From "Starship Troopers" Wiki:

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card is also thought by many to have been either a direct response to or influenced by Starship Troopers. Card has flatly denied this, saying that he never read the novel and did not read The Forever War until after writing Ender's Game.

What exactly is the reasoning behind this theory? (that Ender's Game has been either a direct response to or influenced by Starship Troopers).

  • It occurs to me on reflection that Harry Harrison's "Bill The Galactic Hero" is actually far more of a direct response to the ideas in Starship Troopers than "Ender's Game" ever was. (Wikipedia - and Harrison himself- got there first with that observation though, it seems.)
    – Christi
    Jan 11, 2017 at 22:30

3 Answers 3


Starship Troopers is a book that glorifies military service, the idea being that those who have fought for freedom have earned it, whereas others merely passively take advantage of the benefits such fighters secure for them. Starship troopers also features a insectoid foe similar to the Buggers.

Ender's Game is in a sense about the high price of unthinking aggression. Ender is the tool of a military complex who use his ability without allowing him the luxury of understanding what it is he is doing. Beware spoiler that gives away ending of the book

Because he believes that he is fighting a simulator rather than a real enemy, he employs a tactic to win that he would never have used in real life.

Whereas Heinlein's bugs are an adversary with little motivation, and serve merely as a suitably inhuman enemy off which to hang his tale (it might be argued that Heinlein is deliberately minimising the human cost of conflict by so doing), Card's Buggers are revealed as thinking feeling beings genocided by the inability of humans to think outside of their own mindset.

In the case of Card, at least, I'd say that such a reading of the book is a little simplistic. I'm not convinced that Ender's Game is either pro or anti-military. If it is anti anything, it's anti-thoughtlessness. Ender's use of deadly force when threatened by a classmate strongly suggests that Card does view violence as appropriate in some circumstances.

So to sum up the theory probably stems from the fact that they are both books about humanity fighting a desperate war against an insectoid alien enemy. Card reaches different conclusions about how that might pan out from Heinlein, and therefore Card's story is felt by some to be a response to Heinlein. Card's book is a character piece whereas Heinlein's is an adventure story that he has mixed in with elements of his personal philosophy, so I'd suggest it isn't a theory that's well supported by the evidence.

  • 7
    Sorry, but -1. It's very hard to make a comparison between 2 books when you completely mis-understand at least one of them. "Starship Troopers is a book that glorifies military service, the idea being that those who have fought for freedom have earned it, whereas others merely passively take advantage of the benefits such fighters secure for them" is all wrong. It doesn't glorify military service, and most importantly there's nothing in the book about "deserving". ... Mar 25, 2012 at 21:53
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    @DVK I can only say that I disagree based upon my reading of the book. Even were I to accept the gloss you put upon it, my statements regarding why Ender's Game is seen by some to be a response to Heinlein remain valid.
    – Christi
    Mar 25, 2012 at 22:01
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    @DVK of course he isn't going to just come out and say "Rah Rah Go Military!", but his weird political theories are just a more roundabout way of glorification. How's this for a quote: "In a commentary on his essay "Who Are the Heirs of Patrick Henry?", Heinlein agreed that Starship Troopers "glorifies the military ... Specifically the P.B.I., the Poor Bloody Infantry, the mudfoot who places his frail body between his loved home and the war's desolation – but is rarely appreciated... he has the toughest job of all and should be honored."
    – so12311
    Mar 26, 2012 at 0:21
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    @zephyr Heinlein is pro-military, as evidenced by both his pre-writer career and a ton of his essays. It still doesn't change the fact that Starship Troopers is about the idea that the right the vote should be earned rather than handed to people, and exploring that idea into conclusion. You can disagree with the conclusion, but not even understanding that the book has very little to do with the military except as the basis of the adventure part of the story just shows a lack of reading comprehension. Mar 28, 2012 at 18:50
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    Seriously, guys. Downvotes when at least two other commentators have agreed with my reading of the book? You could at least have the good grace to accept that it can be read as a pro-military parable, even if you don't personally read it that way. If I were the only one, I'd be willing to consider I might have misunderstood. In the light of the comments, that seems unlikely. (I make no judgment upon the merits of said stance. That would be out of place here. Perhaps you're making unwarranted assumptions about my own personal opinions on the military.)
    – Christi
    Mar 28, 2012 at 21:01

Heinlein and Card have such different beliefs and viewpoints that even with the parallel elements of a) young man/boy joining the military and b) insectoid foe, the books are totally different.

Heinlein's book was about what it means to be a citizen. Card's book was about what we do with gifted children and how we react to alienness.

More fundamentally, Heinlein's view was that universal morality is in contributing to the survival of your species. Card's view (most clearly expressed in Wyrms, I thought) seems to me to be that the basis of moral behaviour is: I will give up something of mine so that you can survive -- even if you are of another species.

  • While I agree with the facts in your answer, it doesn't directly address my question: "What exactly is the reasoning behind this theory?" Mar 25, 2012 at 23:20
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    I always enjoyed Card's ability to see Ender and the Formics as equally alien to humanity -- Ender understands but barely fits in with his own race and feels alien. Neither is understood by the masses and both deserve sympathy in the end. None of this comes up in Starship Troopers. Feb 8, 2014 at 4:51

I believe that the reasoning behind the theory is that the history of the world in Ender's Game has many parallels with that of the Starship Troopers world. The authors do not need to have the same message or opinion in order for their books to take place in the same universe. The histories do not even need to be identical, since the study of history includes a great deal of conflicting information. One could potentially argue that the events of Starship Troopers occur during the second bug war in Ender's Game.

That being said, Heinlein did not base Starship Troopers in the Ender universe because he published his book 18 years before Card published the first Ender short story. Card did not put Ender's Game in the Starship Troopers universe because he said so. One could speculate that he was influenced by memes in the sci fi literature of the day, but his denial settles any issues of cannon.

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