As with any good sci-fi the story and descriptions of the latest gadgets are important; however this is just the window dressing or vehicle to carry a message or concept to you with out sounding too preachy.
Basically this book is not fascist like the movie. It suggests that people should be responsible for their actions and have a stake in what they make decisions on. Never did it say that these people were smarter or better, just that when you have a vested interest your decisions tend to work or you will pay.
I was intrigued in the process that Johnny Rico was going through in the story. The movie does not phase me as it looks like cartoon hype. But the book was too close to home. I hope my memory is flawed as I remember every one of the people types that he described. Actually I think with the volunteer Army today it is closer to the book than was Vietnam where conscripts looked on it this as slightly preferable to prison. I know that this story is not about the military but it is too real to be ignored as just the story.
You could have floored me when after watching the movie I found out there were no naked women in the book. Dizzy Flores must have had a great Swedish doctor. This could have been a genuine attempt to update the story; however it distracted from the original purpose.
Basically after school Johnny Rico is whisked into the military by peer pressure and to finds out if he is more than just the factory owner's son. While going through boot camp he learns of different cultures and the intricacies of military life. Naturally he makes mistakes and learns from others mistakes. As he grows he learns what make the world the way it is. I will not contrast this book with the movie because I think you enjoy the story more if you find out what happens as it unfolds.