Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: Forty Thousand in Gehenna

Book Name: Forty Thousand in Gehenna
Author: C.J. Cherryh
First Published: 1983
Nominated for Locus Award (1984)

Author Carolyn Janice Cherry is better known by her pen name C. J. Cherryh. She is a Hugo Award winning science fiction and fantasy writer with 40 novels under her belt. Cherryh is pronounced “Cherry”. When she first began publishing her stories in the early 70s, Cherryh was asked to create a pen name by DAW editor Donald Wollheim. He felt that her real name more fit a romance writer instead of a science fiction writer. She also switched to using her initials to disguise that she was female. This was a common practice at the time since women authors were not as accepted in the genre as male authors were. Fortunately, that is no longer the norm in the genre.

C.J. Cherryh was born in 1942 and raised in Lawton, Oklahoma. In 1964, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Latin from the University of Oklahoma, and went on to gain a Master of Arts in classics from Johns Hopkins University. After graduation, Cherryh became a high school teacher of Latin, Ancient Greek and the classics

After graduation, Cherryh taught secondary school in the Oklahoma City public school district. While her job was teaching Latin, her passion was history. During her summers off, she would conduct student tours of ancient ruins in England, France, Spain, and Italy.

As busy as she was, Cherryh could not shake the writing bug. She had been writing stories since the age of ten and continued to write novels in her spare time. She did not follow the usual path of science fiction writers of the time, starting with publishing short stories in the national magazines of the day, but instead her focus was on writing novels. While Cherryh has written shorter works, she did not begin to do so until after she had published several of her novels first.

Her break came in 1975 when Donald Wollheim bought two manuscripts she submitted to DAW Books. She stated once in an interview on Amazing Stories, “It was the first time a book really found an ending and really worked, because I had made contact with Don Wollheim at DAW, found him interested, and was able to write for a specific editor whose body of work and type of story I knew. It was a good match. It was a set of characters I’d invented when I was, oh, about thirteen. So it was an old favorite of my untold stories, and ended up being the first in print.”

It was the start of a long and fruitful friendship. Cherryh has gone on to publish almost 40 novels, most of them with DAW, but not exclusively, and still continues to write more books today. She has won the Hugo Award for Best Novel twice, first for Downbelow Station and then again for Cyteen, novels that are part of the Alliance-Union Universe series that Forty Thousand in Gehenna is also part of.

Currently, Ms. Cherryh lives in Spokane, Washington, with her partner science fiction/fantasy author and artist Jane Fancher. She enjoys skating, traveling and is a regular guest at many science fiction conventions.

Culture is how biology responds and makes its living conditions better. – C. J. Cherryh

Forty Thousand in Gehenna is not a normal story about the colonization of a planet where an intrepid group of humans set up a foothold on a world and build. Instead, it is the story broken into two main sections with a few smaller vignettes bridging. The characters are born and die of old age as the centuries go by. The focus of the novel is about the interaction between humans, from Cherryh’s Alliance-Union universe, and the Caliban, large lizard aliens that are not the unintelligent animals the colonists were led to believe when they first arrive.

Gehenna, which means “hell”, is an experimental colony set up by Union. It is made up of a small faction of “born men” and forty thousand “azi”. The azi live to the age of 40 and then their bodies fail. When they are cloned in the lab, each human azi is programmed psychologically so that he or she is subservient to the born men and happy in their place in society. They are the worker slaves of the Union civilization and outnumber their aristocratic masters a thousand to one. The azi are the key to how Union manages to take over worlds ahead of their competitors, the merchants of the Alliance, giving biological numbers to the leaders of Union to place where they will.

The first part of the novel is about the original colonists and follows a born-man named Gutierrez who comes aboard the colony disguised as an azi and a clone named Jin and his love interest Pia. Within a few years, it is realized that Union has abandoned Gehenna and no more supplies or the promised azi labs arrive as scheduled. The colony begins to fall apart as the machines break down. The azi begin to have children instead of reproducing via cloning techniques and teach their programming to their children as best they can. In the mix, the alien Caliban intrude as the settlers realize that the giant lizards are far more intelligent than first realized. The azi children imprint on the Caliban as well as their azi parents. This creates a entirely new culture that grows more different as the centuries go forward.

