I‘ve read this in 2013 and reviewed it at Goodreads. I thought it a good idea to copy it to this blog.
In this coming-of-age novel, Robert A. Heinlein (RAH) describes the military education of young Juan “Johnnie” Rico to privateer and then to higher ranks of a future infantry. This book is more on the moral side than on the action part – though there are a couple of fighting scenes against the intelligent arachnoid colonies with all the tactics nitty gritty that you might expect of such a story. They feel more than the fifth of the book that they make up because they are embedded into the overall militaristic descriptions.
The education part will surely remind you of movies that you’ve seen, like “Full Metal Jacket’s” first 15 minutes describing a typical boot camp. But this is no Vietnam war, but a space opera – needing power suit exoskeletons, which are described very detailed here and foreign planets, aliens and space war.
More interesting than the scifi equipment are the social descriptions – democracy changed towards a meritocracy: only a couple of citizens can vote and you become only citizen by having volunteered for military duty. In this society, civic virtue has an important value and RAH discusses this via capital punishment examples, suffrage and war. In some parts, the scifi novel reads more like a political essay and Heinlein seems to manifest himself in Johnnie’s “History and Moral Philosophy” teacher.
Johnnie’s spiritual and mental evolvement is clearly and very satisfactorily described. There are a couple of influences that the young man has to balance – like the relationship to his parents. I didn’t find a real disillusioned part leading Johnnie into a catastrophe from which he could evolve. In this, the novel fails a bit as a coming-of-age novel and the resulting moral decisions that Johnnie takes are sometimes a deus-ex-machina.
The story part came a bit short – it was predictable and not that involving. Thankfully, the novel is quite short – probably because it has been published as a serial in “The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction” first.
Some morale descriptions are for me nowadays over the counter – like the lengthy explanations for the need to spank kids. Some others are heavily militaristic and tended even towards fascism.
But the explanations were never easy and as such stimulate thoughts. This is surely no novel that you just read and then set aside!
A true SF Masterwork which still stays in print and is worth reading after all those years!
Meta: isfdb. It won the Hugo.