Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

May we always remember, and never forget.

(And if this post is your first reminder of today, then I might just come over there and bust you in the chops.)


LEGO Kingdoms

Apparently it really is true. Lego has created a more historically realistic Castle theme this time around. There goes my summer spending budget....

Spencer The Un-Secret Garden--Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Grow my Garden, by Jason A.

Some good survivalist tips for a secure garden.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

TV Show Review: Batman Beyond

First things first: don't give me that look!

Now...what would inspire Spencer to watch and review an entire kid's show? I'll tell you.

Running from 1999-2001 on "Kid's WB" (Warner Brothers for children), Batman Beyond took the original story of Batman and tweaked it into a very interesting new creature. Set around 2040, the old, "retired" Bruce Wayne comes to bring on a young teenage Batman, Terry McGinnis. Equipped with a very different Batsuit (It has wings and thrusters!), Terry, guided by Wayne, does the job that had been left vacant.

I remember watching it when it came out when I was a kid...watching the reruns every day...and loving every minute of it. I gradually came to the decision to pick it up again (now that it's released in the form of Seasons 1, 2 and 3 on DVD) for several reasons. One, I have many fond memories of watching the show with my sister (together we developed the knowledge that might have suited a series manual), two, I was interested to see it from the adult perspective concerning the futuristic aspects of the show, and three, after being 100% sold on Nolanized Batmanology, I wanted to see the show again (as, until Nolan came around, it is my opinion that this was the best Batman adaptation out there).

For several reasons (largely because it's a kid's show), the series had a level of comic-ness that just doesn't sit well with me. Far too many costumed, crazy criminals, a few too many stupid episodes, and way too much unrealism. The unrealism extends further than the original Batman stories. Villains such as Inque, the woman made into black liquid, Blight, the radioactive green glow-worm, humans spliced with animal DNA, rock/dirt monsters ("Earth Movers"), and even, in one weak episode in Season 3 ("Speak No Evil"), a talking gorilla, just to name a few, all were too far out there for me (although I must admit that Inque, and even Blight, make for powerful episodes). Therefore, this version of the dark knight rests firmly in the realm of science fiction. (Oh no, are those the Lazarus pits again?) There were plenty of fun villains, however. The Jokerz (a copy-cat gang of punk kids), the T gang, the ninja-esque assassin girl Curare, the sound-manipulating Shriek (He can blow through walls, he can!), the primitive hunter Stalker (one of my personal favorites), and a few others were interesting. And who doesn't love Mad Stan?

As to the writing, of course plenty of elements were weak, but it wasn't too shabby for a kid's show.

I mostly tired of the repetitious aspects of the show (Just how many times do we really need to see yet another fight in futuristic factory? And we've had just about enough criminal events centering around Terry's high school, haven't we?), and I was also annoyed by the lack of continuity as the show wore on (in the way of the tools that Batman uses, such as the batarangs).

As to the irksome aspects that I disagreed with:

I was surprised to catch a sexual reference in Season 1 (the episode "Golem", if I remember correctly). What's that doing in a kid's show? There was also a quick reference to girls' showers ("Revenant") and a not-so-subtle, but off-screen scene inferring a "girlfriend" robot improperly fondling her "boyfriend" ("Terry's Friend Dates a Robot").

In one episode ("The Winning Edge"), Batman stops a gun shipment to the Jokerz gang, and later makes a reference to taking guns off the "street". In another episode ("Eyewitness"), it is said that the DA cracked down on "unregistered" guns (and he's one of the good guys...well, at least that's what the show seems to tell us).

The supernatural is touched on; when the idea of a ghost is explored by high schoolers, Bruce affirms his experience with beings such as demons and zombies (which could be considered a reference to the show this version was based off of, The New Batman Adventures). Later a few girls half-seriously hold a seance, replete with a ouija board ("Revenant"). The mysterious events are later discovered to be merely someone's telepathic powers, which is also a subject touched on, also with some almost occultic overtones (as in a floating man sitting in a lotus position, in "Mind Games").