The middle of the book covers when Alliance discovers Gehenna and via a mix of reports and chapters from many different points of view, we see how the outside stellar civilization sees what is happening on the planet in the long view. Alliance meddles in the Gehenna culture with ill effects.

The final part of the novel covers a war between the descendants of Jin and Pia’s two children. The descendants have formed three cultures, one is aggressive and “male” the other is more passive and “female”. The third group are termed “weirds”. They are people that choose to live with the Caliban in their tunnels. All groups have formed a symbiosis relationship with the alien Calibans. While the Alliance watches and files reports, the cultures clash for domination of Gehenna.

40K in Gehenna Book CoverDiving into the Alliance-Union Universe can be confusing. There are a great many novels, some of which follow their own mini-series inside the series. This book can be considered the first of a trilogy, the final installment only being written a few years ago. The original cover of a girl riding a Caliban lizard into battle is what originally drew me to the book. It reminded me a great deal of McCaffery’s dragons of Pern, who also had a symbiotic relationship with their human partners. As it turns out, the Caliban are a more complex komodo dragon with a unique way of communication. You learn about it via submersion just as the colonists do in the story. Cherryh is a master at not only developing sweeping historical world views that explore intricate human cultures of her own devising, but she also is adapt at creating stunning alien cultures.

I am fascinated by the concept of the human clones known as azi. Here in Gehenna we get a good look at the Union’s tank-bred, hypnotic-tape-education workforce. The azi make up most of Union’s population and has allowed it to out-breed Sol and the Alliance in these stories, but at what cost? Cloning is a process that is starting in our day and age. The morals and ethics behind the technology have not been fully addressed. What was once science fiction may soon be science fact.

Finally, I enjoy that Cherryh does employ female protagonists in her stories. While in the first section she followed two male Azi, in the last section the protagonist was a girl named Elai who was certainly no wimp and proved to have the wit to fight for her community and people. The 1980s is known for introducing female characters who were independent and functional as full characters in their own right instead of always being the “love interest” for the men.

While Cyteen is the Hugo Award Winner, I feel that you should start with Forty Thousand in Gehenna since it precedes Cyteen chronologically in the series. The two books can be read independently of each other and be fully understandable, but it works better if you read the two together.

Unionside Series of the Alliance-Union Universe

Forty Thousand in Gehenna (1983)
Cyteen (1988) – Hugo and Locus SF Award winner, British Science Fiction Award nominee, 1989
Regenesis (2009)

Book Review: Crystal Singer

Book Name: Crystal Singer
Author: Anne McCaffrey
First Published: 1982

Anne McCaffrey was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The only daughter of three siblings and the middle child, she grew up on the east coast of the United States. Eventually, she graduated cum laude from College where she gained a degree in Slavonic Languages and Literature. In 1950 she married Horace Johnson and they had three children: Alec, Todd and Gigi. The family lived in Wilmington, Delaware for around a decade and then moved to Sea Cliff, Long Island in 1965 where they remained until 1970. During this time, Anne McCaffrey began to work full time as a writer and served a term as the secretary-treasurer of the Science Fiction Writers of America. Her duties not only included the publishing of two monthly newsletters for the guild, but she also handcrafted the Nebula Award trophies.

In 1970, McCaffrey divorced her husband and weeks later took her children to live in Ireland. During the 1970s, Ireland offered artists to live exempted from income taxes and Anne McCaffrey, being of Irish descent, emigrated to Ireland to take advantage of this opportunity. Anne’s mother soon joined the family where they lived in Dublin. McCaffrey’s books about the dragons that lived in a symbiotic relationship with the human settlers of the planet Pern became bestsellers and classics of science fiction. They paid for her cottage in Ireland that she called “Dragonhold” in honor of the dragons that supported herself and her children. She lived there until her death at the age of eighty five.

