I read this book about 6-Jul-2007. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1959. This note was last modified Wednesday, 11-Jul-2007 18:32:59 PDT.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
Wow, I've really never read this since I started the booklog? Hard to believe I'd let it slide that long. I know I've read small sections, and searched the text for specific content, to use in some online discussions, so that may be contributing to the feeling of having read it more recently. Or maybe it's just that I remember it so well from all the times long ago.
It seems to be the case that this was started as one of the juveniles. It certainly has a protagonist in the high end of the age range for that, and it's largely a story about a boy maturing, which fits well. It has no sex or romance. However, it has a lot more political philosophy, and a lot more time spent on lectures.
Also of course it has really cool powered armor combat, with aliens.
It's controversial for the political system in place in the Federation, in which only veterans of Federal Service can vote (or be elected to office, or be policemen, or a few other reserved jobs). It's also controversial for the question of what "Federal Service" actually means, a debate which I feel I have made some significant contribution to.
Heinlein uses the "bugs" in this book to raise the question of what you do about a powerful, violent, culture that won't negotiate (won't even communicate) and won't leave you alone. One thing he derives from this is the philosophical incoherence of pacifism. This is one area where I'm fully in agreement with him.
This book seems to have raised more people to frothing sputtering incoherence than any other. One of the commoner epithets tossed its way is that it's fascist. It's certainly militaristic, in that it exalts the military and the risking of ones life for the state; that's even made the criterion for citizenship. However, it completely lacks the focus on an exalted leader that is also a defining feature of fascism, both historically and philosophically; whereas in this book we never even hear the name of any politician or leader beyond the immediate military command structure. And it's very much about the evolution of a stable state; the origin of the system they used is described as being largely an accident, and the reasons for continuing it being quite empirical ("it works").
This may be one of the first books where Heinlein has a stealth non-white. Juan Rico appears to have been born and grown up in the Philippines. Their family language is Tagalog (page 205 of the recent paperback), and many of the names around him at that stage are hispanic to my ear, and he refers to Ramón Magsaysay as a great military man (also page 205).