In one two-part episode ("The Call"), Batman partners with the Justice League for a brief period (and yes, that means Superman and all his wimpy pals). I again refer to my strong dislike of aliens.

Terry has some interesting dealings with the ladies. He tries to carry on a relationship with his Asian girlfriend, Dana Tan (who of course is constantly frustrated with his absences, not knowing the true story). While they are together for virtually the whole show, difficulties do arise. When Dana drops him after Terry being late yet again (because he was out being Batman, of course), he quickly finds himself in a relationship with a strong young (and somewhat provocative) girl by the name of Melanie ("Dead Man's Hand"). After discovering that she is actually a criminal that he has dealt with as Batman, Terry is hurt, but his feelings remain, arising again the next time he sees her ("Once Burned"). He then begins doing what is essentially, in my book, cheating, but he does make a strong choice in favor of Dana in the end. When Melanie returns a third and final time ("King's Ransom"), he remains strong and resolute. As tough as it must be for Terry, good for him. Terry also is a bit interested in a seemingly flirtatious girl ("Untouchable"), he struggles with liking the attention and yet trying to tell the girl that he's already in a relationship. Bruce offers him some sage advice, perhaps even useful in real life. When he was young and rich, he said, many women threw themselves at his feet. What did he do? Terry wanted to know. Bruce replies, "I stepped over them."

In "Ace in the Hole", the back story of Bruce's Great Dane, Ace, is explored. Dogfighting is dealt with, and while I would never support such a thing, I was incredibly annoyed with the episode. The dogfight baddie is called "the scum", and Terry makes a comment about him being surprised that he could "sink any lower". I'm sorry, but sure, the guy's a criminal, but what about all the villains in the show that tried, or even succeeded in taking innocent lives? A dogfighting boss is somehow worse? (In a flashback scene, showing Ace the puppy be electrically shocked with a special glove is apparently far too much! So why is it ok to see people get shocked just about every other episode?) There's also a cheap statement against poaching ("Speak No Evil"). For the most part, however, the "statement episodes" were mostly well-intentioned and towards youth (such as the anti-drug episodes "The Winning Edge" and "Hooked Up").

In one travesty of an episode ("Zeta"), an infiltration/assassin robot finds a heart and comes to desire good upon mankind. And what's even worse, Batman helps him escape from the NSA agents attempting to destroy him (as he truly has gone rogue). Doesn't it just give you the warm fuzzies all over?

In the two-part "Curse of the Kobra", the snake-obsessed cult Kobra find a way, via stealing from a paleontologist, to splice dinosaur DNA with humans. Everyone can guess just how I felt about this episode; I need go no further.

The music to the show is quite intense. A mixture of hard rock/metal and techno, the music helps give the show its edgy feel. While not every single segment of the score is amazing, the majority of it is nothing less than awesome. Somewhat less multi-dimensional than Hans Zimmer's scores for Nolan's films, I still find it hard to ask for better music for a "kids' show" version of a futuristic Batman. A soundtrack was even released, featuring parts of episodes from Season 1. (Together with the main theme, the opening title to the show is amazing.) The only unfortunate thing is, the rest of the music is unavailable. Oh, woe!

The show is a tad darker and scarier than one might expect for children. People occasionally die, and many of the villains are quite frightening looking. The grittier aspects of the show were more a pleasant turn of events for me, however. I did enjoy the futuristic elements, quite a bit. For the most part, it was only "cool stuff" such as technological advancements and the like and little of the darker side of the future that I believe in (and much science fiction touches on), but I suppose that's all right.

In the end, the strength of the show comes from Batman and Batman alone. Barring all the disenchanting elements listed above, barring the fact that the young Terry is often beaten up and groans in pain too much, we have the best adaptation of Batman up until Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The suit technology (it can appear invisible--and if you think that's pure science fiction, then may I say that you are behind the times), the revamped Batmobile (It flies!), and all the advanced aspects of him, his tools and tactics, and also the show make this a not-to-bad attempt at the Batman franchise.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Movie Review: Robin Hood, 2010

I know what you might be thinking.

