You know: in a foolish, undiscriminating way, I've been happy these last few months. I don't know why. I just am. I love my friends; I love my pupils; I love what I read; I -- dammit -- love my thoughts. I love the taste of oranges.
Thornton Wilder in a letter to Gertrude Stein, Aug 14, 1936

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

GRAND MASTERS OF SCIENCE FICTION: ROBERT A. HEINLEIN

My Junior high school library had a copy of Starship Troopers on the shelf. I never read it. I had read some of the Heinlein juveniles, and I think I assumedTroopers was another. I had also read a paperback copy of The Puppet Masters, which was one of my first forays into genuinely adult SF and of course I loved it. But I loved monsters more than military, and so Troopersnever caught my attention although I loved that first quote, "Come one, you apes. You want to live forever?"

Soon I quit reading science fiction in general and I got the word that Heinlein was the bully pulpit for the military establishment. Boo. Hiss. So I was was surprised that the novel was not nearly so jingoistic as I expected. I think it would have defeated me, however, in seventh grade. Despite the good action and cool bugs, that middle section of officer training school would have done me in.




A couple of reviews I read emphasized that the novel should not be confused with what the reviewers obviously considered the vastly inferior Paul Verhoeven 1997 film version. These reviewers must be the true believers. I loved the movie when I first saw it and thoroughly enjoyed it watching it again after reading the novel the other day. Verhoeven passes Heinlein's text through the deconstructionsit mill. (Did Michel Foucault get a consulting credit?) I've already said the novel did not strike me as the jingoistic broadside I anticipated, but what fun to see these minor celebrities giving their severely limited all to this high-gloss parody of everything Heinlein must have held dear. There is a rumor that the actors, few of whom were the sharpest pencils in the studio box, had no idea they were being made fun of. I think that like most young actors with few credits to their names they were more interested in their paychecks than in the socio-political implications of their characters. 

Book and film should absolutely be absorbed as a single experience. Probably the book should be read first, just so you do not have to picture Casper Van Diehm in the leading role until the last possible moment.



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