Methuselah’s Children by Robert A. Heinlein
Methuselah’s Children introduces us to Lazarus Long, a popular character in several of Robert A. Heinlein’s books. Lazarus, who wears a kilt (but there’s guns strapped to his thighs!) and can’t remember how old he is, is descended from one of several families who, long ago, were bred for their health and longevity. Lazarus and his extended clan live very long lives — so long that they must eventually fake their own deaths and take new identities so that others don’t get suspicious about their supernatural abilities. This has become a problem, however, as technology in the United States has reached the point where people are identified by their DNA and it will soon be impossible to hide. So some of the family members are experimenting with a new plan; they’re outing themselves — telling their friends and neighbors about their longevity and hoping for a good r... Read More
Robert A. Heinlein(1907-1988)
One of the founding fathers of the hard SF tradition which sees both story and society as merely a matter of effective engineering, Heinlein started writing for pulp magazines, especially Astounding, in 1939 and was a dominant influence on the field for the next forty years. His early stories — The Man who Sold the Moon and The Green Hills of Earth — are set in a “Future History” in which American society goes through radical changes and it is private enterprise that settles in space. Heinlein wrote a number of influential young adult SF books — Starman Jones, and Podakayne of Mars — which are generally freer in their handling of scientific themes than his books for adults. The right wing strain in his thinking produced a classic of McCarthyite paranoid fiction The Puppet Masters, in which the unwary are possessed by alien slugs. He achieved his major fame, not to say notoriety, with two books of the early 1960s–Starship Troopers, which, filmed satirically by Paul Verhoeven, started a whole sub-genre of militarist SF, while Stranger in a Strange Land with its free love and imaginary religions was a favourite of Charles Manson. Perhaps the best book of his later phase is The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, one of SF’s more intelligent retreads of 1776 in space; the best of his earlier books is Double Star, a flip tale of impersonation and political intrigue on Mars.
Future History — (1941-1973) Revolt in 2100 is a story collection. Publisher: The Howard Families were the product of a genetic experiment, an interbreeding programme which had produced one hundred thousand people with an average life expectancy of a century and a half. Now, at last, their existence was known on earth, and the entire world demanded to share the “secret” of eternal youth. “It is contrary to our customs to permit scientific knowledge to be held as a monopoly for the few” was what the expert said and it wasn’t long before members of the Howard Families were the victims of vicious crime. This dramatic and frighteningly believable novel is a welcome addition to the oeuvre of a brilliant science-fiction writer.
Methuselah’s Children by Robert A. Heinlein
Beyond This Horizon by Robert A. Heinlein
Hamilton Felix is a genetic superman, carefully crafted from the best chromosomes his ancestors had to offer. He lives in a world where most people live long easy lives untroubled by disease, poverty, and tooth decay. It’s boring. Until Felix accidentally infiltrates a revolutionary group of elitists who want to take over the world and run things their way.
As boring as Hamilton Felix’s life is, this book about him is even more boring. There are lots of ideas in Beyond This Horizon, but very little story to connect them together and make them interesting. One problem is that most of these ideas — eugenics, selective breeding, survival of the fittest — are neither new nor particularly interesting for the 21st century reader, though that’s not Heinlein’s fault because Beyond This Horizon was published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1942. What is He... Read More
Farmer in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein
As I mentioned in my recent review of The Number of the Beast, I used to be a fan of Robert A. Heinlein’s “Juveniles” when I was a kid. I give Heinlein much of the credit for turning me into a speculative fiction lover at a young age, so I was really disappointed that The Number of the Beast was so dreadful. To cleanse my palate, and to restore my trust in a man who was such an influence on me, I decided to read Farmer in the Sky, a Heinlein Juvenile which has recently been produced in audio format by Brilliance Audio.
