What’s Your Favorite Heinlein Novel, David Drake?

Cover of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (November 1959), illustrating Starship Soldier by Robert A. HeinleinStarship Soldier

My parents gave me a subscription to an SF magazine for my 14th birthday, September 24, 1959. Rather than to choose the magazine themselves or to spoil the surprise by asking me, they bought the current issue of each SF magazine on the local newsstand and gave them to me so that I could pick the one I wanted. The October, 1959, issue of F&SF was among the options.

October, 1959 was F&SF‘s tenth anniversary issue; possibly the best issue of what I now believe was (during the ’50s) the best SF magazine of all time. There was a lot to like in it, but the first part of Heinlein’s Starship Soldier (the serialized version of Starship Troopers) was what convinced me that I wanted a subscription to F&SF.

In 1973 I was writing what became the first story in the Hammer’s Slammers series. (I didn’t intend it as a series at the time.) I had arrived at opinions about society which were different from those which Heinlein advocated; and I knew things about ground war which Heinlein, whose military service was that of a peacetime naval officer, would never know.

Due to what was probably a subconscious warning, I picked up a paperback copy of Starship Troopers and reread the opening chapter. I then went back over my story to make sure that none of it was flatly plagiarized from Heinlein.

I don’t know how obvious it is to anyone else, but it was extremely obvious to me: I could not have written The Butcher’s Bill had I not read Starship Soldier so long before.

David Drake can be found online at


Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve (978-0-7653-1960-9 / $29.99) will be available from Tor Books on August 17th 2010.


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11 thoughts on “What’s Your Favorite Heinlein Novel, David Drake?

  1. I’m not 100% sure when I started reading RAH – certainly before 1960. Chosing a favorite is difficult, but i’d have to go with either Starship Troopers or Podkayne of Mars

  2. I still remember finding “Starship Troopers” in the junior-high library and wondering why the helmet on the cover art had bolts going into its ears.

    And, incidentally, I *wish* that someone would bring out an English edition with the Miyatake illustrations. Those were sweet!

  3. That’s a remarkably hard task. I own every Heinlein novel in hardcover, so you can imagine how hard it would be to choose just one. Heinlein was a forerunner in that he led the way to a number of great ideas. He was on the money on a lot of things that we live with now and a lot of the moral and ethical questions technology poses. But for a favorite? Wow.
    All books fall into a few categories. One of my favorite types is the cinematic novel; a story that becomes a mental movie. These books and stories are the best source for movies, by the way. Heinlein did a few of these (Starship Troopers was NOT one of them)like “All You Zombies” and “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathon Hoag”, but my favorite is “Star Beast”. This is a book that should have been filmed by Speilberg in his prime.

  4. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. If you don’t cry when Mike the computer dies, you have no soul.

  5. If he dies. Arguably Mike simply ceased communicating with those stupid humans, once the safety of his computer body on the now-liberated Moon was secure.

  6. Starship troopers is the best. I liked all of Heinlein’s until he tried to be a sex writer instead of a science fantasy writer. He had no equal as a science fantasy author as Asimov in true science and science fiction.

  7. What can I say, from Starship Troopers to Stranger in a Strange Land to Number of The Beast. I love them all. RLH simply the best SF Writer of all.

  8. My favorite Heinlen is: “The Moon is a HArsh Mistress”!

    It is a great conbination of technology & a very human story !! (Plus its not preachy” as some of R.H.s later novels trended).


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