the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Robert Heinlein’ Category

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?

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Vintage SF badgeOne of the most influential science fiction writers, Robert Heinlein (1907 – 1988) has long been one of my favorite “old time” scifi writers.  The Moon is a Harsh Mistress still brings tears to my eyes every time I finish it, and The Puppermasters has me on the edge of my seat every time, even though by now you’d think I’d know what happens at the end of both books after countless rereads.  I discovered Heinlein in my late teens, his works were a gateway into science fiction for me even though it would be years before I discovered his juvenile fiction.   Last year during Vintage Month I wrote up a little bio of every author I read, and you can read my Heinlein article from last January here. It saddens me a bit to realize it’s been since last January that I read a Heinlein!  I’ve got to make him more than just a January thing!

SAM_2421The Man Who Sold The Moon, by Robert A. Heinlein

copyright 1939, 1940, 1950

where I got it: purchased used

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Containing many of Heinlein’s earliest works,  these stories all take place in his organized future history timeline, which most of his later works took place in. The stories are presented mostly in chronological order, even though they weren’t written in that order. For once, it’s a good idea  to read them in the order presented as it’s fun to see the invented technologies show up later in the time line.   In this future, fossil fuels have nearly run out and Earth is forced to develop other energy sources such as solar and nuclear. With sudden cheap energy at our fingertips, anything and everything becomes possible.  Rockets capable of getting to the moon are researched with some success, and businessmen dream of exploring the stars.  The stories included in The Man Who Sold The Moon aren’t far future adventures or space operas, they are nice light early timeline tales on how the technologies that let us reach the stars came to be.

Let There be Light (1940) – a quick story on the research and development of the Light Panels, which can store and use solar energy in a highly efficient manner.  The story opens with scientist Archibald Douglas learning the famous scientist Dr. Martin will be visiting him to speak with him about his Cold Light technology.  The next day, the only person waiting for Dr. Douglas is a beautiful woman.  It takes a bit, but she finally does convince him that she is indeed the famed Dr. Martin. Douglas quickly comes to respect and appreciate her intelligence and wit, and they work tirelessly to improve his Cold Light technology into a highly efficient power source. Unfortunately, this frustrates the electricity based power companies to no end, and Douglas comes up with the perfect solution.

The Roads Must Roll (1940) – Massive cities and communities have developed thanks to massive moving roads (similar to moving sidewalks found in airports, but much wider and much, much faster) that allow commuters to travel a hundred miles in just over an hour.  The industry that maintains the roads is massive as well, employing thousands of engineers, technicians, and supervisors.  Should anything happen to the roads or suburbs and towns that depend upon them, the entire economy could come screeching to a halt. And that’s exactly what almost happens when the followers of a  radical socio-political movement sabotage a moving road. This is an interesting story when it comes to workers rights, and the labor movement, as employees of the roads aren’t allowed to quit, and the lower echelons believe they are treated badly by management.
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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.

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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlien

published in 1966

where I got it: own a very well loved copy

why I read it: tanstaafl

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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is my absolute favorite Heinlein. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it. So this review will surely jump the shark into fangirl gushing eventually. Or at least into in-joke territory.  The quick version of this review is “go read this book”.

In this near future story, the Moon has become a penal colony – Earth’s dumping ground for it’s undesirebles. Referred to as Luna by it’s “guests”, it’s residents are known as Loonies. It’s been about a hundred years since prisoners were first sent up, and although all children born on Luna are born free, few of them can ever hope to return to Earth due to irreversible physiological changes that occur in humans that spend too much time in low gravity.  Luna is managed by the prison Authority, who have placed their Warden in charge of all Loonies. With a population of over three million, and most of them “free”, the population of Luna is still required to do business through Authority: sell their hydroponic crops, buy water and ice, buy air to breathe. Is only game in town.

As Manuel Garcia’s grandfather liked to say “Luna was only open prison in history. No bars, no guards, no rules – and no need for them”. The moon isn’t any place for bravado or machismo. You learn how to use your p-suit and live civilly with others or you have an accident.

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Just so you know, this is a super long post with a funny at the end.  Not unlike an epic quest. . . .