Farmer in the Sky took me back to my childhood — when I loved to think about riding in spaceships while most girls w... Read More
6xH: Six Stories by Robert A. Heinlein by Robert A. Heinlein
Robert A. Heinlein, certainly one of the most influential authors in science fiction history, was also one of the most celebrated. As reported in The Science Fiction Encyclopedia, Heinlein was the guest of honor at three World SF Conventions, received the first Grand Master Nebula Award, and was selected "best all-time author" in many readers' polls. His four Hugo awards for Best Novel is a record that stands to this day, and in his long and prolific career, the man wrote 32 novels (13 of them juveniles) and 58 short stories. In 1959, six of those shorter pieces were collected in what was to later be appropriately titled 6xH, consisting of tales written between 1941 and 1959. Most of these tales are rather fantasy-oriented and not really science fiction, and indeed, all six appear in a larger collection called The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein.
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Glory Road by Robert A. Heinlein
Robert A. Heinlein is best known for his science fiction, of course, but he did write some fantasy, too. Glory Road is a science fantasy story which was originally serialized in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1963 and published as a novel later that year. Glory Road was nominated for, but did not win, a Hugo Award for Best Novel.
Evelyn Cyril Gordon, known by his army buddies as “Scar,” has finally been sent home from Southeast Asia after too many tours of duty. After wandering aimlessly for a while, hoping the G.I. bill will cover some educational expenses, and lamenting about taxes (a favorite theme of Heinlein’s) he reads a personal advertisement in a newspaper:
ARE YOU A COWARD? This is not for you. We badly need a brave man. He must be 23 to 25 years old, in perfect health, at least six feet tall, weig... Read More
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
“Sometimes I think that government is an inescapable disease of human beings. But it may be possible to keep it small, and starved, and inoffensive.”
It’s the year 2075. The Earth, which has a worldwide government of Federated Nations, sends its criminals and exiles to the moon where they won’t bother anyone on Earth. The “Loonies” are governed by wardens who require them to grow hydroponic grain which is sent back to Earth. This has been going on for over a century, so the lunar colony is no longer just criminals and exiles. They’ve had families and have built a society, but they’re still treated as Earth’s slave labor force. They do work for Earth, but get no benefits. Now they want to be free.
When a computer technician named Mannie realizes that the moon’s central computer (Mike) is sentient and lonely, he befriends it and they begin, with the hel... Read More
The Number of the Beast by Robert A. Heinlein
When I was a kid I loved some of Robert A. Heinlein’s “Juveniles” — science fiction stories for children and teens. Red Planet was one of my favorites and I must have read it at least five times. These novels are part of the reason I kept reading science fiction — they left such an impression on my young mind.
Despite this nostalgia, I haven’t read Heinlein in years. When Blackstone Audio recently started releasing some of his later novels on audio, I thought it was time to check out some I’d never read. The first one I tried was The Number of the Beast, written in 1980 after a seven-year hiatus brought on by ill health when Heinlein was in his seventies.
This story starts when professor Zebadiah John Carter meets Deety (short for Dejah Thoris) Burroughs and her father, mathematician Jacob Burroughs, at a ... Read More
Sixth Column — (1941) Publisher: After the U.S. is conquered, an enclave of brilliant misfits leads a rebellion against near-impossible odds. The totalitarian East has triumphed in a massive invasion and the United States has fallen to a dictatorial superpower bent on total domination. That power is consolidating its grip via concentration camps, police state tactics, and a total monopoly upon the very thoughts of the conquered populace. A tiny enclave of scientists and soldiers survives, unbeknownst to America’s new rulers. It’s six against six million — but those six happen to include a scientific genius, a master of subterfuge and disguise who learned his trade as a lawyer-turned-hobo, and a tough-minded commander who knows how to get the best out of his rag-tag assortment of American discontents, wily operators, and geniuses. It’s going to take technological savvy and a propaganda campaign that would leave Madison Avenue aghast, but the U.S. will rise again. The counterinsurgency for freedom is on, and defeat is not an option.
Rocket Ship Galileo — (1947) Publisher: Three high school students formed the Galileo Club to share their interests in science and space exploration. But they never imagined they would team up with a nuclear physicist to construct and crew a rocket bound for the moon. And they never expected to gain some powerful enemies in the process.
