Have Space Suit — Will Travel: Appealing space adventure for kids

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsHave Space Suit — Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein YA science fiction book reviewsHave Space Suit — Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein

More than anything, Kip Russell wants to go to the moon, and that means he needs to go to college first — the best college he can manage to get into and pay for. So, with the encouragement of his father, who has (gleefully) pointed out the deficiencies in Kip’s public education (and complained extensively about taxes), Kip educates himself and works hard to earn money. When he enters a slogan contest for a national soap company, he hopes to win the money he needs for tuition, but instead he wins an old space suit which he engineers into a functional suit.

During a trial run in his new decked-out suit, Kip gets picked up by ugly evil aliens. On their spaceship he meets an eleven year old American girl named PeeWee and a cute cuddly alien they call The Mother Thing. Kip, PeeWee and The Mother Thing must foil the plans of the evil aliens. In the process Kip, who thought all he ever wanted to do was go to the moon, goes on a universe-spanning adventure and ends up on trial representing the human race.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsHave Space Suit — Will Travel is another of Robert A. Heinlein’s appealing children’s space adventures. Most of them have intelligent and hard-working young protagonists (both male and female), are fast-paced and exciting, and most of them try to Say Something About Life. Often there’s a less-than-subtle attempt to indoctrinate kids with a bit of libertarian propaganda. In Have Space Suit — Will Travel, the virtues of education, hard work, and courage are extolled while taxes and public education are maligned. Thoughtful children may notice that Kip and PeeWee are required to defend the barbarous human race in front of the more highly evolved aliens, and this is not an easy thing to do!

Have Space Suit — Will Travel isn’t one of my favorite Heinlein juveniles for a couple of reasons. It gets rather gadgety as Kip works with his spacesuit, and these technical passages tend to run on. But most objectionable is that Kip and PeeWee are hard to believe in. They are experts in pretty much every academic discipline you can think of — biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, philosophy, history, languages… I could go on. I found their vast stores of knowledge to be implausible and their smugness to be a tad annoying.

However, in general I much prefer any of Heinlein’s juveniles to his novels for adults which tend to be sexist and provocative in a creepy way (e.g., nudity, boobs, and incest are common elements). In Have Space Suit — Will Travel, the sexism is seen when Kip keeps calling PeeWee “honey” in a condescending manner, but at least this story, and many other Heinlein juveniles, feature women who are smart and/or educated.

Have Space Suit — Will Travel is likely to please the target audience and many adults, too. Besides, it’s a classic, and every SF fan should read the classics. I listened to Blackstone Audio’s recent version which is almost nine hours long and expertly read by Mark Turetsky. I thought Turetsky’s voice was perfect for this children’s story — his enthusiasm and inflection sound just like a young teenage boy.


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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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