I describe this website as offering Science Fiction & Fantasy reviews.  But going through my list of reviews, I’m seeing far more fantasy than science.  Maybe I should just describe it as a fantasy review site?  Or a gateway to fantasy review site?

When I was a kid, I was an adamant SF fan. Much of my youth was spent building spaceships out of legos and watching PBS shows about astronomy.  I craved scientific explanations for everything.  I wanted to know how everything worked

While my friends were reading Lloyd Alexander, I was reading Interstellar Pig.  As they moved onto Tolkien and Raymond Feist and Katherine Kurtz, I moved onto David Brin and Robert Heinlein and Frank Herbert.

To me, Fantasy was wizards with long beards, royals who went on quests where their soldiers and magical armor protected them, and elves and dwarves who spent the first half of the conversation telling you their lineages, and embarassingly rediculous cover art. really nothing else. I had no understanding that “high fantasy” was only the tip of the iceberg of the genre.  My limited experiences with high fantasy let me know quickly that I didn’t care for it.

And then I started reading manga, a form famous for mixing genres. Cyborg mechas using laser guns against a castle and fighting flesh and blood dragons that guarded hoards of treasure? no problem. Kids who get wisked away from their regular life to fight demons and spirits and collect magical shards? piece of cake.  Vampires, martians, aliens, dragons, time travel, often in the same series. And it worked, like magic.

Wait, wasn’t this, um, fantasy?  It sure was fantastical, and it sure wasn’t hard scifi. Read the rest of this entry »

As I’ve got a shelf of Heinlein and Asimov, and some other golden oldies, I hope to make Catching Up With Classics a semi-regular feature.   The old skool stuff might not be as high tech, but it’s got it’s value. Depending on when you were born you either grew up with this stuff, or if you were born a little later I’ll bet most of your favorite SF authors grew up on this stuff.  Let’s kick it off with Robert Heinlein’s Podkayne of Mars.

Podkayne of Mars, by Robert Heinlein

written in: 1963 (but reprinted last year!)

where I got it: purchased for pennies at an estate sale

why I read it: Because one can never read too much Heinlein.

She might be only eight and a half in Mars years, and over twenty in Venus years, but in Earth years Podkayne Fries is in her late teens, and  a total  babe.  Bright but sheltered, beautiful but bi-racial, she’s about to learn that Mars really is the backwater.  

Through a “happy” accident followed by a lucrative out of court settlement, Poddy finds herself travelling first class through the solar system with her bratty but brilliant brother and her politician uncle. The book is written as entries into her digital diary, and occasionally her brother hacks in and leaves funny messages.

The blurb on the back of the book is especially hilarious:
Tomorrow’s answer to the anti-missile-missile, Podkayne of Mars. An interplanetary bombshell who rocked the constellations when she invaded the Venus Hilton and attached the mighty mechanical men with a strange, overpowering blast of highly explosive Sex Appeal.

Makes you think the whole thing is a raunchy romance, doesn’t it?  Believe me when I say Podkayne of Mars is completely rated PG.   Read the rest of this entry »

I’m half way through two books that just aren’t doing it for me, so no review for you today.  If I don’t finish either of these books by Monday, I may write my first DNF review, because I really, really, really want to get to something else.

no review tomorrow either, as I’m sure I’ll still be ranting about my hatred (ooops sorry, my severe dislike!) for e-books and e-readers.

In an effort to read what I’ve got next year, I finished catalogued all the books I own!  Ok, I catalogued all the fiction, I cheated and only counted the non-fiction.

Crammed into our one bedroom apartment we have 437 fiction titles and 200 non fiction titles.

of the 437 fiction titles I have read 62% of them.  that means there are 164 unread fiction titles in this home!

More useless facts about my home library, after the jump!

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About this redhead, etc.

Redhead is a snarky, non-politically correct 30-something who reviews mostly science fiction and fantasy and talks about all sorts of other fun scifi and fantasy geekery. She once wrote a haiku that included the word triskaidekaphobia.

This blog contains adult language and strong opinions. The best way to contact her outside of this blog is twitter, where she is @redhead5318 .

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.