Space Cadet — (1948) Publisher: This is the seminal novel of a young man’s education as a member of an elite, paternalistic non-military organization of leaders dedicated to preserving human civilization, the Solar Patrol, a provocative parallel to Heinlein’s famous later novel, Starship Troopers (which is about the military). Only the best and brightest–the strongest and the most courageous — ever manage to become Space Cadets, at the Space Academy. They are in training to be come part of the elite guard of the solar system, accepting missions others fear, taking risks no others dare, and upholding the peace of the solar system for the benefit of all. But before Matt Dodson can earn his rightful place in the ranks, his mettle is to be tested in the most severe and extraordinary ways — ways that change him forever, from the midwestern American boy into a man of the Solar Patrol.
Red Planet — (1949) Publisher: Jim Marlow and his strange-looking Martian friend Willis were allowed to travel only so far. But one day Willis unwittingly tuned into a treacherous plot that threatened all the colonists on Mars, and it set Jim off on a terrfying adventure that could save — or destroy — them all!
Between Planets — (1951) aka Planets in Combat Publisher: Don Harvey was attending school on Earth when his parents suddenly and urgently called him home to Mars. He had been skeptical about the talk of interplanetary war breaking out if Mars and Venus followed through on their threats to declare independence from Earth, but he was wrong. War broke out, and he was stuck on Venus, with no way of getting home. Then there was the ring that an old family friend had given him just before he had left Earth. Shortly afterward, the friend had been questioned by Earth’s secret police and had died — from “heart failure,” they claimed. When Earth troops landed on Venus and started looking for Don and that mysterious ring, he realized that he was trapped in the center of a war between worlds that could change the fate of the Solar System forever!
The Puppet Masters — (1951) Publisher: First came the news that a flying saucer had landed in Iowa. Then came the announcement that the whole thing was a hoax. End of story. Case closed. Except that two agents of the most secret intelligence agency in the U.S. government were on the scene and disappeared without reporting in. And four more agents who were sent in also disappeared. So the head of the agency and his two top agents went in and managed to get out with their discovery: an invasion is underway by slug-like aliens who can touch a human and completely control his or her mind. What the humans know, they know. What the slugs want, no matter what, the human will do. And most of Iowa is already under their control. Sam Cavanaugh was one of the agents who discovered the truth. Unfortunately, that was just before he was taken over by one of the aliens and began working for the invaders, with no will of his own. And he has just learned that a high official in the Treasury Department is now under control of the aliens. Since the Treasury Department includes the Secret Service, which safeguards the President of the United States, control of the entire nation is near at hand .
The Rolling Stones — (1952) Publisher: The rollicking adventures of the Stone Family on a tour of the Solar System. It all statred when the twins, Castor and Pollux Stone, decided that life on the Lunar colony was too dull and decided to buy their own spaceship and go into business for themselves. Their father thought that was a fine, idea, except that he and Grandma Hazel bought the spaceship and the whole Stone Family were on their way out into the far reaches of the Solar System, with stops on Mars(where the twins got a lesson in the interplanetary economics of bicycles and the adorable little critters called flatcats who, it turned out, bred like rabbits; or perhaps, Tribbles….), out to the asteroids, where Mrs. Stone, an M.D., was needed to treat a dangerous outbreak of disease, even further out, to Titan and beyond. Unforgettable Heinlein characters on an unforgettable adventure.
Starman Jones — (1953) Publisher: The stars were closed to Max Jones. To get into space you either needed connections, a membership in the Guild, or a whole lot more money than Max, the son of a widowed, poor mother, was every going to have. What Max does have going for him are his uncle’s prized astrogation manuals — book on star navigation that Max literally commits to memory word for word, equation for equation. When Max’s mother decides to remarry a bullying oaf, Max takes to the road, only to discover that his uncle Chet’s manuals, and Max’s near complete memorization of them, is a ticket to the stars. But serving on a spaceship is no easy task. Duty is everything, and a mistake can mean you and all aboard are lost forever. Max loves every minute of his new life, and he steadily grows in the trust of his superior officers, and seems to be on course for a command track position. But then disaster strikes, and it’s going to take every trick Max ever learned from his tough life and his uncle’s manuals to save himself and the ship from a doom beyond extinction itself. From the First Golden Age of Heinlein, this is the so-called juvenile (written, Heinlein always claims, just as much for adults) that started them all and made Heinlein a legend for multiple generations of readers.
