Review: Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein

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Yes, I should have read the book first and then seen the movie, but when Starship Troopers was released in the cinema I was only eleven years old. And at the time my reading list wasn’t quite as extensive as it is now. But I have finally managed to get to this one and let’s just say it wasn’t what I was expecting after having watched the over the top action movie more times than any person really should over the last fifteen years. The names are the same. That is pretty much the extent of the crossover … Thankfully I will add.

I will say this to begin. I fully understand why this book is so highly rated. The ideas, especially when put into context of when the book was written, are thoroughly thought provoking. The battle scenes are presented like a scene from a blockbuster movie and really put you in the driver’s seat for the action. The philosophical questions posed in this future earth have not dulled with age.

Reading this I constantly found myself stopping to think that the arguments Robert A. Heinlein is presenting are very convincing. His characters talk of our time with disdain and even mock our system of government. And although the world they are living in seems so utterly ridiculous, you end up nodding along as they discuss why the way we do everything is wrong.

There were a couple of times when I actually thought I was sitting in a classroom myself hearing a lecture/debate on morality, civil service and the best way to govern a country. Those bits of the book were the highlight for me; the discussions and thoughts conveyed regarding personal sacrifice for the greater good. And when that is wrapped up in an action packed military fiction, you just can’t complain.

The description of boot camp and life in the mobile infantry is so gritty and thus, to its core so real. I have never served in the military but I imagine that anybody who has could relate to this book. The story follows Rico as he joins the mobile infantry and travels the stars to battle the Bugs. In many ways this book didn’t need to be science fiction. The Bugs could have been replaced with foreigners from another country, and the spaceships with planes. But it wouldn’t have been the same.

Heinlein’s words are a pleasure to read and have you drifting through pages with ease. Some classic works of SF can be a tad dry. This was vibrant, full of slang which helped to make it feel like our society and, most of all, believable.

If I had to point at something I did not like I would say that I wasn’t the biggest fan of the way it ended. However, I cannot in any way suggest a better ending, so I will say he ended it well. I feel that this book could easily be one that students should study in high school. I know that many of the books that I read in my schooling did nothing to get me thinking differently. Yet, this book achieved just that, and all the while had marines splattering aliens across distant planets. What more could you ask for?

 

Rating 5/5

Popular Culture and the rise of Fantasy

Has there ever been a better time for the Fantasy Genre?

See my guest post on Fantasy Author Terry Ervin’s website here.

 

Guest Author – Terry W. Ervin II on the experience of writing Soul Forge

Today I am privileged to provide you with a guest post by Fantasy/Sci Fi author Terry W. Ervin II. Having recently published the third book in his First Civilizations Legacy Series, Terry shares with us what he has learned in writing Soul Forge. I hope you enjoy reading his wise words and take as much away from them as I did.

Soul Forge Cover

What I Learned While Writing Soul Forge

From the first page of a first draft, of the first novel an author writes, to writing ‘The End’ for the final draft of that first novel, the author has probably learned quite a bit about writing—even if that first novel isn’t quite good enough to find a publisher (or of sufficient quality to merit self-publication). Heck, most writers, upon completing their first novel’s first draft, can see a major improvement in writing and storytelling skill when comparing the early chapters to the later ones.

While there is a learning curve, where writers learn a lot (or hopefully do) during their early efforts, established authors also learn something—maybe many somethings—during the process of completing each project. Perhaps it’s how to employ a new structure, such as creating a frame story, or figuring out how to write using a different point of view. Sometimes it’s not learning something new, but improving upon an already existing skill or a familiar technique, such as more effective use of foreshadowing or devising how to make an action scene flow just a little bit better.

For me, all of this comes from actually writing and by comparing what I’ve written with what I learn through reading and studying other authors’ works. I also learn from beta reader and crit partner comments, and from working with an editor. This type of learning requires an open mind coupled with the drive to create a story that’s better than the previous one.

Soul Forge, my forth published novel, is my most recent release. And, through the process of writing it, I believe I made significant strides in improving my writing in several areas.

Soul Forge is the third novel in the First Civilization’s Legacy Series. The stories are mainly action-adventure and focus on Flank Hawk, a farmhand turned mercenary in a post-apocalyptic fantasy setting.