The roots of the Crystal Singer series begins while Anne McCaffery was a student studying voice. She performed as a singer, directed a play and was employed by the record label, Liberty Music Shop. Despite these successes, it was during her later years of study that she was informed that there was a flaw in her voice that would limit her in achieving in the field of music. McCaffery was devastated by this experience and used it in the Crystal Singer series to shape her main character Killashandra Ree.

The book first began as a series of shorts that were published in Continuum Magazine.

    “Prelude to a Crystal Song”, Continuum 1 (Apr 1974)
    “Killashandra – Crystal Singer”, Continuum 2 (Aug 1974)
    “Milekey Mountain”, Continuum 3 (Dec 1974)
    “Killashandra – Coda and Finale”, Continuum 4 (Aug 1975)

In the short stories, Killashandra Ree dies, but when McCaffery decided to combine all the short stories into a single novel, she revised all the shorts heavily to not only blend them into a single story, but changed the main character’s ultimate fate. The name of the crystal singer was inspired by a small town in north central Ireland called Killeshandra.

“There’s nothing wrong in doubting. It sometimes leads to greater faith.”
― Anne McCaffrey

Crystal Singer begins when a young vocal student named Killashandra Ree is finishing ten years of study in order to become a vocal soloist of a futuristic civilization known as the Federated Sentient Planets. She anticipates becoming a “rock star” of interstellar proportions. During her final exams, it is discovered that she has a fatal flaw in her voice that will forever prevent her from singing lead roles, despite her perfect pitch and performing talents. Killashandra is heartbroken and plans to leave both the school and her home world in private disgrace.

At the spaceport she meets an older man who uses his musical skills to identify an arriving space shuttle that is about to explode to the authorities, averting the disaster. The two hit it off and he treats her to a whirlwind romance on her home world while he is on vacation. She grows curious about her new lover and his profession of “crystal singer”. It is a occupation of people with perfect musical pitch that use their voices to control devices in which to mine a very rare crystalline mineral on the planet of Ballybran. These crystals are used in most of the complex systems that power interstellar communications and power much of the machinery of her civilization. It is a dangerous profession, but one that earns high credits and has a select and small membership. Although she is warned away repeatedly, Killashandra is drawn to the mysterious Heptite Guild and becomes determined to become a crystal singer herself.

Travel to Ballybran is forbidden to all but its residents. On the moon of Ballybran, Killashandra learns the reason why. Anyone that ventures onto the planet is infected by a symbiotic life form that invades the human body and causes genetic mutations. Many people simply die. Others only gain a partial adaptation that allows them to live, but with reduced hearing or eyesight. They are forever confined to the planet, unable to leave because if they do the symbiont dies and they along with it. Those few that get a full adaption to the symbiont become the crystal singers who gain increased vision and hearing, rapid healing and a long life. It makes them sterile and in the end they suffer memory loss, paranoia and dementia, but only after hundreds of years of life. They also can depart Ballybran for short periods of time without their symbiont dying.

Headstrong and stubborn, Killashandra journeys to Ballybran along with thirty other inductees. The novel follows her and her classmates during their education while they wait for the invading infection. One by one, they fall to the symbiont until all have been converted. During this time she gains the attention of the head of the guild, a man named Lanzecki. He offers her a job that she can’t refuse, one that not only allows her to use her new skills as a crystal singer, but one that might allow her to present a public performance that would put her back in the spotlight she trained all those years for.

Crystal Singer Book CoverI have always loved the Crystal Singer series by Anne McCaffery. I first read the book when it was first released in the early 80’s and felt a strong identification with the main character, Killashandra Ree. She is a complex character, a combination of confidence that borders on arrogance and yet inside she is shy and vulnerable. Many artists have this sort of personality and I liked that she was a strong woman that was willing to take control of her own life in the face of failure. She felt like a real and likable woman to me.

The Federated Sentient Planets that Killashandra lives in is powered not by manufactured technology, such as ours is, but by natural forming crystals that can be sung into service. I love the concept of human art meeting function in this way. It is quite unique and the world of Ballybran and the Heptite Guild society is an interesting concept. The visual of the crystal singer serenading a mountain side and it singing back to her is powerful and one that you will not soon forget. Of all the series set in the universe, I feel that this one is the most clerical in nature. You need a card for everything and the machines monitor all the details. It reminds me of our current way of life.