The Star Beast — (1954) Publisher: Lummox has been the pet of the Stuart family for generations. With eight legs, a thick hide and huge (and growing) size, Lummox is nobody’s idea of man’s best friend. Nevertheless, John Stuart XI, descendant of the starman who originally brought Lummox back to Earth from a distant planet, loves him. John isn’t about to let the authorities take his pet away and, with his best friend Betty, determines to save Lummox even if it takes leaving the life he’s known forever. However, what John and Betty don’t realize is that the survival of the Earth itself may depend on the true nature of The Star Beast. An all-time great science fiction coming-of-age classic from seven-time Hugo winner and Dean of Science Fiction, Robert A. Heinlein.
Double Star — (1955) Publisher: One minute, down and out actor Lorenzo Smythe was — as usual — in a bar, drinking away his troubles as he watched his career go down the tubes. Then a space pilot bought him a drink, and the next thing Smythe knew, he was shanghaied to Mars. Suddenly he found himself agreeing to the most difficult role of his career: impersonating an important politician who had been kidnapped. Peace with the Martians was at stake — failure to pull off the act could result in interplanetary war. And Smythe’s own life was on the line — for if he wasn’t assassinated, there was always the possibility that he might be trapped in his new role forever!
Tunnel in the Sky — (1955) Publisher: It was just a test… But something had gone wrong. Terribly wrong. What was to have been a standard ten-day survival test had suddenly become an indefinite life-or-death nightmare. Now they were stranded somewhere in the universe, beyond contact with Earth… at the other end of a tunnel in the sky. This small group of young men and women, divested of all civilized luxuries and laws, were being forced to forge a future of their own… a strange future in a strange land where sometimes not even the fittest could survive!
Time for the Stars — (1956) Publisher: Travel to other planets is a reality, and with overpopulation stretching the resources of Earth, the necessity to find habitable worlds is growing ever more urgent. With no time to wait years for communication between slower-than-light spaceships and home, the Long Range Foundation explores an unlikely solution — human telepathy. Identical twins Tom and Pat are enlisted to be the human radios that will keep the ships in contact with Earth, but one of them has to stay behind while the other explores the depths of space.This is one of Heinlein’s triumphs.
Citizen of the Galaxy — (1957) Publisher: In a distant galaxy, the atrocity of slavery was alive and well, and young Thorby was just another orphaned boy sold at auction. But his new owner, Baslim, is not the disabled beggar he appears to be: adopting Thorby as his son, he fights relentlessly as an abolitionist spy. When the authorities close in on Baslim, Thorby must ride with the Free Traders — a league of merchant princes — throughout the many worlds of a hostile galaxy, finding the courage to live by his wits and fight his way from society’s lowest rung. But Thorby’s destiny will be forever changed when he discovers the truth about his own identity….
The Door into Summer — (1957) Publisher: Brilliant engineer Dan Davis finds himself hoodwinked by his greedy business partners and forced to take the Long Sleep… placing him in suspended animation for 30 years. But his partners never anticipated the existence of time travel, enabling Dan to exact his revenge and alter his own future…
Have Spacesuit, Will Travel — (1958) Publisher: A classic novel from the mind of the storyteller who captures the imagination of readers from around the world, and across two generations. First prize in the Skyway Soap slogan contest was an all-expenses-paid trip to the Moon. The consolation prize was an authentic space suit, and when scientifically minded high school senior Kip Russell won it, he knew for certain he would use it one day to make a sojourn of his own to the stars. But “one day” comes sooner than he thinks when he tries on the suit in his backyard — and finds himself worlds away, a prisoner aboard a space pirate’s ship, and heading straight for what could be his final destination….
