the Little Red Reviewer

The Door Into Summer, by Robert Heinlein

Posted on: March 17, 2014

2014-03-11 21.05.42The Door Into Summer, by Robert Heinlein

published in 1956

where I got it: paperback swap

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I’ve been in a reading slump lately.  Books seem to feel the same, not much has grabbed me lately, I seem to have burned myself out on epic fantasy for a while, and damnit, there is still two feet of snow on the ground. I need some nice weather, and  I need a book that reads like a sunny day, something that’s fun as hell and won’t demand anything of me in return.  I need a door into summer.

Does that cover art look familiar? if you’ve got this printing, do NOT read the blurb on the back. It spoils the surprise.

Dan’s cat Pete hates the snow.  In the winter, the cat still wants to do his business outside, and will insist that Dan open every door in the house. Because Pete’s pretty sure that one of these cold winter days, one of those doors will  be a door into summer.

The year is 1970, and Dan Davis is a brilliant engineer, but a horrible judge of character. Knowing he hasn’t got a head for business, Dan and his friend Miles go into business, with Miles doing all the accounting and paperwork, and Dan making all the inventions.  It was going swimmingly until the gorgeous Belle showed up. It was hysterical to me how Dan describes Belle in engineering-talk.  Belle plays both men for fools, gets Miles to do her dirty work, and in a sneaky round about way convinces Dan to go for Long Sleep. Dan is happy to leave this sorry, heartbroken world behind, so long as his beloved cat, Pete, can go in the coffin with him.  He even comes up with a foolproof plan to make sure the one human being he still cares about, a little girl named Ricki, will be taken care of financially.

The Long Sleep isn’t death, it’s a hypethermia of sorts. You pay an insurance company to put you in hypothermic hibernation, and you wake up 5 years later, ten years later, or whatever period of time you choose. Maybe the world won’t suck as bad, maybe a cure will have been found for whatever is killing you. Doesn’t matter the reasons, companies have found they can make a fortune offering the service, and consumers are drawn in by the idea that they can invest some money, take the long sleep, and be millionaires when they wake up. What could possibly go wrong?

Before we go any further, I have to tell you about some of Dan’s inventions.  Focused around housework,  because Dan doesn’t think it’s fair that “women’s work is never done”, his business is built around Hired Girl. It’s a contraption that rolls around your house vacuuming the floor, it learns its way around your house so it can vacuum unattended, and it won’t go into a room that someone is occupying. Dan Davis just invented the Roomba.  As a draftsman, Dan spends countless hours over a drafting table with a slide rule and a t-square. Wouldn’t it be great if the isometric drawing could make itself while an engineer or architect was drawing the front or side view?  I don’t remember 3-D drafting plotters being around it the 1950s, do you? Because that’s what he’s talking about.  This fun little book was about thirty years ahead of it’s time.

Dan wakes up thirty years later, in the year 2000. Pete’s not with him, he’s dead broke, and everything is confusing and different (does this mean Heinlein came up with the original idea for Futurama too?). To Dan, 1970 was yesterday, and he’s still steaming mad at Belle for seducing and then betraying him.  But something fishy is going on. He expects Belle and Miles to be living the high life off the patents they stole from him, but when he finds Belle she’s living in the slums with barely a sad penny to her name.

While he plots how to expose Belle’s notorious past, he needs a job and a place to live. His engineering skills are thirty years out of date, so the first job he can get is crushing cars for the scrap metal.  And Heinlein takes his opportunity for a little political ranting, which will frustrate some readers, yet put a wry smile on the face of others. Dan notices the shoddy workmanship on the vehicles and asks about it. He’s told the vehicles were tagged as surplus before they were even manufactured, so why should the factory workers do their best work for cars that are  going to be destroyed anyways?  Dan can’t keep his mouth shut, so he asks why bother putting materials and energy into making cars that they knew would be destroyed as surplus? His co-worker responds with something along the lines of “what, you wanna put hard working people out of a job?”

Hired Girls are floating around, as are countless other mechanical inventions that look like something Dan might have come up with, including Drafting Dan, Flexible Frank, Office Boy and Eager Beaver. But if Belle and Miles didn’t make any money off his patents, who did?  He starts by researching the household automatons, to learn they were patented in 1970. The same year he took The Sleep.

The Door Into Summer asks one thing of the reader: to sit back and enjoy yourself.  This isn’t a high stakes story, nothing is a matter of life and death, Dan gets past his anger, and even eventually uses his brain to figure out what’s going on.  My favorite part of the book was Heinlein’s guesses about the future. He’s got us in a world where automation is everywhere, yet boarding houses still only have one phone line per floor.

With some white lies and fast talking, Dan solves the mystery of what’s really going on in solved in the final chapters, those were a blast to read.  He finds Ricki as well, and from there on out the story takes a super cheesy (or just plain squicky, if you think about it in a certain way) route. But it was 250+ pages of fun as hell, and maybe 15 pages of cheeseball, so there’s that.

