The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Starship Troopers is Robert Heinlein’s second of four Hugo-winning novels. On its surface, it is another of the author’s forays into science fiction for juvenile readers. Like Space Cadet (1948), Starman Jones (1953), and other Heinlein juvenile novels, the story follows a teenager through a series of adventures that lead to maturity and a leadership position in one of the interplanetary services.

The story begins as Juan “Johnny” Rico, a Mobile Infantry (M.I.) commando, participates in a raid on a hostile planet. Johnny experiences precombat fear but carries on with his mission. He and his compatriots are equipped with assault suits that give them tremendous strength and the ability to leap over buildings. They attack humankind’s enemies with an assortment of lethal weapons, including flame throwers, talking terror grenades, and “pee-wee” atomic bombs. Johnny makes minor tactical errors but generally conducts himself with skill and honor.

Safely back in the troopship, Johnny reflects on how he became an M.I. commando. The first son of a wealthy, unpatriotic merchant, he had accompanied his poorer friend Carl when Carl decided to join the service. To his own surprise and against his father’s strident objections, Johnny enlisted with Carl, partially to declare his independence and partially to impress Carmen, a classmate who planned to become a military starship pilot. (Johnny explains that women,...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

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