Review of Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein

SFFaudio Review

Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
Themes: Science Fiction / Politics / War / Military / Spaceships

“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 better. We just call it ‘The Bug War.’ 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…”
-excerpt from Starship Troopers

Written fewer than 15 years after the end of World War II, Starship Troopers (originally titled “Starship Soldier” for its first incarnation in Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine’s Oct & Nov issues of 1959) was to have been another of Heinlein’s beloved juvenile novels. Its content and far-reaching exploration of the society made it instead into the classic of hard science fiction it has become.

Starship Troopers won of the Hugo Award for 1959. It is the story of Juan “Johnny” Rico, recent high school graduate and new recruit to the Mobile Infantry, a futuristic paratrooper force which only takes the best. Just as Juan is ready to wash-out in shame, war is declared, and it’s up to Rico and the Roughnecks to mop up a little bug problem. J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings inspired hundreds of novels and revitalized modern fantasy storytelling. Similarly, Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers probably influenced more Science Fiction readers than any other novel of the last half of the 20th century. Spawning more imitators than was probably wise and even inspiring a whole sub genre of Science Fiction called “Military SF”. As with The Lord of the Rings the original inspired so many imitators for a good reason. It was a REALLY REALLY GOOD READ! Starship Troopers is spectacular SF. Semper mobilius.

The Recorded Books version.
Read by George Wilson
7 Cassettes – 9.75 hours, UNABRIDGED
Publisher: Recorded Books
Date Published: 1998

Its cover features original commisioned art, the library binding, available for additional cost, is of the durable vinyl clamshell type which makes for attractive and secure storage of tapes. Unlike the Blackstone Audiobooks version, there is very little extra material in the introduction and this is a disappointment. But, in its favor, it does include every word of the text and for that I am very pleased. In comparison to the superb Blackstone Audiobooks narration read by the gifted Lloyd James, George Wilson stacks up quite well, reading with obvious gusto. But if you were to twist my arm I’d still have to say in this case the Recorded Books edition is the lesser of the two.

The Blackstone Audiobooks version.
Read by Lloyd James
7 Cassettes – 9.75 hours, UNABRIDGED

Like all of Blackstone’s productions this one comes in a library style clamshell binding, which makes for attractive and secure storage of tapes. Its cover features the handsome art from 1987 ACE paperback release (the signature cover). And this superb production includes every single word in the book, including the teaser back cover, something I regard as akin to a necessary extra.

Lloyd James is terrific as the narrator, able to infuse his voice with the wide-eyed innocence of Rico and gruffness of Sgt. Zim. James’ is a voice you can count on, and this is an absolutely fabulous audiobook, and to my ears, the definitive version. So come on you apes pop a tape in and get listnin’.

Posted by Jesse Willis


Starship Troopers #LEGOized by me

LEGO Starship Troopers

8 thoughts to “Review of Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein”

  1. While I cannot speak to the Recorded Books version of Starship Troopers, I recently purchased the Blackstone Audio version, and could not disagree more with your review.

    While the quality of packaging, and the mulitmedia formats are obviously different due to the differences between CD and cassette, the presentation is identical.

    The reader, Lloyd James has approximately as much emotion as an anemic rhubarb. His reading is stolid, wooden, and entirely without emotion. In addition, his tone of voice is supercilious at best, openly contemptuous at worst. He has no taste for the story, and makes sure the listener knows. Further, his apparent lack of military experience, makes his delivery of common terminology painful to listen to.

    I highly recommend Blackstone Audio apply warning labels advising listeners not operate an automobile or heavy machinery while listening to this audiobook.

  2. I like rhubarb, but not anemic rhubarb.

    I’m afraid we haven’t heard much from Lloyd James since this review was posted 6.5 years ago. I would not be entirely shocked to see another version recorded sometime in the next few years.

    If you had your druthers, who would you nominate for the role or narrator?

  3. Thank you for your prompt, ad surprising response. My apologies for my sarcasm, and to Mr. James. While I am sure he is a consummate actor, I believe him to have been woefully out of his depth for this role.

    I’m not fond of rhubarb of any type, anemic ot otherwise, but I get your point.

    Actors that come immediately to mind? D.B. Sweeney did a wonderful job in Gardens of Stone, and might give a better protrayal of the “boy becoming a leader of men”.

    Another I might suggest is Gary Sinise. Long a supporter of the military, he has associated with us long enough to become acquainted with the warrior ethos, and so give a much better protrayal.

    Dylan McDermott was equally dedicated and war weary in Hamburger Hill, epitomizing a squad leader’s concern for his men.

    All three have a vibrancy of voice that is absent with Mr. James, and may be within the reach of Blackstone, or whosoever may make the next recording.

    Just my less caustic two cents.

  4. Another way to go would be to give the narrator an authentic accent – are there any Pinoy audiobook narrators out there?

  5. I’m not sure a Pinoy accent would be in keeping with the book, as Johnny states specifically that his father is proud of his Harvard accent. Heinlein, apparently intentionally, went out of his way to make Johnny’s ethnic heritage only a very small part of who he was. My thought is this is because in his time the focus of society is on assimilation rather accentuating differences. As to his military service, I’m positive this was his thought process.

  6. Having read ST first when I was a teen and reread it a few times afterwards I was eager to listen to the book also. I purchased the Blackstone version. The reader, Lloyd James, was about as bad as could be. His narration was listless and lifeless and he gave no impression that he even understood what he was reading. What Paul Verhoven did with film he does with audio. Really a disaster.

  7. I Have to say, owning both copies of this, George Wilson is the better narrator, I went so far as to buy the cassettes and have a friend take them to work and rip them to digital for me, Lloyd James is great narrating some other works but this book is NOT one he does well, emphasis on the wrong words and after having listened to george…lloyds reading makes me grind my teeth.

    having let a few people listen to both side by side, general consensus has agreed with my opinion on this.

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