Starship Troopers — (1959) Publisher: The historians can’t seem to settle whether to call this one “The Third Space War” (or the fourth), or whether “The First Interstellar War” fits it better. We just call it “The Bug War.” Everything up to then and still later were “incidents,” “patrols,” or “police actions.” However, you are just as dead if you buy the farm in an “incident” as you are if you buy it in a declared war… In one of Robert A. Heinlein’s most controversial bestsellers, a recruit of the future goes through the toughest boot camp in the Universe — and into battle with the Terran Mobile Infantry against mankind’s most alarming enemy.
Stranger in a Strange Land — (1961) Publisher: Here at last is the complete, uncut version of Heinlein’s all-time masterpiece, the brilliant novel that grew from a cult favorite to a bestseller to a classic in a few short years. It is the story of Valentine Michael Smith, the man from Mars who taught humankind grokking and water-sharing. And love.
Podkayne of Mars — (1962) Publisher: Podkayne Fries, born and raised on Mars, has just one ambition: to earn her wings as a starship pilot and rise through the ranks to command deep-space explorations. The opportunity to travel aboard the Tricorn — on an interstellar journey to Venus and Earth in the company of her diplomat uncle-is a dream come true. Poddy’s idea of diplomacy is keeping the peace with her troublesome brother, Clark, but she’s about to learn some things about war and peace. Because her uncle is the Ambassador from Mars to the Three Planets Conference, which makes him — and his niece and nephew-potential targets for any radicals looking to sabotage the negotiations between three worlds.
Farnham’s Freehold — (1964) Publisher: A Robert A. Heinlein classic reissued with an all new celebrity forward by noted Heinlein biographer Bill Patterson and afterword penned by three-time award-winner for fan writing and science fiction scholar John Hertz. It’s a cross-time fight for freedom as a family retreats to a bomb shelter during a nuclear attack – only to emerge hundreds of years in the future, thrown forward in time by the blasts. There lifeboat ethics rule as they struggle to survive… until they’re discovered by up-time humans, the survivors of the apocalypse. These survivors are of African descent. Down-time humans – in fact, all of the European-descended – are held guilty for the state into which the world has fallen and designated as automatic slaves. The only escape is to find a way back down-time, to change events sufficiently to make absolute certain this nightmare future never get a chance to happen in the first place!
I Will Fear No Evil — (1970) Publisher: Once again, master storyteller Robert A. Heinlein delivers a wild and intriguing classic of science fiction. Written at the dawn of the 1970s, this novel is the brilliantly shocking story of the ultimate transplant. As startling and provocative as his famous Stranger in a Strange Land, here is Heinlein’s grand masterpiece about a man supremely talented, immensely old, and obscenely wealthy who discovers that money can buy everything. Johann Sebastian Bach Smith was immensely rich — and very old. Though his mind was still keen, his body was worn out. His solution was to have surgeons transplant his brain into a new body. The operation was a great success — but the patient was no longer Johann Sebastian Bach Smith. He was now fused with the very vocal personality of his gorgeous, recently deceased secretary, Eunice — with mind-blowing results! Together they must learn to share control of her body.
Friday — (1982) Publisher: Engineered from the finest genes, and trained to be a secret courier in a future world, Friday operates over a near-future Earth, where chaos reigns. Working at Boss’s whimsical behest she travels from far north to deep south, finding quick, expeditious solutions as one calamity after another threatens to explode in her face….
Job: A Comedy of Justice — (1984) Publisher: After he firewalked in Polynesia, the world wasn’t the same for Alexander Hergensheimer, now called Alec Graham. As natural accidents occurred without cease, Alex knew Armageddon and the Day of Judgement were near. Somehow he had to bring his beloved heathen, Margrethe, to a state of grace, and, while he was at it, save the rest of the world ….
The Cat Who Walks Through Walls: A Comedy of Manners — (1985) Methuselah’s Children, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Time Enough For Love, and The Number of the Beast. Publisher: Framed for murder, married to the exquisite Gwen Novak, fleeing for his life in the Wild West free enterprise zones of the moon, Colonel Colin Campbell (23rd century writer, traveller and bon viveur) is pursued by mysterious forces. Heinlein is also the author of “Stranger in a Strange Land”.
