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.