There are some outdated qualities to the book. During the late 70s and early 80s, sexual freedom was thought to be women sleeping around much as single men of the time period did. Killashandra has several lovers in this fashion. The sex is free and easy, completely consensual, but without long term attachments. There are no steamy sex scenes in the book, but in my view the easy going relationships don’t quite mesh with what we might think of feminism now.

The men in the book were also somewhat paternalistic toward the female main character. Again, this was a common attitude during this decade and it has carried over into the culture of this interstellar society. It is not as bad as in some books and for the most part I felt that Killashandra was treated as an equal by peers, even when they could not stand her for her “perfection”.

While Crystal Singer is not a Nebula or Hugo award winner, it does have staying power and I believe that it would most appeal to high school or college aged readers. It can be a little difficult to find at the local library due to its age, but you should be able to find it on the online outlet of your choice. Go and find the books. If you love classic science fiction and enjoy reading females authors in this genre, Crystal Singer is a great choice.

Crystal Singer Series

Crystal Singer 1982
Killashandra 1986
Crystal Line 1992

Book Review: Red Mars

Book Name: Red Mars
Author: Kim Stanley Robinson
First Published: 1993
Nebula Award Winner for Best Novel 1993

Author Kim Stanley Robinson was born in Waukegan, Illinois, but mainly grew up in Southern California. He earned a B.A. in literature from the University of California, San Diego in 1974 and gained a Masters in English from Boston University in 1982. He returned to his California ala mater in 1984 to finish a PhD in English.

Robinson is an avid backpacker and many of his novels feature characters that hike or climb mountains including his Mars Trilogy. He doesn’t consider himself to be a mountain climber, more of a man that loves the great outdoors. In 2009, Robinson was a Clarion Workshop instructor and the following year he was the guest of honor at the 68th World Con. His novels have won 11 major science fiction awards and 29 nominations.

He is married with two sons and his family currently resides in Davis, California.

“History was like some vast thing that was always over the tight horizon, invisible except in its effects. It was what happened when you weren’t looking — an unknowable infinity of events, which although out of control, controlled everything.”
― Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars

The epic novel Red Mars begins when one hundred participants are chosen to go to the red planet after a detailed and rigorous selection process. The winners are geniuses from Russia and the United States along with a few other countries. They undertake a nine month space mission to reach their goal of forming a colony base on Mars. “Underhill” has nuclear generators for power, medical stations are established, GMO foods are produced on martian farms and new life forms that can survive on the Martian surface unprotected are also genetically created. During this time, a debate that started on the spacecraft and continues both on Mars and Earth about the moral right of humans to terraform and mine Mars for their own profit.

Two factions arise on Mars. One is the Reds, led by Ann Cayborne. She believes that Mars should not be used for corporate profit or for Earth’s expansion. The other are the Greens, led by Sax Russell. He believes that terraforming is important in order for life on Mars to continue. As time goes on, these and other political arguments tear the martian settlement apart, even as more new Earth immigrants arrive to worsen the situation. Added to the mix is a new discovery by a medical team, a drug that grants near immortality. One of the medical team disappears with a group of followers and they harvest many eggs in order to produce children at will.

What was once a scientific operation, turns into a struggle for power by governments and international companies who wish to carve out a piece of Mars for themselves. Mining on Mars increases and more workers are imported from Earth to handle the work load. The new city domes become crowded and understaffed. Riots begin as water and other supplies are lost or damaged, causing massive flooding and death. Even the entire moon of Phobos is destroyed in the chaos.

Most of the first hundred colonists are killed in the resulting revolution. Their work is destroyed. The survivors take refuge in a hidden colony called Zygote under the southern pole and begin to build a new life for themselves on a chaotic and destroyed Mars.

