Beyond This Horizon: Did Not Finish

Beyond This Horizon by Robert A. HeinleinBeyond 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 Heinlein’s fault is that he presents these ideas in lecture format. He spends most of the page count of Beyond This Horizon drily teaching us Mendelian inheritance, embryology, natural selection, and economics. I felt like I was back in high school.

There’s so much potential here for something really fascinating as a utopia deals with the economic consequences of having long lifespans and plenty of money. Heinlein mentions some of these issues, such as the ability to have a leisure lifestyle (which in this case includes wearing and dueling with personal firearms, one of Heinlein’s favorite themes) and the ability to invest in scientific research which would have the dubiously beneficial consequence of extending lifespans even further. Unfortunately, Heinlein doesn’t create an entertaining story with interesting characters to show us what might happen. Instead, he lectures us. A cursory attempt at plot is made, but it’s way too thin and patchy to handle these heavy topics.

Beyond This Horizon was only the second novel of the dozens Robert A. Heinlein published. I got about three-fourths of the way through before quitting. I was listening to Audible Frontier’s version narrated by Peter Ganim. Ganim has a great voice but his reading is a little dull. This is probably mostly the book’s fault, though.

Utopia has been achieved. Disease, hunger, poverty and war are found only in the history tapes, and applied genetics has brought a lifespan of over a century. But Hamilton Felix is bored. And he is the culmination of a star line; each of his last thirty ancestors chosen for superior genes. He is, as far as genetics can produce one, the ultimate man, yet sees no meaning in life. However, his life is about to become less boring. A secret cabal of revolutionaries plan to revolt and seize control. Knowing of Hamilton’s disenchantment with the modern world, they want him to join their Glorious Revolution. Big mistake! The revolutionaries are about to find out that recruiting a superman was definitely not a good idea…

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KAT HOOPER is a professor at the University of North Florida where she teaches neuroscience, psychology, and research methods courses. She occasionally gets paid to review scientific textbooks, but reviewing speculative fiction is much more fun. Kat lives with her husband and their children in Jacksonville Florida.

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3 comments

  1. Gee, kind of sounds like Tuesday night at the Heinleins’ house rather than a story, doesn’t it? In my mind I hear his wife saying, “Uh-huh, pass the carrots, please, dear.”

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