"Another Robin Hood?"

But to me, I was more interested than disinterested by a Robin Hood revamp; I simply do not like any of the film versions done to date. And to be honest, I'm not much of a Robin Hood fan at all.... So I decided to see this after seeing the trailer; I didn't expect to love it, but was curious enough to check it out. When I later discovered it was directed by Ridley Scott, I knew I wouldn't like it. (Before we continue, I need to state that my one regret with this review is my lack of historical knowledge of this period. Therefore, I'm going to have to decline to comment on historical issues.)

So how was this version any different than the ones before it?

Told as a prequel of sorts, this new Robin Hood tells a grittier tale of Robin's life. No tights and few merry men are to be seen here (and Robin and Marion are much older than usual). Instead, we have an origins story...the origins of a man I honestly did not like. (Robin lies, cheats, steals, and impersonates two separate people for personal benefit, just to start.)

As per usual Ridley Scott, the admitted hater of religious fanaticism, the religion is muddled. Robin, while appearing to have some kind of belief system, is rather indifferent overall. The Catholic church is mostly portrayed in a negative light, and while I don't mind that (and back it up, myself) what these filmmakers don't understand is that Catholicism is entirely separate from Christianity. The only "good" clergyman is Friar Tuck, an admitted drunk who boozes and carouses his way through the story.

In one scene, Robin recounts the story of King Richard the Lionheart's Crusaders massacring countless Muslim men, women, and children. Robin is clearly filled with guilt, as he clearly should be (the look of "pity" given him by a woman that he would kill was particularly disturbing to him), but what came across to me more is that, here we go again, a politically-correct slant just to have a politically-correct slant. It was an unnecessary scene to the story and felt rather contrived. Were the Crusades backed by the entirely pure motives of the Catholic church? Probably not exactly. But then again, since when was Islam anything but the religion of bloodletting?

As to plot, it was just okay. Acting wasn't too shabby. Russel Crowe is good, Kate Blanchett did a fine job, but poor Mark Strong did his best with a rather one-dimensional role. Speaking of which, the characters backing this story were nothing to write home about, to put it bluntly. Strong's character, Godfrey, was far too evil; not that it isn't possible, it just felt that he was nothing short of a gimmick character. Godfrey's theme music was great and fit the mood and all, but also it created an aura of epic villain-ness that is far too Hollywood. (The rest of the score was good as well; not great, but good.)

Marion was a rather stupid character, and Robin's crude pals (such as Little John and Will Scarlet) were also gimmick characters (as well as Tuck). Prince John was far too predictable, but thankfully was a tad out of the ordinary during one bit. And what was with that whole thing with the "lost boys", who are a constant thorn to Nottingham's residence? What is this, Peter Pan?

[ADULTS ONLY] There was little language, but a bit of sexual content was present. We get a handful of references, a couple of sexualized scenes (though not overly bad) and one bed scene. I personally didn't see anything much, but we do get a view of a man's back and legs around his buttocks area as he stands up naked (you almost see his buttocks).

As to violence (If that bothers you then what are you doing with a medieval movie?), this film was quite "violent" of course, but there was absolutely nothing over the top. In fact, I was very disappointed by the lack of blood in this film. Let's get this straight; I'm not a fan of intensely and needlessly gory films, but let's face it. This is 1199. Battles were fought with swords, axes, pikes, and arrows. To kill your foes you had to cut, stab, slash, hack, pierce, and chop to pieces. It's only natural for just a little bit of blood to come out. I'm not asking for a Mel Gibson-esque mess, I'm just asking for a little realism here. I assume the lack of blood on-screen was an attempt at restraint of some sort (perhaps for a PG-13 rating), but still. Come on.

