|Image from Lugubrious-Delirium.com|
I had been warned that Heinlein tends to ramble and lecture in his stories. This warning was intended to dissuade me from reading or at least let me know what I'd have to "put up with" to get to the SciFi story. However, I found those lectures/meditations far more interesting than the dated science fiction. I could see how this work influenced later writers in the genre, but the creative details about the alien bugs and interstellar war were old hat to me.
The meditations and dialogues on military and social topics were much more engaging and probably each deserve a measured response. I did not always agree with Heinlein; his concept that people still under contract with the services are not yet allowed to vote comes to mind. Others were spot-on; I remember having a similar revelation about my Drill Sergeants and the process of soldier-making as Rico does about his instructor Zim.
On a mission shortly after I had started reading, a major we were escorting noticed the book. He was a big fan and seemed impressed that a junior enlisted soldier would seek such a novel. I was only in the first chapter or so, but he ended up talking to our Lieutenant about it for a while, specifically the concepts of citizenship and leadership. Most people probably think of the Movie first, but it seems clear to me that the book is still widely read in the military, especially within the officer's ranks.
How can I talk about the book without some commentary on the movie? I didn't see it until a few years after it premiered in 1997, but I thought it was cool at the time. Much more focus on action and CGI of fighting the Bugs which fits the medium and popcorn-movie angle. It takes the same frame of the story in a different direction with commentary on their imperialist society and concepts of propaganda with more military influence from the Vietnam war than the original space- and technology-driven fighting from '59