The first and probably the most important thing I learned was how to write the third novel in a series such that readers could pick up Soul Forge and enjoy it as much as anyone who’d read Flank Hawk and/or Blood Sword, the first two novels in the series.

Through reading and study, I’d learned how to write Blood Sword, so that readers could select it as the first novel in the series they might read. But that was the second novel in the series. Soul Forge, being the third, added a greater level of complexity to accomplish the same objective. The world in the series is extensive, with countries and cultures and history and conflicts that are built upon while being integral to the plots of each novel, beginning with Flank Hawk and moving forward. Add to that, the characters which appeared earlier in the series, and return to play a part in the third. There are even characters that died in the earlier novels, but continue to impact the characters and their actions in Soul Forge, and will continue to do so as the series continues.

I refined the use of dialogue, description, character thoughts, flashbacks, and character actions/responses to provide the necessary backstory within the context of the current story being told. It’s accomplished in such a way that it isn’t redundant, and actually reminds veteran readers of what’s happened in the series while providing additional information or insight.

Second, all of the novels in the First Civilization’s Legacy Series are written in first person point of view. Even so, characters other than the POV character (Krish/Flank Hawk) are well developed, with a number becoming the favorites of readers. In Soul Forge I worked to improve using actions, dialogue, and POV character thoughts and perception to more fully bring the characters that populate the novel to life.

Finally, I worked to improve my ability to intertwine secondary plotlines with the novel’s main plot to add depth of interest and suspense for the reader while raising the stakes for the characters involved.

An example of this was the personal duel brought upon Mercenary Flank Hawk and, although delayed until young Enchantress Thereese is revived (or dead), it’s a challenge the mercenary knows he cannot win. Even Imperial Seer Lochelle predicted that, should he cross blades with Flayzin, the captain of Supreme Enchantress Thulease’s guard, Flank Hawk will die.

Complicating the situation is the source of the conflict (the death of a prince) and the fact that both Flank Hawk and Captain Flayzin serve Supreme Enchantress Thulease. The two men must set aside their conflict as best they can while accompanying the enchantress as she seeks the legendary Sleeping Sage in a bid to discover a way to revive her dying daughter.

Why would Flank Hawk accompany the supreme enchantress, through perilous circumstances and fighting alongside Captain Flayzin, knowing that the man’s sword is destined to slay him?

That concern and many others are brought together as the story moves forward, aboard the Hunchback Maiden while crossing the Mediterranean, traversing the vast desert of the Southern Continent, and even venturing to the Mountainhold of the secretive Svartálfar.

Even as I write this article, my mind is on my next project (working title: Relic Rescue), the sequel to Relic Tech, the first novel in the Crax War Chronicles. While I’ll be using what I learned while writing Soul Forge and the other novels that came before, I’m sure I’ll improve not only in several areas of writing, but learn something new. Or at least I hope so.

First Civilzation Legacy Books FH BS SF

Terry W. Ervin II is an English teacher who enjoys writing fantasy and science fiction.

His First Civilization’s Legacy Series includes FLANK HAWK, BLOOD SWORD and SOUL FORGE, his newest release from Gryphonwood Press. Terry’s debut science fiction novel RELIC TECH is the first in the Crax War Chronicles and his short stories have appeared in over a dozen anthologies and magazines. The genres range from SF and mystery to horror and inspirational. GENRE SHOTGUN is a collection containing all of his previously published short stories.

You can purchase Soul forge at the following retailers:

To contact Terry or learn more about his writing endeavors, visit his website at www.ervin-author.com or his blog, Up Around the Corner at http://uparoundthecorner.blogspot.com

Relic Tech Cover for Blogs

 

Fantasy Creatures Roleplaying the Real World

Anyone who is a fan of Roleplaying will enjoy this. The team at FantasyCon have created Cubicles & Careers to promote their convention and I think they really hit the mark.

Thank you to i09 for sharing this.

Are you editing too much?

Writers love to write. Who would have thought? Then they finish their story and have to edit. Gasps, grabs chest in panic! There are some crazy people out there who enjoy editing; some who go so far as to love it! I am convinced they are delusional.