To Sail Beyond the Sunset — (1987) The story of Maureen Johnson Long who is a character in several of Heinlein’s previous novels. This is a sequel to The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. Publisher: The millions of fans of Lazarus Long — probably Heinlein’s most beloved character — will flock to this new tale, which continues adventures of the characters of The Cat Who Walked Through Walls.
For Us, the Living: A Comedy of Customs — (2003) Publisher: From Grandmaster Robert A. Heinlein comes a long-lost first novel, written in 1939 and never before published, introducing ideas and themes that would shape his career and define the genre that is synonymous with his name. July 12, 1939 Perry Nelson is driving along the palisades when suddenly another vehicle swerves into his lane, a tire blows out, and his car careens off the road and over a bluff. The last thing he sees before his head connects with the boulders below is a girl in a green bathing suit, prancing along the shore…. When he wakes, the girl in green is a woman dressed in furs and the sun-drenched shore has transformed into snowcapped mountains. The woman, Diana, rescues Perry from the bitter cold and takes him inside her home to rest and recuperate. Later they debate the cause of the accident, for Diana is unfamiliar with the concept of a tire blowout and Perry cannot comprehend snowfall in mid-July. Then Diana shares with him a vital piece of information: The date is now January 7. The year…2086. When his shock subsides, Perry begins an exhaustive study of global evolution over the past 150 years. He learns, among other things, that a United Europe was formed and led by Edward, Duke of Windsor; former New York City mayor LaGuardia served two terms as president of the United States; the military draft was completely reconceived; banks became publicly owned and operated; and in the year 2003, two helicopters destroyed the island of Manhattan in a galvanizing act of war. This education in the ways of the modern world emboldens Perry to assimilate to life in the twenty-first century. But education brings with it inescapable truths — the economic and legal systems, the government, and even the dynamic between men and women remain alien to Perry, the customs of the new day continually testing his mental and emotional resolve. Yet it is precisely his knowledge of a bygone era that will serve Perry best, as the man from 1939 seems destined to lead his newfound peers even further into the future than they could have imagined. A classic example of the future history that Robert Heinlein popularized during his career, For Us, The Living marks both the beginning and the end of an extraordinary arc of political, social, and literary crusading that comprises his legacy. Heinlein could not have known in 1939 how the world would change over the course of one and a half centuries, but we have our own true world history to compare with his brilliant imaginings, rendering For Us, The Living not merely a novel, but a time capsule view into our past, our present, and perhaps our future.
Variable Star — (2006) With Spider Robinson. Publisher: A never-before-published masterpiece from science fiction’s greatest writer, rediscovered after more than half a century. When Joel Johnston first met Jinny Hamilton, it seemed like a dream come true. And when she finally agreed to marry him, he felt like the luckiest man in the universe. There was just one small problem. He was broke. His only goal in life was to become a composer, and he knew it would take years before he was earning enough to support a family. But Jinny wasn’t willing to wait. And when Joel asked her what they were going to do for money, she gave him a most unexpected answer. She told him that her name wasn’t really Jinny Hamilton — it was Jinny Conrad, and she was the granddaughter of Richard Conrad, the wealthiest man in the solar system. And now that she was sure that Joel loved her for herself, not for her wealth, she revealed her family’s plans for him — he would be groomed for a place in the vast Conrad empire and sire a dynasty to carry on the family business. Most men would have jumped at the opportunity. But Joel Johnston wasn’t most men. To Jinny’s surprise, and even his own, he turned down her generous offer and then set off on the mother of all benders. And woke up on a colony ship heading out into space, torn between regret over his rash decision and his determination to forget Jinny and make a life for himself among the stars. He was on his way to succeeding when his plans — and the plans of billions of others — were shattered by a cosmic cataclysm so devastating it would take all of humanity’s strength and ingenuity just to survive.