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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.

Book Review: The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress

Book Name: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Author: Robert A. Heinlein
First Published: 1966
Hugo Award for Best Novel 1967
Prometheus Award Hall of Fame Award recipient 1983

Robert A. Heinlein was born in 1907 and was known as one of the “big three” masters of classic science fiction along with Issac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. He was one of the most influential and controversial authors of science fiction. People to this day argue about the ideas that Heinlein presented and this would have undoubtedly delighted the man.

Heinlein invented many of the tropes we now take for granted in the genre of science fiction. His stories addressed the importance of individual liberty and self-reliance, the obligation that individuals owe to their culture, the influence of organized religion on society and government and the tendency of people to repress nonconformist thought.

“Revolution is an art that I pursue rather than a goal I expect to achieve. Nor is this a source of dismay; a lost cause can be as spiritually satisfying as a victory.”
― Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress begins during the year 2075 in the underground colonies of the Moon. These three million inhabitants are criminals, political exiles and their descendants from all over the Earth, with men outnumbering women 2:1. This makes polyandry the norm in “Loonie” culture. The Lunar Authority’s master computer, HOLMES IV (High-Optional, Logical, Multi-Evaluating Supervisor, Mark IV) has almost total control of Luna’s systems. When computer technician Manuel Garcia “Mannie” O’Kelly-Davis discovers that the AI computer has secretly become self aware, he names it “Mike” after Mycroft Holmes, the brother of Sherlock Holmes, and the two become friends.

Mike is curious about the inhabitants of the Moon and asks his friend Mannie to place a recorder in an anti-Authority meeting. When the cops come to raid the gathering, Mannie escapes with a blond agitator named Wyoming “Wyoh” Knott. Together, they join an elderly political activist, Professor Bernardo de la Paz who informs them that if Luna does not stop exporting hydroponic wheat to Earth, the imbalance caused by constant loss of bio-mass will result in food riots within seven years and cannibalism in nine. With nothing to replace what is loss, their ecosystem will collapse. Wyoh and the Professor want to start a revolution to solve this pressing problem and Mannie is persuaded to join them at Mike’s request.

The AI takes on a new persona named “Adam Selene” and becomes the leader of the revolution movement. Adam can only connect with humans via a phone, after all, he does not have a body, but by working with Mannie, Wyoh, and the Professor, he is able to be involved. At first, the covert cells, protected by the AI make little progress, but when Mannie saves the life of a rich, well-connected tourist, public opinion on Earth begins to look more favorably on the lunar colonists and their cause.

Earth does not release the Moon without a fight. Troops are sent to the Moon to quell the rebellion, but riots among the people erupt when a soldier rapes a female colonist. It is the last straw that provokes the Loonies to overthrow the Lunar Authority’s Protector and to create a defense system to protect the colonies from Earth. They modify an electromagnetic catapult that was once used to export wheat into a rock throwing weapon capable of much destruction on the planet.

The AI continues to control the communications and impersonates the “Warden” in messages to the Earth. This gives the revolutionists time to organize. The Professor sets up an “Ad-Hoc Congress” to distract any dissenters. Finally, Luna declares its independence on July 4, 2076, the 300th anniversary of the US Declaration of Independence.

Mannie and the Professor travel to Earth and are received by the Federated Nations. They begin a world tour to tout the benefits of a free Luna while urging the governments of Earth to build a catapult of their own to transfer bio supplies to Luna in exchange for grain. Their efforts are rejected and the two become imprisoned. Later, they are freed by the man they rescued at the beginning of the revolution and they travel with him back to the Moon. When they return, an election is held and Mannie, Wyoh, and the Professor are elected as leaders of Luna.

The Federated Nations of Earth once again send troops to destroy the Loonies, but the revolutionaries fight back against great odds and large loss of life. A rumor is heard that Adam Selene was among those killed, which frees the AI from having to appear in person. The AI uses the catapult to launch rocks at sparsely-populated locations on Earth, warning the inhabitants that the lunar “missiles” are coming, but the people of Earth don’t heed the warnings and many die. This causes the people of Earth to turn against the new lunar nation.

A second attack destroy’s the original catapult, but the ingenious Loonies build a secondary one in a secret location operated by Mannie. The former computer tech turned commander continues the attack on Earth until the planet concedes Luna’s independence.

Mannie takes control of the new government after their victory, but he and Wyoh gradually withdraw from Lunar politics as they discover that the new government falls short of their expectations. When Mannie attempts to speak to Mike, the AI’s replies indicate that the computer has lost its self-awareness and human-like qualities as a result of either the damage suffered in the war or of shock.

Probably one of the greatest influences I had as a science fiction writer is Robert A. Heinlein. I have read just about everything that he has written and a few of his novels rank among some of my favorites. Many of the tropes that are commonplace in science fiction today were invented by this man. There is an old adage that states: “Heinlein was there first.” For the most part, it is true! If you want to write science fiction or are interested in becoming more versed in the genre as a reader, this is one of the authors that you should read.

Heinlein remains a controversial figure to this day. If you are a feminist, you will have difficulty with Heinlein. Our views on culture, marriage and the roles of women have changed in the 50 years since this novel was written. In The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, there are women that marry at 14, women that endure whistles and catcalls because of their physical looks, and while there is racial diversity among the Loonies, many racist ideas of the time period still come through in the writing. Yet, during the time that Heinlein wrote his stories, he was considered ground-breaking for his forward thinking. The novel features Heinlein’s ideas about individualism, libertarianism, and free expression of physical and emotional love.