Other than the above, I admit the fight sequences were very well done. The castle siege at the beginning was especially pleasing (Yet far, far too short!). The final battle was very unusual in a positive sort of way as to setting, however, Spencer just got quickly bogged by the fact that he felt their strategy had dangerous holes. Unfortunately it would appear that Scott succumbed to Hollywood's usual mass of chaotic every-man-for-himself, mano-a-mano duels instead of the more historically accurate lines of men-at-arms as well. (And what on earth was Marion doing in armor, fighting? Is she Joan of Arc or something?) The use of bows in the film wasn't all too pleasing to me, either. Besides the effective scene near the end with a veritable storm of arrows, volley after volley, something just seemed off to me. Perhaps I don't know what I'm talking about, but the ease and agility which the characters approached bow use seemed too simplistic. My understanding is that the English longbow, one of the most effective weapons in all of history, required a bowstring pull of fifty to one hundred pounds (possibly somewhere in the middle, around eighty pounds I've also heard). And our aging little "maid" Marion can easily string a bow and loose an arrow. I'm sorry, but is that off, or is it just me?

The best part would have to be a saying repeated many times during the course of the film: "Rise and rise again, until lambs become lions." While I find it weak that a man who is only concerned with self should suddenly do so, Robin gives a good speech on this topic (although I did noticed the rhetoric felt tailored to modern audiences).

If you do go to see this one, please pay close attention to this philosophy here. If you take it seriously and take it beyond the somewhat stupid and modernized base of this particular film, it is well worth your while. This is what these kinds of stories are really supposed to be about.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New LEGO Minifigures

Besides the fantastic-ness of all these new special minifigs, check the front row...a King Leonidas-esque guy, and believe it or not is that a martial artist!?!??!?!!?

Omigosh. I MUST HAVE


EDIT: And a new Castle advent calendar?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Pass of Death

Done just shy of two years ago now, here's a rather foreboding scene.


Spencer / TheWarrior / Histo-Sci

Graphic Novel Review: Starship Troopers, by et al.

By Warren Ellis, Gordon Rennie, Jan Stanad, Bruce Jones, Dark Horse Comics, 1998?

This is my second time testing a graphic novel (I need to back-review the first one I read). It's based off of the film version of Starship Troopers rather than the book by Robert Heinlein (review here), and, therefore, is rather defeated before it ever even started. (This is ignoring the fact that I see "graphic novels" as nothing more than glorified comic books--a subject that isn't my favorite.) If you haven't already, I first recommend you check out my review of the original before continuing.

Its basically a little piece comprised of three short stories:

Insect Touch
The best out of the three (if that amounts to much, that is), this tale dealt with the humans' first encounter with the alien bugs. I liked the quick portion in the cockpit of the ship (lots of sci-fi space jargon) and also liked the "Mars camouflage" that the troopers wore. Other than that, just a collection of scenes with bugs tearing apart and eating soldiers. Rather worthless. (Omigosh! And did I see a trooper carelessly leaving his rifle dissassembled on the floor?)

Brute Creations
A tale told from Lt. Raczak's perspective (a character melded with Dubois from the book), this one dealt more in depth with the movie's reference to "Port Joe Smith", a Mormon colony on a bug-infested planet. Inside the quarantine zone and therefore illegal, the settlement is populated by several hundred annoying, pacifistic Mormons. Instead of fighting for their lives and the lives of their families, they flee to their temple when the bugs attack, where they hope that, by following the advice of Joseph Smith (as quoted, "How will the serpent ever lose its venom while the servants of God possess the same disposition, and continue to make war upon it? Men must become harmless before the brute creation, and when men lose their vicious dispositions and cease to destroy the animal race...the lion and the lamb can dwell together."), the bugs will somehow be swayed into more peaceful behavior. My issue with this is clear; one, I can't stand any form of pacifism, and two, while I'm certainly not a defender of the Mormon church, honesty bids me to say that I felt that this was not a fair depiction of Mormons. While I cannot and will not speak for the Mormon church and honestly cannot be certain about Joseph Smith's full intention behind that quote, what I can say is that, in my experience, a picture of whacked, deluded crazies just doesn't fit with the program. The fact that aliens do not exist is irrelevant for the moment; would you really stand by as enormous insect-like beasts ate your kids? Do we have any evidence that true Mormons would respond any differently than we would? The Mormon settlers seem to view the "bugs" almost as another nation, that the Terran Federation has wronged, but, really, give me a break. Although, I must also admit that this post-Verhoeven story feels disrespectful to many proper things, and perhaps this is just a dim-witted stab at religion in general (the only survivor undergoes a change, ends up cursing at the bugs, then joins up with the Federation). This was also a disastrous portrayal of the Dubois character. But, on the bright side, they did add a little interesting bit about the bugs mandibles secreting an anti-coagulant! (Whooptee-doo.) Oh, and honestly though, kudos about the "frying bacon" reference (fans of the novel will know what I mean).

