Starship Troopers (1959) by Robert A. Heinlein is a controversial science fiction novel that received a Hugo Award in 1960 and is the only science fiction novel on the reading lists of four out of five of the United States military academies, as well as the official reading lists of the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps. It has been in continuous print since its first printing in 1959.
- See also: Starship Troopers (film)
- Come on, you sons of bitches! Do you wanna live forever?
- Epigraph, quoting Dan Daly, 1918, p. 1
- I always get the shakes before a drop. I've had the injections, of course, and hypnotic preparation, and it stands to reason that I can't really be afraid. The ship's psychiatrist has checked my brain waves and asked me silly questions while I was asleep and he tells me that it isn't fear, it isn't anything important — it's just like the trembling of an eager race horse in the starting gate. I couldn't say about that; I've never been a race horse. But the fact is: I'm scared silly, every time.
- Juan Rico, p. 1, opening paragraph, internal monologue before the raid on the Skinnies.
- "Rasczak's Roughnecks have got a reputation to uphold. The Lieutenant told me before he bought it to tell you that he will always have his eye on you every minute... and that he expects your names to shine!"
- Sergeant Jelal, p. 3, speech shortly before the raid, which is the first mission he commands after the Lieutenant's death.
- "My mother said violence never solves anything." "So?" Mr. Dubois looked at her bleakly. "I'm sure the city fathers of Carthage would be glad to know that."
- Lt. Col. Jean V. Dubois (Ret.), p. 25; exchange between him and a student
- " … I was not making fun of you personally; I was heaping scorn on an inexcusably silly idea — a practice I shall always follow. Anyone who clings to the historically untrue and thoroughly immoral doctrine that violence never settles anything I would advise to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and their freedoms."
He sighed. "Another year, another class — and for me another failure. One can lead a child to knowledge but one cannot make him think." Suddenly he pointed his stump at me. "You. What is the moral difference, if any, between the soldier and the civilian?"
"The difference, I said carefully, "lies in the field of civic virtue. A soldier accepts personal responsibility for the safety of the body politic of which he is a member, defending it, if need be, with his life. The civilian does not."
"The exact words of the book," he said scornfully. "But do you understand it? Do you believe it?"
- Lt. Col. Jean V. Dubois (Ret.) and student, p. 26
- "But if you want to serve and I can't talk you out of it, then we have to take you, because that's your constitutional right. It says that everybody, male or female, should have his born right to pay his service and assume full citizenship— but the facts are that we are getting hard pushed to find things for all the volunteers to do that aren't just glorified KP. You can't all be real military men; we don't need that many and most of the volunteers aren't number-one soldier material anyhow...[W]e've had to think up a whole list of dirty, nasty, dangerous jobs that will...at the very least make them remember for the rest of their lives that their citizenship is valuable to them because they've paid a high price for it...A term of service is...either real military service, rough and dangerous even in peacetime...or a most unreasonable facsimile thereof."
- Fleet Sergeant Ho, Pages 29-30, attempting to dissuade Juan Rico and Carl from enlisting.
- "Don't you know about sergeants? ... They don't have mothers. Just ask any trained private." He blew smoke towards us. "They reproduce by fission ... like all bacteria."
- Instructor-Corporal Bronski, p. 50.
- I made a very important discovery at Camp Currie. Happiness consists in getting enough sleep. Just that, nothing more. All the wealthy, unhappy people you've ever met take sleeping pills; Mobile Infantrymen don't need them. Give a cap trooper a bunk and time to sack out in it, and he's as happy as a worm in an apple—asleep.
- Juan Rico, p. 52, Internal monologue on basic training.
- There are no dangerous weapons; there are only dangerous men.
- Sergeant Charles Zim, p. 61; responding to Ted Hendrick's question on the purpose of knife-throwing.
- "If you wanted to teach a baby a lesson, would you cut its head off? Of course not. You'd paddle it. There can be circumstances when it's just as foolish to hit an enemy city with an H-bomb as it would be to spank a baby with an axe. War is not violence and killing, pure and simple; war is controlled violence, for a purpose. The purpose of war is to support your government's decisions by force. The purpose is never to kill the enemy just to be killing him...but to make him do what you want to do. Not killing...but controlled and purposeful violence. But it's not your business or mine to decide the purpose of the control. It's never a soldier's business to decide when or where or how—or why—he fights; that belongs to the statesmen and the generals. The statesmen decide why and how much; the generals take it from there and tell us where and when and how. We supply the violence; other people—'older and wiser heads,' as they say—supply the control. Which is as it should be."
- Sergeant Charles Zim, p. 63; responding to Ted Hendrick's question on the purpose of infantrymen in the nuclear age.
- The most noble fate a man can endure is to place his own mortal body between his loved home and the war's desolation.
- Lt. Col. Jean V. Dubois (Ret.), p. 91; this quote pays homage to the beginning of the 4th stanza of The US National Anthem: "Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand/Between their loved home and the war's desolation!"