One of the aspects that I enjoy most about this book was the development of the AI computer. Remember, at the time the novel was written, a computer that filled a room could barely do what a one dollar throw away calculator does today. AI Mike doesn’t go crazy and attempt to destroy humanity as many tropes might have him do now, instead he wants to learn what is funny and what it is to be human. With more robots being built and AI becoming a reality, this is an idea that we as a people are going to need to explore.

The idea of life on the moon and the weaponization of space is a concept who’s time has come with the advent of privatized space programs popping up all over the world. There will be many people in space able to “throw rocks” at the Earth as nations and corporations begin to develop the resources in the asteroids, and the Moon.

The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress Book CoverHeinlein wrote in the voice of his era. He is imaginative and smart, but he still retains many of the ideas and limitations of the world that he lived in. How many writers can overcome this overwhelming thing called “their lives”? Even so, he manages to see into the future and his best guesses were not all that far off the mark. Give The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress a read with an open mind. Yes, it is a little dated, but you will find many of the ideas that have shaped science fiction as we know it today inside its pages.

Book Review: Starship Troopers

Book Name: Starship Troopers
Author: Robert A. Heinlein
First Published: 1959
Winner of Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1960

Robert A Heinlein started his career as a writer by publishing short stories in Astounding Science Fiction, which was edited by John Campbell. He went on to write many more short stories and novelettes for Astounding Science Fiction, many of which later were republished as short novels. Heinlein’s first novel that was published as a book was Rocket Ship Galileo. It had been rejected at first because the notion of going to the moon was considered to be too outlandish, but Heinlein soon found a new publisher, Scribner’s, that began to publish a Heinlein “juvenile” novel once a year at Christmas. Eight of these first edition young adult novels were illustrated by Clifford Geary in a distinctive white-on-black style. The Heinlein Juveniles featured a mixture of adolescent and adult themes, the characters experiencing the sorts of personal issues that young adults commonly find themselves in, combined with fantastic futuristic machinery and complex ideas. Heinlein was of the opinion that young readers were much more sophisticated and able to handle more complex themes than people of the times realized and his writing reflected this.

Heinlein’s last “juvenile” novel was Starship Troopers. It is said that this novel was his personal reaction to the calls for President Dwight D. Eisenhower to stop nuclear testing in 1958. The novel met with great success and won the 1960 Hugo Award for Best Novel. It is still in print to this day.

Starship Troopers is a coming-of-age story about citizenship, duty, and the role of the military in society and is set during an unspecified time of the near future when humans have developed interstellar travel. The book portrays a society in which full citizenship, in order to vote or to hold public office, is earned by the willingness to place society’s interests before one’s own and in participation of government service. In the case of the young hero, this was military service. The novel is seen through the eyes of young Juan “Johnnie” Rico who narrates the story through a series of flashbacks. Johnnie remembers his enlistment and training in the Mobile Infantry and his part in the interstellar war with the Arachnids (the bugs) of Klendathu. Through combat and training, Johnnie begins as a lowly private, but eventually becomes an officer and decides that being a career soldier is his life’s path. Life in the military shapes him into the man he becomes.

Rico, through a series of conversations with Ret. Lt. Colonel Jean V. Dubois, his instructor of History and Moral Philosophy during his high school years, and Fleet Sergeant Ho, a recruiter for the Armed Forces of the Terran Federation, the political and military ideas of the novel are presented. This is the meat of the novel, the concepts of how this particular society sees itself and their version of manifest destiny. The ideas are robust, but controversial.

One of the main virtues of science fiction is to depict other ways that society and culture might organize and function, giving us the reader new sparks of ideas of how society might otherwise function. I am not certain if all the political ideas that this novel portrays would completely work, but it does give one plenty of room for contemplation. Even now, 50 years after its published date, Starship Troopers inspires heated debate about its core concepts. Somehow, I believe that Heinlein would have been pleased to know this.

While the development of powered armor is Starship Troopers most famous legacy, the novel’s influence into the concepts of contemporary warfare are myriad. The novel is on the official reading list of the US Army, US Navy and the US Marine Corp, the only science fiction novel to have that distinction. The all volunteer, high-tech strike force military of Heinlein’s book, a futuristic concept at that time since the armed forces of Heinlein’s day were filled by conscription forces serving a two year hitch, is now similar in style of our own modern day volunteer armed forces. I know of more than one young man that told me that he volunteered for service in the infantry based on reading this novel. The story is powerful and to some minds it might be disturbing.

Of all the authors that I read growing up, Robert A. Heinlein was the most influential on me, both as a writer and as a citizen. The ideas of libertarianism, of self-reliance, and of personal responsibility all came from reading the myriad of novels and short stories that this author wrote. His dead-on prediction of many scientific gadgets that we take for granted today, such as flat screen television, cell phones, and other everyday items was astounding. There is a saying among writers that “Heinlein was here first.” For good reason. His stories have shaped the genre of science fiction in ways that are incalculable. If you are to become familiar with science fiction in general, Robert A. Heinlein should be on your reading list.

List of Robert A. Heinlein’s Juvenile Novels:

    Rocket Ship Galileo, 1947
    Space Cadet, 1948
    Red Planet, 1949
    Between Planets, 1951
    The Rolling Stones, 1952
    Farmer in the Sky, 1953
    Starman Jones, 1953
    The Star Beast, 1954
    Tunnel in the Sky, 1955
    Double Star, 1956 — Hugo Award, 1956
    Time for the Stars, 1956
    Citizen of the Galaxy, 1957
    Have Space Suit—Will Travel, 1958 — Hugo Award nominee, 1959
    Starship Troopers, 1959 — Hugo Award, 1960




starship troopers book coverStarship Troopers can be found at your local library or any bookstore. It is not in the public domain, but often times you can find a used copy at a very reasonable price.