Red Mars Book CoverOne of the draws of Robinson’s work is his detailed world building based on known science. There are many “sense of wonder” descriptions of the Martian landscape that draw you in as a reader and give you an appreciation for the natural environment. His details about the science behind the transformation of Mars make you wish that you could visit these people and places. As someone who enjoys natural beauty, this was one of the aspects of the novel that I enjoyed. I also liked how the author shifted the third-person point of view among the main characters of the book, allowing me to see Mars, its society and its culture through their different perspectives.

Robinson often features scientists as heroes, not because of their physical brawn, but more for the importance of their discoveries, networking or collaboration with other scientists. The characters struggle to preserve and enhance the world around them in a manner evoking individualism and entrepreneurship such as was found on the American Frontier a century ago. In Robinson’s novels, scientists must take responsibility for educating the public in the responsible use of their discoveries and often emerge as the best people to direct public policy on environmental and technological issues. Robinson could be considered an anti-capitalist, his ideas promote an egalitarianism that more in keeping with socialist ideals. The Martian Constitution in his Mars Trilogy, draws upon these social democratic ideals and focus on the community-participation elements in the Martian’s political and economic life. I personally do not agree with all his political views, however, Robinson is not overt in his preaching and it is tolerable if you keep an open mind and enjoy the environmental and technological ideas.

Whatever your views on his political ideas, Red Mars is a detailed portrayal of how this planet might be colonized in the near future with present day technology. Considering that there are programs in real life that are in the planning stages of going to Mars with an eye toward colonization, Robinson’s books are incredibly timely and an interesting read. It is my hope that the destruction and chaos that happens on Red Mars might be bypassed by our own colonists, but human nature being what it is, we can only hold our breath and hope for the best. I feel that the Mars Trilogy is well worth reading and I hope you’ll consider adding it to your to-read list.

The Mars Trilogy

Red Mars (1993) – Colonization
Green Mars (1994) – Terraforming
Blue Mars (1996) – Long-term results
The Martians (1999) – Short stories

Book Review: The Integral Trees

Book Name: The Integral Trees
Author: Larry Niven
First Published: 1984
Locus Award 1985

Larry Niven was born in Los Angeles, California and spent much of his childhood in Beverly Hills. His schooling has ranged from a brief stint at Cal Tec, Washburn University in Kansas, and graduate work in mathematics at UCLA. He ended up dropping out of school in order to write science fiction full-time.

His first story was published in Worlds of If. The Coldest Place was set on the dark side of Mercury and earned him a grand total of $25. As Niven continued to write, his friend and publisher, Fred Pohl, suggested that he write science fact based stories, pointing the author toward the “odd pockets of the universe.” Niven took the idea as his own and would become one of the more renown hard science fiction writers of the 20th century.

Niven’s “known space” universe exploded with life. His books were filled with unique aliens such as the Kzinti, Trinocs, Outsiders and Kdatlyno. His vivid descriptions of of worlds such as Jinx, Plateau and Down were devoured by the fans who all wanted more. Niven’s Opus is the series of books known as Ringworld, winner of the Hugo award. In this series, Niven created a Dyson Sphere and populated it with adventures and more unique aliens. The author has also had a career in writing for television. He has written scripts for series such as “Land of the Lost”, “Star Trek: The Animated Series”, and for DC Comics character Green Lantern.

In Niven’s later years, he has been writing in collaboration for the most part with authors Jerry Pournelle, Steven Barnes, Brenda Cooper and Edward M. Lerner. Two exceptions to this are The Integral Trees and its sequel, The Smoke Ring. This is his most ambitious world building vision since the creation of the Dyson Sphere of the Ringworld. In this series, Niven has created a massive, naturally-occurring free-fall environment that orbits a neutron star and has populated it with more of his unique characters. The Integral Trees was nominated for a Hugo for best novel (1985), nominated for a Nebula for Best Novel (1985), and was also nominated for a Science Fiction Chronicle Reader Award (1985).

Larry Niven lives in California with his wife and continues to turn out more wonderful books of hard science fiction, fantasy and other colorful subjects.