The Official Movie Adaptation
This is basically a poorly-adapted novelization in comic book format. Incredibly short, weak, not even completely true to the film and not even near far enough away from it...what a waste of time. The sex scene is not present, although inferred, but the shower scene from the film is present, although anatomy is clouded by steam. (That, coupled with the enormous amounts of very graphic violence and gore, as well as language, throughout all of the stories makes this very unsuitable to be labeled "young adult".)

The introduction is written by the film's scriptwriter, Ed Neumeier, and it's also a bit of an irksome piece to me. I know that Heinlein's work is so controversial (just look at the comments in my review of it!), but again, I strongly disagree with the fascistic, militaristic interpretation (which Neumeier advances here).

So what did--could--I expect, honestly? The cover truly says it all--the exception to the rule "don't judge a book by its cover". This is nothing more than a Verhoeven-esque travesty. I've been moving towards consumption of anything and everything Starship Troopers since reading the original; perhaps the most dissappointing thing about the whole book is that it ends. That led me to read this, but as I pretty much knew what I was coming into I honestly expected about as much as I got.

What a rotten waste of time. I am thoroughly displeased.


P.S. Special thanks goes to a friend for help with the Mormon question.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Warrior: Grim Robot: A Lego Vignette

The Warrior has returned!

My first time using MOCPages...check out the link, and see what you think!


Saturday, May 01, 2010

Book Review: Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein

Ace Books, New York, 1987 (1997 edition?), 263 pages

For those of you who may be familiar with the title "Starship Troopers", you probably will instantly think of the film. And if you know anything about the film, you'll likely also instantly think, "What the heck is Spencer doing reading THIS???"

Bear with me; first, the film is vastly different from the book and I'm going to have to ask those who are familiar with the film to completely forget about it for the duration of this review. Second, the only reason I picked this one up is because it is apparently on the reading list of the United States Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. That was something I simply had to check out.

I will tell you this right here and now: I got much more than I expected. This review is going to result in what may be one of my strangest positions on a reviewing subject I've yet taken.

This is Heinlein's most controversial work, often called militaristic, or even fascist. I approached this one with caution, yet interest. If it really was such a great military book, it might have some value to me...but then again, if it's got aliens (or worse?) in it, then perhaps it wouldn't be so great. There was only one way to find out!

Set in the future, the story centers around a young man named Juan Rico and his progression from boy to man in the Terran Mobile Infantry. The novel was short, but much more meaty than most fat books you come across these days. To the dismay of many novel readers no doubt, Heinlein's telling of the story is not chronological, hopping around with flashbacks (although it is written well enough to feel very smooth), and it can't quite called a character story either. Heinlein never sets aside a few pages to tell of Rico's likes or dislikes, his physical attributes, or anything along those lines. However, what I found so amazing was that, by the end of the book, you realize that the author has created a deep, compelling character without even really "creating" a character! Very well done, indeed.

Enlisting unexpectedly--almost accidentally--along with his best friend and a very fair young girl, Rico finds himself placed in what is called the "Mobile Infantry". Apparently it's all he's qualified for, even though it was pretty much his last choice as to the branch of service. From then on until about halfway through the book, it's all about training. Rico and his fellow recruits are put through what could be the world's harshest boot camp. Many do not make it. Many quit (long story short, anyone can resign). Others literally die. But a few, a very select few, make it through. Their biggest hurdle is themselves; Heinlein deals with what is called getting over the "hump" in depth.

