the Little Red Reviewer

Robert Heinlein rocks my world

Posted on: January 11, 2012

Of all the authors I’ve read and will be reading for Vintage month, Robert Heinlein (1907 – 1988) is the one I’m most familiar with. Yesterday I shared with you my love for Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and today I’d like to share my journey through Heinlein’s works with you.  I haven’t read everything he wrote, although one day I hope to. He’s a writer that’s been with me for my entire adult life, and I like to think that my worldview was in part shaped by his writings.

Sometime near the end of high school, maybe the beginning of college, I picked up a battered copy of Stranger in a Strange Land. I’d heard of it, it had neat cover art.  The beginning blew me away. The end confused me. I didn’t grok what I was reading, but I knew I wanted to.  It marked the beginning of my quest to read Heinlein title I could get my hands on: Moon is a Harsh Mistress, The Puppermasters, Friday, Job,  The  Sixth Column, Starship Troopers, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, Glory Road,  Farnham’s Freehold, the list really does go on.  He wrote over 30 novels and nearly 60 short stories, so I’m not going to run out of material any time soon.

Every story was different – some followed families in dire straights, others were political responses to a world gone mad, some were pure fantasy or pure hard scifi, or social science fiction, and nearly all focused on the philosophies of non-conformity and individuality. For a 20-something, this was pretty mind blowing stuff.

It was years later that I finally discovered Heinlein’s juvenile (what we now call Young Adult) fiction such as Red Planet, Podkayne of Mars, and Have Spacesuit Will Travel.

While Heinlein’s juvenile fiction tends to focus on more conservative and traditional values (respect for elders and authority and very traditional gender roles), his adult fiction is quite the opposite, often filled with Anarchist politics, violence,  fluid morals, metaphysical investigations, and let’s not forget all the sex.  The “traditionalness” of his juvenile fiction was quite a surprise to me after reading the more adult titles, but I can only imagine the shock of someone reading it the other way around.  I am still occasionally shocked (and even sometimes offended) when reading his work.

Born and raised in the midwest, Heinlein joined the Navy in the late 1920s and became and accomplished engineer. He was discharged for medical reasons in the mid 1930s.  After two failed marriages, he finally found Virginia, who he would spend the rest of his life with.  His first short story was published in 1939, and although he finished a novel in 1939 as well, it did not see publication until after his death, and was published as For Us: The Living in 2003.

Known as a master of science fiction, Robert Heinlein was the first author to be awarded the SFWA Grand Master award in 1974.   He was just as active in the science world as he was in the science fiction world, publishing non-fiction articles in mainstream magazines and even was a guest commentator with Walter Cronkite during the Moon Landing.  This guy was everywhere, and he was doing everything. He knew the future was coming, and he was trying his hardest to teach the rest of us how to live safely in a science fictional universe.

If you have never read any Robert Heinlein, I hope this article, or my review of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress has inspired you to. If you’ve just read your first Heinlein, or your 5th or your twentieth, I invite you to tell us about your own journey.

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14 Responses to "Robert Heinlein rocks my world"

Heinlein is certainly THE MAN. He is probably my favorite as well, followed closely by Asimov and Bester. He edges them out in large part because of the wide variety of the work he does and the sheer volume of stuff I’ve read and loved.

I’ve told the story on my site that a love of Star Wars (I was 9 when the first one came out) lead to me borrowing the few SW books that were then written from my uncle who had a small shelf of SF in his room. From their I went on to sample other authors based on what he owned. For whatever reason he had only a few Heinlein and I never read them, in part because I think I felt intimidated by the size (boy that hasn’t changed!). Years later I started making a conscious effort to read books that I remember being on his shelves and Friday was one of those. I remember devouring it (I would have been around 30) and then went out and bought Time Enough for Love, a book that I had always been attracted to with all the lovely women surrounding a seated Lazarus Long.

Both were filled with sometimes juvenile, sometimes stomach-turning (incest), sexual content but what I found was that both also had amazing stories. I remember sitting for hours straight reading both books, unable and unwilling to put them down because I was so intent on finding out what was to happen next.

After a hiatus where I didn’t read a lot of SF I came back to Heinlein and started reading his juveniles because a good friend assured me that based on what he knew I liked that I would love them, and I do. His juveniles and those novels that are in that middle ground are some of the most engaging, entertaining books I’ve ever read and I thankfully still have several to go. Over the last few years I’ve read:

The Puppet Masters
Podkayne of Mars
The Rolling Stones
The Star Beast
Starship Troopers

Although I lean a bit towards The Puppet Masters, I am truly hard pressed to pick a favorite, they are all so good and all books that I long to re-read.

His short story collection The Green Hills of Earth is among my favorites, and novellas like Universe and The Menace From Earth are top notch.

He was a complicated man and an amazing writer. And I’m thrilled that I have so many of his works yet to discover.

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The Puppet Masters was my favorite until I picked up MiaHM. they made a movie of Puppetmasters, I think in the 80’s or early 90’s? If you’d read the book, it was a good movie.

I’ve yet to read The Green Hills of Earth, which is too bad. Every 10 years or so publishers reprint his more popular works, but that collection doesn’t seem to be among them. :(

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Actually Baen has republished The Green Hills of Earth in a nice trade edition. http://www.amazon.com/Green-Hills-Earth-Menace/dp/1439133417/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1326419564&sr=8-3

I’ve seen it in BN before, and in the now-defunct Borders.

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I’m completely ashamed to say I’ve never read any Heinlein :( But you’ve more than convinced me to rectify this :) Thanks!

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Starship Troopers is one of my all-time faves, but I had a really hard time getting into Glory Road. I own The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, so I need to get on that already.

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Starship Troopers is very good. Glory Road struck me as straight up fantasy, very different from what he usually wrote. Once i got into it, I thought it was adorable!

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Great post about one of the finest sci-fi authors of all time. Now I have to go read Moon again (for the fifth or sixth time).

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I have read a bit of Heinlein, including ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’ which I must say has been by far my favourite so far. The others I have read haven’t really grabbed me at all (Double Star, Starship Galileo and Beyond This Horizon), but I am currently trying to work my way through his back catalogue in order of publication and I must say that he certainly has quite a range, but I’m still not too enamoured at the moment. I am, however particularly looking forward to Starship Troopers and Stranger, and re-reading MiaHM.

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Yes, I really must read this author… I know this but yet never seem to get around to him!

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I’ve read about 4 or 5 of his books. I loved “Stranger in a Strange Land” but really didn’t like “The Number of The Beast”. It started well but became too weird in the end. The ending especially I found lazy and all over the place.

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I read one of his novels in High School and I think I hated it because I hated that class, my teacher especially. I know that isn’t the best reason. But after reading your post, I’ll give him another chance. It’s funny, I can’t even remember that teacher’s name. He was a horrible teacher.

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pretty cool that a high school teacher would have their students read Heinlein, as a lot of his stuff is pretty subversive. But don’t you hate it when a bad reading experience turns you off to an author, or even a genre? I blame crappy English teachers in high school for my dislike of most of what’s known as “literature”.

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It is sad that I let this experience interfere with my picking up another book by the author. Also, there are too many teachers who just don’t know how to inspire students…and I was a reader from an early age.

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As I posted on my blog( http://geeky-daddy.blogspot.com/2012/01/audiofilesthe-moon-is-harsh-mistress-by.html ) MiaHM was my first by him. I do think that I will venture out and read more books by him. I sure do love my library the amount of books that they have access. Andrea great post of Heinlein.

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