“The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn’t have a space program. And if we become extinct because we don’t have a space program, it’ll serve us right!”
― Larry Niven

The Integral Trees is a story set around the fictional neutron star Levoy’s Star (known as “Voy” in the book). A gas giant, called Goldblatt’s World and nicknamed “Gold”, orbits Voy just outside its Roche Limit. The planet’s gravity is not enough to keep its atmosphere and it has been pulled free into an independent orbit around the star and forms a gas torus ring. In the center of this torus is an inner ring where the air is thick enough to support life and is known as “The Smoke Ring”. Most of the plants in the Smoke Ring are fragile because they do not need to support their own weight. The exception to this are the “integral trees”, giant stalks with a green “tuff” at each end. They grown hundreds of miles long with one end pointed at Voy and the other at Gold. Due to the winds inside the ring, each end of the tree curves making the plant resemble the mathematical symbol for “integral”. Five hundred years ago, twenty astronauts from an interstellar “ramship” colonized the Smoke Ring. Their descendants have adapted to the free-fall environment and have lost much of their technology and culture. Due to the micro gravity, the people are very tall and thin and have developed prehensile toes as a second set of hands.

The story begins with the inhabitants of the Dalton-Quinn tree. Quinn tribe’s tree is slowly falling out of the smoke ring and is dying. The tribe is suffering from a severe drought. The leader decides to send a party up the tree, to hunt and recut the tribe markings, but he populates the group with the cripples and people he considers troublemakers to the tribe. It is not said, but they are being sent away to die.

When the party reaches the midpoint of the tree, they are attacked by the Dalton-Quinn tribe that live at the opposite end of the tree. During the battle, a tremor splits the tree in half causing the in-tuff where the Quinn tribe lives to fall closer to the neutron star and killing all of its inhabitants. The tree finds a new equilibrium that is closer to the Smoke Ring’s center. The surviors of the battle jump clear of the broken tree and are set adrift in the sky. They almost die of thirst before they hook a passing whale-like “moby” which takes them to a free-fall jungle of plant life. There they are catapulted into a battle between the Carther States who live in the jungle and the slave-runners from London Tree. The party is split when six of them are captured by the slavers and two remain in the jungle.

The Carther States counter-attacks a few weeks later and during the battle the Quinn Tribe members manage to steal London Tree’s CARM (Cargo And Repair Module), it is a small spacecraft that belonged to the original settles of the Smoke Ring. While the Quinn members do not completely understand how to pilot the CARM, they manage to fly it into the thinest part of the gas torus and see the naked stars for the first time.

Once in space, they attract the attention of the Interstellar ship Discipline that is being cared for by an AI named Kendy. The AI aids the occupants of the CARM and helps them return to the Smoke Ring safely, but what is there for them to return to? And what of the AI’s original mission?

Integral Trees Book CoverOne of the reasons why I wanted to review Larry Niven’s The Integral Trees, beyond the fact that it is a book I enjoyed in my college days and remember fondly, is that the complex habitat that he dreamed up with fellow writer Robert Forward is every bit as wild and wonderful as the author’s Ringworld, but of a more organic and analog nature. It is not as well known, but I feel that it is a series of books that should be given a second look.

The plot and characters of the book are simple. In fact, I would call the plot almost YA in nature due to the lack of character development. The constant warfare is a comment on human nature, but I found that the lack of female independence in his world to be stifling. I suppose that in regressing civilization, Niven felt that regressing the role of women in the smoke ring societies to be in a similar vein.

It is the world that Niven creates that is the real star of the book and it is not an accident that he begins the novel with diagrams of what the world and the trees look like, in order to help the reader understand this alien environment that he has envisioned. If you are not a mathematics major, you might miss why the trees are named as they are, being in the shape of a mathematical symbol for integral. The natives of the story do not refer to the trees this way. The world is lush, wondrous and full of mystery. It is a hard place to ever forget once you’ve read the book. I highly recommend The Integral Trees. It is a story that you should experience at least once.