Once past his hump, Johnnie Rico eventually takes part in interstellar wars against the "bugs" (spider-like aliens) and even against the "Skinnies" (humanoid aliens). He ends up going to officer school...and if I told you much more, I'd start spoiling some things.

So let's sum up this story here: it's all about the military. Rico comes from a curious, questioning teen to a firm, strong soldier. That's what this book is all about.

The book flashes back and forth frequently, from the vague present (I say vague because everything isn't really time-played as in "this is now" and "this was then") back to when Rico was in high school. As stated before, Heinlein weaves these seamlessly; for instance, we only go back to Rico's high school days in order to examine a point, usually one made by his History and Moral Philosophy teacher, Jean Dubois. Now, a few words about Dubois; you either love or you hate him, it seems to be. One of the book's (arguably THE) most polarizing characters, Dubois is a no-nonsense man who relentlessly hammers his students with what he sees as the facts, and he doesn't care about ruffling some feathers in the process, either. (If I told you more about his character, I'd be spoiling some more things.) It's also quite possible (or probable?) that Dubois is a channel for Heinlein's own views, so what this man says is subject to special reader analysis.

So, do I love him, or hate him? Well, I gotta say, I loved him. Allow me to present some direct quotes for to illustrate why.

P. 92, "...nevertheless the disheveled old mystic of Das Kapital, turgid, tortured, confused and neurotic, unscientific, illogical, this pompous fraud Karl Marx..."

P. 93, "...there is an old song which asserts 'the best things in life are free." Not true! Utterly false!...Nothing of value is free."

Beyond that, Dubois is the hardened military man; I loved that. While I did disagree with him at times (p. 117, "Man has no moral instinct. He is not born with moral sense."--simply not true), can you see why I liked him? (Seriously, anyone who says all that about Marx gets big points with me! And on p. 115 he also endorses spanking children; good for him!)

Another strong character was Camp Currie's Sgt. Zim, a fierce and strong fighter of a man who has the difficult job of whipping kids into order-obeying soldiers. Time is given to this character, and he's a good one.

For a moment, let's examine some more of the military aspects of the book. Heinlein served in the U.S. Navy years prior to WWII; therefore, he never saw actual combat. This fact fits with this book here, not because it portrays combat poorly, but because it is largely about military philosophy and the military overall rather than a book of shoot 'em up scenes. (The book opens with a raid on the home planet of the Skinnies. Besides being a huge grab scene to start a novel off with, the portrayal of a daring attack here was very well done, so we know Heinlein can do it.) I didn't mind this at all; other books portray combat and it's associated horrors and all that. This one didn't need to; it portrayed so many other things that I was refreshed and excited to see in a story. It's actually rather hard to describe, unfortunately, but truly, this is one amazing military work. (Or how about this, on p. 133, don't win a war by defense but by attack...)

One of the huge draws for me was the futuristic aspect of it all. What's more, in no way was it unrealistic. On the contrary, on the one hand I see reality in Heinlein's ideas, and on the other, I see what should be reality. Originally written in 1959, our own military is more similar to the Mobile Infantry than it was back then. With an emphasis on highly-trained soldiers with their own mini arsenals, Heinlein's vision of the MI was one well worth examining. Transported by corvettes (i.e., spaceships) to their destination, they then climb into capsules (hence their nickname "cap troopers") which are then shot out of the ships (the whole process being called a "drop"). These capsules have many layers which eject, etc. as the capsule falls through the atmosphere and onto the planet. These ejected portions--as well as dummy caps--serve to confuse any ground defenders who may be attempting to shoot the troopers out of the sky before they land. Once free, a series of chutes gets the man on the ground. They are suited up in powered armor, replete with thrusters, large and smaller hand flamers, shoulder-mounted rockets, and even their own personal nukes. Each man is connected to his comrades via radio, and by merely biting down he can switch radio channels. How about some radar? Heck, he can even take a drink of water if he wants to! I could go on and on about these suits and all of this stuff, but I need to refrain from going off on a tangent here, don't I? The overall workings of the Terran Mobile Infantry are something our own military should take a look at. (I also liked the concept that only combat veterans can serve as officers.)

