Friday, October 24, 2014
Reading Update - Breakfast of Champions and Starship Troopers
I finished Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five” a couple of weeks ago and followed up by reading “Breakfast of Champions” last week. I didn’t like BOC nearly as much as Slaughterhouse Five. BOC is a lot more “experimental” and was probably considered pretty edgy in its time, but it doesn’t have a lot of plot and seems to be written from the perspective of someone explaining humanity to aliens. That’s interesting, but ultimately didn’t lead to much. It got better as it went on, once the plot kicked in, but that’s about all I can say about it. Plus, Vonnegut uses the N-word A LOT and I wasn’t sure if it was meant satirically or not. (On balance, I think so).
This week I started Robert Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers”. I read it in Junior or Senior High (30+ years ago) but didn’t remember much of it other than a few scenes. I know that the book has a reputation as being a polemic in favor of fascism and, of course, I remember Paul Verhoeven’s movie which I really love. My impression before re-reading was that the movie, described by many as 90210 in space, was nothing like the book.
Boy was that impression wrong. I’m about halfway done with the book and so far it has tracked the movie pretty well. Johnnie Rico starts out in high school, joins the Federation forces on a whim, goes through basic training and is now involved in the disastrous invasion of Klendathu, following the destruction of Buenos Aires. Many of the same characters are in the book and a lot of the high school and training scenes from the book are in the movie. They did add some characters in the movie, played up the romantic entanglements, took out the power armor completely, and moved a few things around, but all in all I am shocked at how similar the two stories are.
I also hit the first jarring notes of libertarian/fascist philosophy this morning as Heinlein devotes a chapter to the glorious societal benefits of corporal punishment and how 20th century Democracies failed because they stopped beating their kids. Yeah, that was charming, and not at all a strawman argument, and stupid and wrong.
Still, that aside, I’m enjoying the book and finding my love of the movie enhancing the read.