The State Series
A World Out of Time (1976)—Locus SF Award nominee, 1977
The Integral Trees (1984)—Nebula Award nominee, 1984; Locus SF Award winner, and Hugo nominee, 1985
The Smoke Ring (1987)

Book Review: Time Enough For Love

Book Name: Time Enough For Love
Author: Robert A. Heinlein
First Published: 1973
Prometheus Hall of Fame Award recipient 1998
Nominated for Nebula 1973
Nominated for Hugo and Locus Awards 1974

Robert Anson Heinlein was born in 1907 to accountant Rex Ivar Heinlein and Bam Lyle Heinlein. He spent much of his childhood in Kansas City, Missouri and the values of the bible belt would play an influence on his science fiction, especially in his later works such as Time Enough For Love and To Sail Beyond The Sunset.

Heinlein’s first career was in the US Navy. He graduated from the US Naval Academy in Maryland in 1929 with a BS in naval engineering. He was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Lexington in 1931 where he worked in radio communications. During this time, Heinlein married his first wife, Elinor Curry, but their marriage was short lived. In 1932 his second marriage was to Leslyn MacDonald and this time it lasted for 15 years. MacDonald was a political radical and it created a stormy atmosphere in their marriage.

In 1934 Heinlein was discharged from the Navy due to pulmonary tuberculosis. He spent time going to graduate classes at UCLA in mathematics and physics, but he quit due to his poor health combined with an interest in politics. Although he had a small pension from the navy, it was not enough to live on comfortably. Heinlein engaged in different occupations over the next several years, including real estate sales and silver mining. He became connected with Upton Sinclair’s socialist End Poverty movement and when Sinclair gained the nomination for Governor of California, Heinlein was active as an operative in his campaign. In 1938, Heinlein would run for the California State Assembly, but he was unable to secure the seat.

With little money left in the bank after his bid for the assembly seat, Heinlein turned to writing in order to pay his mortgage. His first story, “Life-Line” was published in Astounding Science-Fiction in 1939. He had written it for a contest entry, but the payment for the article in the magazine was more money than winning the contest would have provided. He also branched out to writing for The Saturday Evening Post, being the first science fiction author to break into the mainstream with his story “The Green Hills of Earth”. In 1950, his story Destination Moon was made into a movie and won an academy award for special effects. From 1947 through 1959, each year Heinlein would write a single book geared toward teenagers. These novels would later be called his “juveniles”.

In the early 1950s, Heinlein met and befriended a chemical engineer named Virginia “Ginny” Gerstenfeld in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. When her own engagement fell through, she moved to California and studied at UCLA for doctoral studies in chemistry. As Heinlein’s second wife lost herself to alcoholism, Heinlein moved out and filed for divorce. He and Ginny rekindled their friendship into something more and when Heinlein was free they married and set up a home in Colorado. They would remain together until Heinlein’s death in 1988.

In 1959, Heinlein’s “juvenile” Starship Troopers was considered too controversial for a children’s book and was rejected by his regular publisher. Heinlein shopped the book to a competitor (Putnam) and it was purchased. Heinlein felt free of the constraints imposed on him by the children’s book publisher and declared that he would write “my own stuff, my own way”. Thus followed Stranger in a Strange Land and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, both of which would be award winners.

In the early 1970s, a decade of life-threatening attacks of peritonitis intruded into his life. The recovery period of the first attack was over two years. When he felt well enough after the attack, he began writing Time Enough For Love which would introduce many of the themes that would be found in his later novels. These themes touched on individualism, libertarianism and the expression of emotional and physical love. It was for these books that Heinlein won the Libertarian Futurist Society’s Prometheus Hall of Fame Award that is designed to honor classic libertarian fiction.

During the writing of his novel I Will Fear No Evil, Heinlein suffered another attack. He had a blocked carotid artery and was given one of the earliest known carotid bypass operations. While Heinlein continued to write during this time, his work suffered and his stories were not what his fans expected. It is thought that I Will Fear No Evil was a literary failure. It was not until the 1980s that his health improved enough that the old Robert A. Heinlein emerged and his final two novels were back to the quality the fans expected.

After Heinlein’s death in 1988, his wife Ginny created a compilation of her husband’s correspondence and notes into an autobiographical look at his writing career and it was published in 1989 as Grumbles from the Grave. Much of Robert A. Heinlein’s manuscript drafts, correspondence, photographs and artifacts are housed in the Special Collections department of McHenry Library at the University of Santa Cruz.

