Time Enough For Love: For masochists only

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Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein science fiction book reviewsTime Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein

You’d think I’d learn, but no, I just keep torturing myself with Heinlein’s adult novels. That’s because when I was a kid, Heinlein was one of my favorite authors, so I still think of him that way. I know it’s not that my tastes have changed because I still love those books I read as a kid. The problem is that many of the books he wrote for his adult audiences, especially those he wrote in his later years, are just horrid. And Time Enough for Love (1973), even though it’s a classic, is one of these. It’s everything I hate about Heinlein’s later novels. In fact, if I had to sum it up in one word, I’d say “YUCK!”

Time Enough for Love is the last of Heinlein’s novels about Lazarus Long. In fact, the full title is Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long. Lazarus is 2000 years old. He feels like he’s done it all and he’s refusing new rejuvenation treatments because he’s ready to die (and oh how I wish he would!). But the leader of his vast array of descendants wants to keep Lazarus around because he has so much wisdom (**snort!**) to impart. So, the entire long book (589 pages MMPB, 24 hours on audio) consists of Lazarus imparting this wisdom in a series of lectures, parables, and proverbs interspersed with interludes of weird alien sex.

For anyone who’s read any Heinlein, you’ve heard all this wisdom before. I’m sure you can guess what it is. It’s all about how government sucks, taxes suck, surveillance sucks, public education sucks, lawyers suck, farm subsidies suck, compounding interest sucks, politicians suck, slavery sucks, chastity girdles suck (yes, these show up more than once). Granted, most of these things DO suck, but when my favorite record starts skipping, well that sucks, too!

Some of Lazarus’s wisdom is just strings of proverbs: Never trust that the gun isn’t loaded, live each day for itself, don’t argue with the weather, always cut the deck yourself, don’t make your lies too complicated, etc. Some are full-blown lectures. (Heinlein loves to lecture!) There are long lessons in genetics (a bunch of blather), economics, how to deal with women, the importance of education and cleanliness, the importance of proper arch supports for pregnant women, how to properly deliver a baby, how to run a gourmet restaurant while still having time for sex three times a day, how to properly behead a robber, how to load a wagon train for survival… it goes on and on in the most mind-numbing fashion.

And then there are all of Heinlein’s weird fetishes. These show up in many of his adult novels. Nudity, incest, spanking adult women, polygamy, incest, ménage a’ trois, incest, wife sharing, masturbation, incest, Oedipus complex, groups of adults bathing and massaging each other. Time Enough for Love has some really bizarre touches such as a horny computer, a man offering to pluck a woman’s gray pubic hair, another man who samples his wife’s breast milk, a few gynecological examinations (including by fathers), and several mentions of the “family sport” and “Uncle Cuddly.” EW!!!!!

The worst thing about Time Enough For Love, however, is simply that it’s boring. Really boring! I suffered during the 24 hour audiobook produced by Blackstone Audio. I had to increase the playback speed to get through it faster. I kept thinking about poor Tom Weiner, the narrator. He did a superb job, as he always does, but the poor man! Well, at least he got paid. As for me, I wish I had those hours back.

Time Enough For Love is recommended for masochists only.

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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 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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  1. Well, there are two ways to handle this. 1) Go back to the YA Heinlein books you (we all) loved. Those actually hold up, to a certain extent. 2) Approach those later and far less successful books as a time capsule project and pick up a couple of other books published that year as a comparison. It might be interesting to see what Ursula LeGuin, Ted Sturgeon or Robert Silverberg published the same year Time Enough for Love came out.

    For me, his “groovy seventies” books peaked with Stranger in a Strange Land and went sharply downhill after that. And I always thought with those later ones that he, much like Stephen King a few years later, was no longer getting the benefit of a good editor who would have pared the books down to a manageable size.

    • Fortunately I have been interspersing these with the juveniles that, I’m pleased to say, I still love. Blackstone Audio has been re-releasing a bunch of them on audio recently.

      I have read quite a bit of Silverberg’s work which was published around this time and there are many of the same themes, especially the free love and incest, but at least there was usually something ELSE going on in Silverberg’s stories, too. In Time Enough For Love, there really wasn’t anything else.

      But, even though I hated the book, I’m glad I read it just for the education.

  2. Yeah, Heinlein really cut loose with full-bore creepiness, almost a parody of the author as a dirty old man. I regret to say I read this back in high school and found it only slightly disturbing. Guess my judgement was pretty suspect back then. I don’t think I’d give it any more time again. As Marion said, this guy was too big to be subjected to an editor, since his name alone would sell tons of copies no matter how awful the books were.

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