applies to officer school in an effort to become a career infantry member.
Rico is accepted to officer school and is detached from his unit so that he can attend school. En route to officer school he meets his father, who was away from Buenos Aires during the attack and has now joined the Mobile Infantry. They have a brief reconciliation before Rico departs for training. Rico's time in officer school is difficult for him, as it encompasses some elements of basic training along with significant classroom education. He is overall successful, and he is given a temporary officer rank and assigned to a combat unit as a final element of his officer training.
The final element of officer training almost breaks Rico, as his duties aboard the troop ship and his continued schoolwork leave him exceptionally sleep deprived. Rico's commander, working with Rico's staff sergeant, help provide some support to allow Rico to succeed. During this training, Rico is injured in a rescue mission and, during his recovery, meditates on his failures as a commander. His expectation is that he will fail his officer training and potentially be released from the infantry. Instead, he graduates and is reassigned to his old unit, now renamed Rico's Roughnecks, as an officer.
In the final scene of the book, Rico is shown as an older officer providing encouragement to younger infantrymen prior to another attempted assault on the...
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