Most of us rely on others to fix our work for us, but before that can happen we need to do the initial editing ourselves. I’ve just finished the first edit of my second book and am finding myself changing sentences as I usually do, only to change them back on the second read. I have come to realise that there are really two types of editing;

(Type 1) The Necessary: This is the editing that removes grammatical mistakes. Wrong words, bad spelling, incorrect punctuation and other things that are just plain wrong by language standards.

(Type 2) The Superficial: This is the editing that moves a word around or changes a phrase slightly to change the narrative itself. Often this will improve your work, but it is ultimately a matter of taste.

Getting your manuscript ready for submission/publication is a process of doing the Necessary editing first and fully, and then knowing when to stop with the Superficial. Most people have heard of overcooking your manuscript. And I firmly believe there is such a thing. In fact, without care, one can easily set the house of fire by leaving the editing in the oven unchecked.

This also applies to the situation where you have multiple editors/beta readers. Everyone’s tastes differ and sometimes as the author you need to take creative control and stick with what makes you happiest. I have had 6 different people read a single chapter and all want to change the same sentence to 6 different things.

Excess Superficial editing takes up a lot of precious time. Time that could be spent marketing your book or writing your next book. So the key is to know when to say enough is enough and finalise your manuscript.

If I have learnt anything it is that no matter how many times you change things, you will always look back at your own work and want to fix it. Writing is a skill that continues to grow, so it is only natural that you will feel you can write that sentence better. At some point you need to bite the bullet and give your work to your audience.

Just like buying a new TV, in 6 months there will be a better version for the same price. Six months from now your writing will have improved and you could rewrite your story to improve it. You need to eventually draw the line and finalise your story.

Watch out for the Superficial editing trap. Have confidence in your work and just get it out there. Don’t leave the oven on, nobody likes an overcooked manuscript.

Giving up on a book

English: Stack of books in Gould's Book Arcade...

English: Stack of books in Gould’s Book Arcade, Newtown, New South Wales (NSW), Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t know why, but I feel a little dirty when I give up on a book. Recently I finally picked up my second hand copy of Dune and tried to read it. I got about a third of the way through and then couldn’t bring myself to keep going. This is supposed to be one of the masterpieces, one of the must reads of the genre. Yet I was bored. Don’t get me wrong, I can see its merit, and understand why it is a classic. but I decided that I only have one lifetime to get through my unimaginably high reading pile.

A few weeks later I still feel like I cheated on my high school exams. Why? It’s not like Frank Herbert is going to be at my next office party, leading to that whole awkward, “Oh yeah, still haven’t quite finished your book.” conversation. Well if he did show up it would be a sure sign of the Zombie apocalypse anyhow.

I know that this is a common theme with some of the classics out there. Writing changes over time and oft you can read a book from a few decades ago and feel like a drill is slowly twisting into your eyeballs. This is an inevitable thing (Not the drilling…the changing writing styles). I always use Shakespeare as an example. Most people have to study his works to really appreciate them. I myself never studied a lot of it and get lost in his works. However he will always be a master of the art.

At times I have powered through a book I did not want to read and regretted it at the end. So what is the best thing to do? Keep reading and hope that at some point the light bulb turns on and you see what it is that you have been missing this whole time. Or move on to the next book and pat yourself on the back for giving it a try.

What books have other people struggled to get through?

The world hasn’t ended…yet!

In a discussion regarding the end of the world as we know it with some friends, I suggested to them;

“Don’t worry about the end of the world, just keep playing Skyrim!”

For those who are not familiar with Skyrim, I am not sure whether to say you are lucky, or unlucky, it’s highly debatable. If you have a partner who is a nerd, you will most likely be familiar with it. If you don’t, I suggest that you go on living real life and don’t become to heavily invested.

On another topic, I have recently scrounged around and found a few more snippets of writing that were packed away in hidden folders of my computer. In editing my novel for its imminent publishing I have been coming across things that I had forgotten that I had written. I will continue to share them on this website (After some much needed editing of course). Revisiting these older works is providing me with added motivation to get Dawn of the Valiant published and continue book two of the series.

For those interested you can find two new stories here.