- "Value" has no meaning other than in relationship to living beings. The value of a thing is always relative to a particular person, is completely personal and different in quantity for each living human — "market value" is a fiction, merely a rough guess at the average of personal values, all of which must be quantitatively different or trade would be impossible. … This very personal relationship, "value", has two factors for a human being: first, what he can do with a thing, its use to him… and second, what he must do to get it, its cost to him. There is an old song which asserts that "the best things in life are free". Not true! Utterly false! This was the tragic fallacy which brought on the decadence and collapse of the democracies of the twentieth century; those noble experiments failed because the people had been led to believe that they could simply vote for whatever they wanted… and get it, without toil, without sweat, without tears. … I fancy that the poet who wrote that song meant to imply that the best things in life must be purchased other than with money — which is true — just as the literal meaning of his words is false. The best things in life are beyond money; their price is agony and sweat and devotion . . . and the price demanded for the most precious of all things in life is life itself — ultimate cost for perfect value."
- Lt. Col. Jean V. Dubois (Ret.), pp. 93-94
- "You! I've just awarded you the prize for the hundred-meter dash. Does it make you happy? […] No dodging, please. You have the prize — here, I'll write it out: 'Grand prize for the championship, one hundred-meter sprint.'" He had actually come back to my seat and pinned it on my chest. "There! Are you happy? You value it — or don't you?" Mr. Dubois had looked surprised. "It doesn't make you happy?"
"You know darn well I placed fourth!"
"Exactly! The prize for first place is worthless to you . . . because you haven't earned it. But you enjoy a modest satisfaction in placing fourth; you earned it."
- Lt. Col. Jean V. Dubois (Ret.), pp. 93-94
- That old saw about "to understand all is to forgive all" is a lot of tripe. Some things, the more you understand the more you loathe them.
- Juan Rico, p. 111, internal monologue on the execution of Dillinger.
- "Ah yes, [life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness]... Life? What 'right' to life has a man who is drowning in the Pacific? The ocean will not hearken to his cries. What 'right' to life has a man who must die to save his children? If he chooses to save his own life, does he do so as a matter of 'right'? If two men are starving and cannibalism is the only alternative to death, which man's right is 'unalienable'? And is it 'right'? As to liberty, the heroes who signed the great document pledged themselves to buy liberty with their lives. Liberty is never unalienable; it must be redeemed regularly with the blood of patriots or it always vanishes. Of all the so-called natural human rights that have ever been invented, liberty is least likely to be cheap and is never free of cost. The third 'right'?—the 'pursuit of happiness'? It is indeed unalienable but it is not a right; it is simply a universal condition which tyrants cannot take away nor patriots restore. Cast me into a dungeon, burn me at the stake, crown me king of kings, I can 'pursue happiness' as long as my brain lives—but neither gods nor saints, wise men nor subtle drugs, can ensure that I will catch it."
- Lt. Col. Jean V. Dubois (Ret.), p. 119; expanding on his statement that "a human being has no natural rights of any nature."
- "I told you that 'juvenile delinquent' is a contradiction in terms. 'Delinquent' means 'failing in duty.' But duty is an adult virtue—indeed a juvenile becomes an adult when, and only when, he acquires a knowledge of duty and embraces it as dearer than the self-love he was born with. There never was, there cannot be a 'juvenile delinquent.' But for every juvenile criminal there are always one or more adult delinquents—people of mature years who either do not know their duty, or who, knowing it, fail."
- Lt. Col. Jean V. Dubois (Ret.), p. 120
- There are a dozen different ways of delivering destruction in impersonal wholesale, via ships or missiles of one sort or another, catastrophes so widespread, so unselective that the war is over because that nation or planet has ceased to exist. What we do is entirely different. We make war as personal as a punch in the nose. We can be selective, applying precisely the required amount of pressure at the specified point at a designated time. We've never been told to go down and kill or capture all left-handed redheads in a particular area, but if they tell us to, we can. We will.
We are the boys who will go to a particular place, at H-hour, occupy a designated terrain, stand on it, dig the enemy out of their holes, force them then and there to surrender or die. We're the bloody infantry, the doughboy, the duckfoot, the foot soldier who goes where the enemy is and takes them on in person. We've been doing it, with changes in weapons but very little change in our trade, at least since the time five thousand years ago when the foot sloggers of Sargon the Great forced the Sumerians to cry "Uncle!"
- Juan Rico, p. 99
- The historians can't seem to settle whether to call this one "The Third Space War" (or the "Fourth"), or whether "The First Interstellar War" fits it better. We just call it "The Bug War" if we call it anything, which we usually don't and in any case the historians date the beginning of "war" after the time I joined my first outfit and ship. Everything up to then and still later were "incidents," "patrols," or "police actions." However, you are just as dead if you buy the farm in an "incident" as you are if you buy it in a declared war."
- Juan Rico, p. 131; internal monologue on the start of the Bug War.