I must admit, however, that Heinlein does not approach warfare with moral questions, as in "Is this war just?" or anything along such lines. I also took exception with them raiding a Skinnie city--killing civilians and all just isn't my cup of tea.

Another plus was a conversation (pp. 178-179) that ends up causing Rico to state that to fight a war on behalf of one prisoner, or one soldier left behind, was worth it because you simply do not leave your comrades behind. A strong statement, much easier said than done, but I'm impressed with this and am particularly prone to this way of thinking.

Now let's look at some other issues. First, I'd like to show you yet another quote that made me want to yell "Booyah!" When a recruit bails from Camp Currie and later murders a little girl (the possibility of him being a pedophile is never mentioned), Rico analyzes the situation as such:

P. 112, Well, if there was no way to keep it from happening once, there was only one sure way to keep it from happening twice. Which we had used.

If Dillinger had understood what he was doing (which seemed incredible) then he got what was coming to him...except that it seemed a shame that he hadn't suffered as much as had little Barbara Anne--he practically hadn't suffered at all.

But suppose, as seemed more likely, that he was so crazy that he had never been aware that he was doing anything wrong? What then?

Well, we shoot mad dogs, don't we?

Yes, but being crazy that way is a sickness--

I couldn't see but two possibilities. Either he couldn't be made well--in which case he was better dead for his own sake and for the safety of others--or he could be treated and made sane. In which case (it seemed to me) if he ever became sane enough for civilized society . . . and thought over what he had done while he was "sick"--what could be left for him but suicide? How could he
live with himself?

And suppose he escaped before he was cured and did the same thing again? And maybe
again? How do you explain that to bereaved parents? In view of his record?

I couldn't see but one answer.

To borrow a quote from the film (yes, I know, and I'm sorry) "Kill 'em! Kill 'em all!"

The religion of the book? Little, other than mentions of a padre who any religious cap trooper might see before a drop (including followers of Islam). The Skinnies apparently have some form of a religion as well.

If you saw the film, something that may have struck you is the large amount of women in the ranks. While Heinlein in no way has a Biblical opinion on this topic, he has a far more appropriate view. While women can enlist, for the most part they serve in non-combat roles. Moreover, the male and female portions of the ships are strictly segregated, and when the officers dine together, all the men must seat the lady next to them. Also of interest is this opinion here:

P. 204, Besides the obvious fact that drop & retrieval require the best pilots (i.e., female), there is very strong reason why female Naval officers are assigned to transports: It is good for trooper morale....In a mixed ship, the last thing a trooper hears before a drop (maybe the last word he ever hears) is a woman's voice, wishing him luck. If you don't think this is important, you've probably resigned from the human race.

While Heinlein may not be illustrating the structure of a pontential Christian military, he certainly has a grasp on some truths that far too many people of our day have long forgotten.

No sex whatever is to be found in the book (besides one light mention of a dubious story where some soldiers claimed to have been able to use prostitutes). The only other associated references are a few respectful portions, such as where the starved soldiers absolutely love being near, or even seeing, a fine girl. Oh, wait, there is a kiss, actually....

To be honest, I've heard a lot about Heinlein's sometimes distasteful sexuality in his books, but as this is the only one of his works I have read I cannot and will not attest to anything other than what I myself have read. This book was perfectly clean, and that is all I can say on the matter.

Later on in officer school Rico would encounter a Major Reid, another important character, albeit a little less than Dubois, who may be a voice for Heinlein, also has an interesting point, while from an Evolutionist perspective, on population control:

P. 185, "Check of proof: Is it possible to abolish war by relieving population pressure (and thus do away with the all-too evident evils of war) through constructing a moral code under which population is limited to resources?

Without debating the usefulness or morality of planned parenthood, it may be verified by observation that any breed which stops its own increase gets crowded out by breeds which expand. Some human populations did so, in Terran history, and other breeds moved in and engulfed them."