Oh, I have strong opinions, but a thousand reasoned opinions are never equal to one case of diving in and finding out. Galileo proved that and it may be the only certainty we have. – Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough For Love

Time Enough For Love begins with a 2400 year old man who desires to die, waking up in a clinic where many people who love him want to help him regain the desire to live. Lazarus Long has held every job imaginable, gone everywhere and seen everything that there is to be seen. He is weary of life and eager to embrace death. Lazarus agrees to not end his life as long as his companion, a descendant of his old friend Ira Weatherall of the Howard Families, will listen to his stories as he undergoes treatment. It is a reversal of the Arabian Nights fable where Scheherazade, the bride of a Persian King, tells a cliff-hanger story each night in order to stay the axe from her neck and in the end, saves her life and gains the heart of the King. In Lazarus’ case, the stories he tells stays his own hand from suicide.

Within this framework, Lazarus tells stories from his past spanning from the 20th Century on Earth, to following humanity’s journey out to the stars. The first story is “The Tale of the Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail”, about a young US Navy cadet who rises in the ranks by applying what he terms “constructive laziness”. The next is the controversial “The Tale of the Twins Who Weren’t”. Lazarus is a cargo trader and buys a pair of slaves, a brother and sister. He frees them, but they don’t understand the concept of freedom. All the twins want is be together as husband and wife, but the girl’s chastity belt prevents their union. They have no understanding of the taboo against incest. Lazarus determines that because the twins were a result of an experiment in genetic recombination, they are no more closely related genetically than two strangers who meet on the street. There is no biological reason that they could not remain together, marry and have healthy children. As a ship’s captain, he marries the twins as they desire and then helps to establish them as successful restaurant owners on a planet that his ship frequents.

The most popular tale of the book is “The Tale of the Adopted Daughter”. Lazarus, this time a banker and shopkeeper on a frontier world of approximately 19th century technology, saves a young girl named Dora from a burning building. He becomes her guardian. When she grows up, he marries her and the two set off to create a homestead in the wilderness. They found a new community and find happiness together. There is a catch, Lazarus doesn’t age due to being of “Howard stock” (He is immortal due to his genetic heritage.), but Dora is very mortal and lives a regular human lifespan. She dies of old age, leaving Lazarus behind in his grief.

By this time in the story, Lazarus is beginning to regain his love of life. The youth treatments he is receiving at the clinic have healed him physically, and his descendants have intrigued him enough to try again. He joins his family on the planet “Boondock” and they create a polyamorous family of three men, three women and a number of children, two of whom are female clones of Lazarus himself!

The final tale “Da Capo” is a time travel story where Lazarus returns to the time of the first world war to revisit the time of his childhood and see his original family again. In the trenches of the Western Front, he is wounded and would have gained his original wish to die, but is instead rescued by his cloned twins and returned to the future.

Time Enough For Love Book CoverTime Enough For Love is not a book for children and I do not recommend that it be read such. Yet, I seem to recall reading the book for the first time when I was only around twelve or thirteen years of age. I loved Heinlein’s juveniles and the character of Lazarus Long, so when Time Enough For Love emerged on the book shelves, I naturally reached for it. While there are many subjects in the book that are controversial, such as incest, at its core Heinlein cuts through many taboos that our society dictates with a gusto that you simply must marvel at. He had the audacity to say that all taboos are social constructs, with a possible biological basis, but when that basis disappears then taboos mean nothing. It is time to move on and enjoy your life.

This novel was written during a time in the author’s life when he was staring death in the face and this theme is central to Time Enough For Love. What if we do live forever? What if all of humanity has the ability of living for hundreds of years? Technology is bringing this possibility into reality in the not to distant future. The social mores we take for granted now will change significantly in the face of this. Heinlein is one of the few science fiction authors that has probed this concept and it does give one pause for thought.

I like this book and I will say that it has had some influence on me as a writer. My favorite “tale” is the one about Dora on the frontier world. Give it a try, but be warned that many of the ideas contained within the novel are controversial and may be offensive depending on your personal outlook.