- Operation Bughouse should have been called "Operation Madhouse." Everything went wrong. It had been planned as an all-out move to bring the enemy to their knees, occupy their capital and the key points of their home planet, and end the war. Instead it damn near lost the war. I am not criticizing General Diennes. I don't know whether it's true that he demanded more troops and more support and allowed himself to be overruled by the Sky Marshal-in-Chief—or not. Nor was it any of my business. Furthermore I doubt if some of the smart second-guessers know all the facts. What I do know is that the General dropped with us and commanded us on the ground and, when the situation became impossible, he personally led the diversionary attack that allowed quite a few of us (including me) to be retrieved—and, in so doing, bought his farm. He's radioactive debris on Klendathu and it's much too late to court-martial him, so why talk about it?
- Juan Rico, p. 134; internal monologue on the Battle of Klendathu.
- There was no god but the Lieutenant and Sergeant Jelal was his prophet.
- Juan Rico, p. 140, on his new outfit, Rasczak's Roughnecks
- "Peace" is a condition in which no civilian pays any attention to military casualties which do not achieve page-one, lead-story prominence-unless that civilian is a close relative of one of the casualties. But, if there ever was a time in history when "peace" meant that there was no fighting going on, I have been unable to find out about it.
- Juan Rico, p. 82, internal monologue on the start of the Bug War.
- Service men are not brighter than civilians. In many cases civilians are much more intelligent. That was the sliver of justification underlying the attempted coup d' etat just before the Treaty of New Delhi, the so-called 'Revolt of the Scientists': let the intelligent elite run things and you'll have utopia. It fell flat on its foolish face of course. Because the pursuit of science, despite its social benefits, is itself not a social virtue; its practitioners can be men so self-centered as to be lacking in social responsibility.
- I have never been able to see how a thirty-year-old moron can vote more wisely than a fifteen-year-old genius . . . but that was the age of the "divine right of the common man." Never mind, they paid for their folly.
- To vote is to wield authority; it is the supreme authority from which all other authority derives—such as mine to make your lives miserable once a day. Force if you will!—the franchise is force, naked and raw, the Power of the Rods and the Ax. Whether it is exerted by ten men or by ten billion, political authority is force.
- 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. The unlimited democracies were unstable because their citizens were not responsible for the fashion in which they exerted their sovereign authority . . . other than through the tragic logic of history. The unique 'poll tax' that we must pay was unheard of. No attempt was made to determine whether a voter was socially responsible to the extent of his literally unlimited authority. If he voted the impossible, the disastrous possible happened instead—and responsibility was then forced on him willy-nilly and destroyed both him and his foundationless temple.
- 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.
- Man is what he is, a wild animal with the will to survive, and (so far) the ability, against all competition. Unless one accepts that, anything one says about morals, war, politics—you name it—is nonsense. Correct morals arise from knowing what man is—not what do-gooders and well-meaning old Aunt Nellies would like him to be. The universe will let us know—later—whether or not Man has any "right" to expand through it. In the meantime the M.I. will be in there, on the bounce and swinging, on the side of our own race.
- "Bugs, Mr. Rico. Zillions of em!"
- Hughes, p. 248; reporting on a bug assault to LT Juan Rico on Planet P.
- "One last thing. I had a letter from Captain Jelal just before we left. He says that his new legs work fine. But he also told me to tell you that he's got you in mind... And that he expects your names to shine!"
- Juan Rico, p. 262, his speech shortly before his first mission commanding the Roughnecks, echoing Jelal at the beginning of the novel.
- "To the everlasting glory of the Infantry—"
- Last line of the novel, From The Ballad of Rodger Young, p. 263
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- With national governments in collapse at the end of the XXth century, something had to fill the vacuum, and in many cases it was the returned veterans. They had lost a war, most of them had no jobs, many were sore as could be over the terms of the Treaty of New Delhi, especially the P.O.W. foul-up — and they knew how to fight. But it wasn't revolution; it was more like what happened in Russia in 1917 — the system collapsed; somebody else moved in. The first known case, in Aberdeen, Scotland, was typical. Some veterans got together as vigilantes to stop rioting and looting, hanged a few people (including two veterans) and decided not to let anyone but veterans on their committee. Just arbitrary at first — they trusted each other a bit, they didn't trust anyone else. What started as an emergency measure became constitutional practice in a generation or two. (Pg. 179)
- 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.
- If it has to be done, a man — a real man — shoots his own dog himself; he doesn't hire a proxy who may bungle it.
Lt. Col. Jean V. Dubois (Ret.)
- Morals — all correct moral laws — derive from the instinct to survive. Moral behavior is survival behavior above the individual level.
- While a judge should be benevolent in purpose; his awards should cause the criminal to suffer, else there is no punishment - and pain is the basic mechanism built into us by millions of years of evolution which safeguards us by warning when something threatens our survival. Why should society refuse to use such a highly perfected survival mechanism?
- The basis of all morality is duty.
- When you come right to it, it is easier to die than it is to use your head.
- Basic truths cannot change and once a man of insight expresses one of them it is never necessary, no matter how much the world changes, to reformulate them. This is immutable, true everywhere, throughout all time, for all men and all nations.