I enjoyed the hell out of this book. It was just what I needed to get out of my reading slump. Nearly every page had something that put a smile on my face, be it Pete’s dialog (or maybe Dan is just imagining what he might say?), Dan’s realizations that his social skills suck, or a funny way he describes someone, or a totally wrong guess about what the year 2000 would be like.    There’s still two feet of snow on the ground, and it feels like spring will never arrive. But I’ve found my door into summer.

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26 Responses to "The Door Into Summer, by Robert Heinlein"

What fun! I’ve never read this, for some reason I never got into Heinlein as a kid, but maybe it’s time to read one. I find it delightful to read futuristic books written 30 or 40 years ago and see how they envision the future. Cool review!

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I tried reading his adult stuff when i was a kid, didn’t really get any of it, and now that I”m reading his kids stuff and all ages stuff, I am having a ball! I love all these terrible guesses about what the future would be like, they are too much fun!

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This really makes me want to read some Heinlein, or really, any one of a number of authors that I haven’t read since I was a kid. It’s partially about the cover art, and the idea of reading something with some cool… and gloriously outdated… ideas. It makes it seem like not so long ago that I would spend most weekend afternoon’s reading on my bed until my mom told me it was time for dinner.

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“that I would spend most weekend afternoon’s reading on my bed until my mom told me it was time for dinner.”

we had the same childhood. Books like these are comfort reads to me. it’s fun nostalgia to get me out of a reading rut.

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I’ve been having trouble reading epic fantasy, myself. Maybe I need to find some 30+ year old non-LotR trilogy to read…

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Maybe some Anne McCaffrey? or if you want some new stuff, I find Robin Hobb to be medicinal fantasy.

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I read the Farseer trilogy a few years ago, it was my introduction to Hobb (I really dug it). I haven’t read any of her other stuff, maybe it’s time (maybe the Fool books?). It’s funny – looking back, I really preferred the Harper trilogy to the regular Dragonrider books.

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Check out The Dying Earth books by Jack Vance.

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I’ve never even heard of them (weird). I’ll look them up!

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*Dutifully adds this to her list* ;-)

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Outside of Starship Troopers I bounced of Heinlein again and again. pretty sure I tried this one years and years ago. Maybe next year’s Vintage Sci-fi month may force me to try some of these again.

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Which other titles did you try? He wrote such a variety of books, there are adventures aimed towards teenagers, actiony/mystery/light scifi like this, and then some really weirdo shit he wrote at the end of his career.

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I stuck with his sci-fi. Moon is a harsh mistriss, something about a cat? I know I read three of four looking for the same level as Starship and eventually gave up. Mind, this was in high school, maybe early college. So a few years ago.

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Can Who Walked Through Walls, maybe? For me, nothing beats The Moon in a Harsh Mistress, I’ve been looking for one that’s on the same level as that one, in the same way you’re looking for something that works for you as well as Starship Troopers did. Once you find your favorite, nothing else is going to come close.

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This was one of the first real sci-fi books I ever read, way back in Middle School, and so I remember it as one of my all-time favorites. It’s due a re-read, since I stumbled across an old hardcover at Half-Price Books last time I relapsed and stumbled through their doors….Time to see if it’s as good as I remember it ;-)

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I only just heard about this one for the first time a few years ago. I keep running in Heinlein titles that I never even knew about, and I *love* that.

time travel! revenge! robots! talking cats! with that combo, of course it’s going to be as good as you remember!

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Gotta love finding obscure titles you’ve never heard of by your favorite authors! Used bookstores FTW!

Yeah, I fully expect it to be. I’ve generally enjoyed Heinlein, what little I’ve read, though I think I owe Stranger In A Strange Land a second chance. I read it in less than ideal circumstances….

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I think i only finished Stranger in a Strange Land one. The beginning is so, so, good! and then about the halfway point it goes into WTFery.

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I read it for a class, actually. We did a J-Term class on “Sci-Fi Literature” and had to read it. It was fun, but I had to binge on it in like two days….it’s a bit long for that, and a bit heavier content-wise than I was expecting. Knowing what to expect going in I might enjoy it a little more…..But yeah, I remember it being *really* weird.

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Okay, now read The Puppet Masters. (and forget any movie adaptations of it).

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Have read it about 5 times. :) Quite enjoyed the Donald Sutherland movie.

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Very nice review, by the way.

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Thanks for the flashback! I read this one sometime in the early 80s. My copy has the very same cover. I remember it was a fun book but the details have faded. I tend not to give away my scifi so I’m sure it’s in a box around here somewhere waiting for a re-read.

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Well, I did enjoy The Moon is a Harsh Mistress so perhaps I should hunt this book down! I could save it for next year’s sci fi event.
Lynn :D

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[…] Door Into Summer, Robert Heinlein. Own copy. Read this after reading a review on the Little Red Reviewer, and then a review of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress on Booksmugglers. I wanted to reevaluate a […]

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