This is the next in the blog series I am running in which adults share with us their favourite or most inspiring books they remember from their childhood. Richard Estep is a paramedic and EMT instructor in Colorado.
I owe my lifelong love of reading primarily to my grandfather. As a railway nightshift worker, he would bustle through the door at dawn on every Sunday morning. Invariably, the latest batch of SF/fantasy paperbacks and a great many comics had somehow fallen off the back of a train and into his work bag.
As a lonely and rather awkward child, fantastic worlds – sometimes entire universes – were waiting to be discovered in those pages. Arrakis, Narnia, Middle Earth, Menzoberranzan, and countless others were my mental playgrounds, while most other boys were outside chasing footballs.
My favourites by far were the juveniles of Robert A.Heinlein, the best of all being “Starship Troopers.” One immediately thinks of the train crash film, which bears little resemblance to the book. For the younger reader, the novel offers plenty of shooty-death-kill space action…but delve deeper, and there lurks a fascinating deconstruction of the reasons why societies go to war, and why individuals risk life and limb in uniform.
Heinlein has quite ridiculously been accused of promoting fascism with this book. The former naval officer set out to slyly educate his younger readers on the ethics of uniformed service. As a gifted storyteller, he understood the necessity of keeping those pages turning with scenes of lurid space adventure, in order to promote an undelying moral message. Even today, many readers talk of “Starship Troopers” as a motivating factor in their decision to enlist in one of the uniformed services. It certainly was the case for me.
The book holds up well upon re-reading, and I heartily recommend it for readers of all ages. “Starship Troopers” won a Hugo award upon publication in 1960, not bad for what has been unfairly dismissed as “juvenilia.” If I had a son or nephew to spoil, this would be one of the first Christmas presents I’d give them.