And while on the topic of Evolution, Heinlein does speak of Evolution and he does believe the idea it would appear (in one part of the book, a colonized planet with little radiation results in a lack of human Evolution).

That same quote may bring up another oft-argued concept: that Robert Heinlein was a racist. Proponents of this theory take this book's usage of the words "bugs" and "Skinnies" as derogatory racial slurs. I do not concur. In a war, are you really going to say "Let's wipe out the Respectable Arachnid Residents of Klendathu!" Er, no.... Heinlein does not appear to be a racist in my opinion, judging from this book only. The Terran Federation is filled with people of every race imaginable, and none of them are spoken of in a negative manner whatsoever. What's the big deal?

Another big controversy claims that this is a fascist book betraying Heinlein's fascist ideas. I cannot concur on this opinion either. While fascist is technically a rather fuzzy word (attempting to define the word as synonymous with "Nazi" is a poor choice), and while I certainly do not approve of much of the political structure of the Terran Federation (I don't want a Federation, I don't want a massive government, etc.), I simply can't buy the idea that Starship Troopers is a fascist story. The director of the sham-film, Paul Verhoeven, would vehemently argue this point, but then again he himself admitted to not having read more than two chapters, didn't he? Again, what's the big deal?

Though to be fair, I have to admit I dislike the idea of only veterans being able to vote. Major Reid's take on why only veterans can vote:

P. 182, "Under our system every voter and officeholder is a man who has demonstrated through voluntary and difficult service that he places the welfare of the group ahead of personal advantage. And that is the one practical difference."

p.183, "To permit irresponsible authority is to sow disaster; to hold a man responsible for anything he does not control is to behave with blind idiocy."

A few other questionable concepts were the use of hypnosis to teach, train or even to create a code word that, when used by another, can cause someone to involuntarily fall asleep, genetically-altered "neodogs" partnered with a human (and also capable of speech), and a kind of specialist who can discover the bug's holes from above ground (Rico wonders if he simply has good hearing).

And now, I must bring forth for discussion my biggest and main issue with the novel: aliens. The "bugs" are mentioned just once, if I remember correctly, for the entire first half of the book. The Skinnies appear in the beginning and that is pretty much it for some time. Later, however, the bugs take a more prominent role.

I'm certainly not interested in aliens in my stories, to be sure. From a literary standpoint, though, there is seemingly something to be said for inhuman foes, but how to implement them on this grand of a scale and remain plausible and Biblical at the same time must be quite a task (never tried it).

From a biological standpoint, I did have some difficulties with the bugs. We are told that they are spider-like, with eight legs and a carapace. The structure of their societies is reminiscent of Hymenopteran insects; a warrior, worker, and royal caste (a brain caste also is present). They live in underground tunnels and chambers just like ants, but they also use machinery, spacecraft, and the warriors carry beam weapons. I found this rather hard to accept (for once, the film has a possibly better idea, although I'm inclined to say that perhaps the show Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles had the best portrayal of the bugs), but in the end it isn't of much consequence to me as I don't buy the concept of extraterrestrials period.

They certainly did not look like the bugs in the film version. These artistic representations are a bit closer, here and here. They also reminded me of the television show's jungle spiders, larger than the ones seen at here 6:10 and on, yet smaller than the one seen
here at 6:27 and on. Or, just check out this old cover art. That'll do.

I didn't really feel that this was an "alien" book though, to be honest. It seemed to me to be just that way Heinlein inserted an enemy figure in the story. While everyone here should know of my opinion on alien life forms, I'm not going to delve deeply into that here.

So let me just say this. I deal in absolutes. I find aliens to be grossly unacceptable from a Biblical standpoint, therefore, any form of fiction containing them is going to get an official negative marking from me.

However.... (Yes, there's a "however")

Heinlein's book has immense value. It's a tale of the warrior, it's a tale of manhood. It's a story about duty, honor, courage, valor, discipline, and all those great things that each man must find within himself in order to be called such. I listed a lot of my likes above; I need not list them again here. For a man, this is one good book to read. I might just make my sons read it some day.

Told you this was going to be a strange review.