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.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Time Enough For Love”

  1. At one time Heinlein was my very favorite author and he is still my favorite from the “classic era” of sci-fi. I thought it was a great book and the “Dora” story was by far my favorite section too.

      1. There is that and also,with a book with “Love” in the title, the Dora episode is the closest to a real love story, a bitter sweet one at that.

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