Although I was root-root-rooting throughout the first chapter, subsequent reading revealed that Starship Troopers was exactly what everyone said it was: an extensive polemic on the virtues of violence and pain.
There I go, being polemical.
I paused after a few chapters of outwardly rough-edged paternal-type fellows who were secretly sweethearts telling Johnnie Rico the what's-up of the world and wondered if there was any reason Heinlein had written this story in the science fiction genre--other than that a futural setting might belay any initial skepticism readers might feel toward his argument. It's not that his setting wasn't interesting; for what little treatment he gives it, Heinlein's universe is as sophisticated as any I've read in recent memory. But where the book truly shines speculatively is in its speculative politics: namely, a world wherein only veterans are fully enfranchised citizens.
However, it's also an incredibly dangerous belief. Heinlein's Terran Federation is a pretty swell place; even if you're not a soldier and can't vote, you can still expect to live freely and, by the sweat of your brow, prosper. But any world in which violence accords privilege can obviously descend into real tyranny: the outer shells of society held in check by the violence of its inner circles, enforcing shades of belonging within the community.
Suffice to say this idea, whether or not I agree with it, gives me a pretty sweet idea for a story (for whenever I'm in the mood to riff off of Heinlein): a world where only two political castes exist, the citizen-soldier and the slave. One need only undertake to commit violence to become a citizen. In this manner, the world would presume two fundamental conflicts: the domestic dispute or the citizen's duel, and the interpolity battle. Of course, any conflict at all in this world-schema is immediately a battle between citizens; slavish are those who will not fight. I can also imagine--in the tradition of Heinlein--some pesky, resident philosophers--representing both castes, I expect.
How very Greek.
Anyway, I really did like those battle scenes. Grenades! H-bombs! Heavy flamers! Wazoo! And, even though I wished there was more of that stuff, it still feels good to read a book that makes you think.