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SFF Author: Robert A. Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein(1907-1988)
One of the founding fathers of the hard SF tradition which sees both story and society as merely a matter of effective engineering, Heinlein started writing for pulp magazines, especially Astounding, in 1939 and was a dominant influence on the field for the next forty years. His early stories — The Man who Sold the Moon and The Green Hills of Earth — are set in a “Future History” in which American society goes through radical changes and it is private enterprise that settles in space. Heinlein wrote a number of influential young adult SF books — Starman Jones, and Podakayne of Mars — which are generally freer in their handling of scientific themes than his books for adults. The right wing strain in his thinking produced a classic of McCarthyite paranoid fiction The Puppet Masters, in which the unwary are possessed by alien slugs. He achieved his major fame, not to say notoriety, with two books of the early 1960s–Starship Troopers, which, filmed satirically by Paul Verhoeven, started a whole sub-genre of militarist SF, while Stranger in a Strange Land with its free love and imaginary religions was a favourite of Charles Manson. Perhaps the best book of his later phase is The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, one of SF’s more intelligent retreads of 1776 in space; the best of his earlier books is Double Star, a flip tale of impersonation and political intrigue on Mars.



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Methuselah’s Children: Mildly entertaining

Methuselah’s Children by Robert A. Heinlein

Methuselah’s Children introduces us to Lazarus Long, a popular character in several of Robert A. Heinlein’s books. Lazarus, who wears a kilt (but there’s guns strapped to his thighs!) and can’t remember how old he is, is descended from one of several families who, long ago, were bred for their health and longevity. Lazarus and his extended clan live very long lives — so long that they must eventually fake their own deaths and take new identities so that others don’t get suspicious about their supernatural abilities.


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The Green Hills of Earth: A still enjoyable sojourn into Heinlein’s early work

The Green Hills of Earth by Robert A. Heinlein

I grew up a part of the baby boomer generation of young geeks that discovered science fiction around what the famous quote (attributed to one Peter Graham, later publicized and re-quoted by many, many others) said is the best age: “The Golden Age of Science Fiction is twelve.” For me and many others it was around that age that I was voraciously devouring a host of science fiction and fantasy writers, including Isaac Asimov, Edgar Rice Burroughs,


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Time Enough For Love: For masochists only

Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein

You’d think I’d learn, but no, I just keep torturing myself with Heinlein’s adult novels. That’s because when I was a kid, Heinlein was one of my favorite authors, so I still think of him that way. I know it’s not that my tastes have changed because I still love those books I read as a kid. The problem is that many of the books he wrote for his adult audiences, especially those he wrote in his later years, are just horrid. And Time Enough for Love (1973),


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Rocket Ship Galileo: Boys can dream

Rocket Ship Galileo by Robert A. Heinlein

When I was a kid I loved the “Heinlein Juveniles.” Rocket Ship Galileo, Heinlein’s first Juvenile, is one I missed back then. It won’t hold up well today (actually, it wouldn’t have held up well when I was reading Heinlein Juveniles in the 1980s) but sometimes it’s fun to read these old science fiction stories for kids and I did have fun recently reading Rocket Ship Galileo even though I am very much aware of its flaws.


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Beyond This Horizon: Did Not Finish

Beyond This Horizon by Robert A. Heinlein

Hamilton Felix is a genetic superman, carefully crafted from the best chromosomes his ancestors had to offer. He lives in a world where most people live long easy lives untroubled by disease, poverty, and tooth decay. It’s boring. Until Felix accidentally infiltrates a revolutionary group of elitists who want to take over the world and run things their way.

As boring as Hamilton Felix’s life is, this book about him is even more boring. There are lots of ideas in Beyond This Horizon,


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Red Planet: A children’s adventure on Mars

Red Planet by Robert A. Heinlein

I’ve mentioned several times how much I loved Robert A. Heinlein’s “Juveniles” when I was a kid. I found them on my dad’s bookshelves (I don’t think he’s ever gotten rid of a book) and I read some of them several times. If you had asked me last week which was my favorite, I would have said “Red Planet.” I remember loving this book, though all I could recall about it was a cute fuzzy round alien named Willis who bounces around like a basketball,


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Farmer in the Sky: A Heinlein Juvenile in audio

Farmer in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein

As I mentioned in my recent review of The Number of the Beast, I used to be a fan of Robert A. Heinlein’s “Juveniles” when I was a kid. I give Heinlein much of the credit for turning me into a speculative fiction lover at a young age, so I was really disappointed that The Number of the Beast was so dreadful. To cleanse my palate, and to restore my trust in a man who was such an influence on me,


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Waldo & Magic, Inc: Two early stories from Heinlein

Waldo & Magic, Inc by Robert A. Heinlein

Waldo & Magic, Inc is a collection of two seemingly unrelated stories by Robert A. Heinlein (though both involve magic “lose in the world”). I listened to the recent audio version produced by Brilliance Audio. MacLeod Andrews, who I always like, narrates. William H. Patterson Jr provides an introduction to the stories and Tim Powers provides an afterword.

The first story, “Waldo,” was originally published in Astounding Magazine in 1942 under Heinlein’s penname, Anson MacDonald. The titular character is a man who has myasthenia gravis,


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The Puppet Masters: Somewhat icky

The Puppet Masters by Robert A. Heinlein

Unfriendly aliens from Titan have arrived on Earth and are planning to conquer us. To do this, the slug-like beings latch onto the backs of their human hosts and take over their bodies and minds. The aliens are rapidly spreading in the Midwest and they’ve managed to infiltrate the Treasury Department. To make world domination go even faster and easier, they’re planning to get the President of the United States. That’s why Sam Cavanaugh, secret agent, has been called in from his vacation. He’s teaming up with Mary,


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The Rolling Stones: A clever family’s space adventures

The Rolling Stones by Robert A. Heinlein

Castor and Pollux Stone are 15-year-old red-headed twin boys who live in Luna City (a moon colony). They are young entrepreneurs and are making plans to buy a spaceship so they can start a trading business. When their father Roger Stone, a retired engineer and former mayor of Luna City whose current job is to write cheesy sci-fi stories for a television show, finds out about their plans, he decides to buy a space yacht and take the whole family on a trip. That includes their baby brother,


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The Star Beast: A great story buried under a lot of politics

The Star Beast by Robert A. Heinlein

The Star Beast (1954) is one of Robert A. Heinlein’s “juveniles.” When I was a kid in the late ‘70s / early ’80s, I loved these and can still remember where they were located in the library of my elementary school. My dad had some at home, too, and probably still does since I’ve never known him to throw out a book. I can’t say that I love all of Heinlein’s work — in fact, I absolutely loathe some of his novels for adults — but I can give him credit for inspiring my life-long love of science fiction,


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Time for the Stars: One of Heinlein’s best juveniles

Time for the Stars by Robert A. Heinlein

Time for the Stars is one of my favorite Heinlein Juveniles, and I like his juveniles better than his books for adults, so I guess that makes Time of the Stars one of my favorite Heinlein works. It’s got everything that makes his stories so much fun to read, especially for kids. Likeable heroes, sweet relationships, real emotions, a touch of romance, a bit of physics, spaceship travel and exploration of distant planets. (And also, as usual,


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Double Star: No second-rate actor could ever become president, right?

Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein

Most of Robert A. Heinlein’s adult novels have interesting ideas or premises but many lack likeable characters and/or fun quickly-moving plots. Fortunately Double Star has all the right elements and is entertaining from start to finish. It’s one of Heinlein’s best novels, I think, and I must not be alone in that opinion since it won the Hugo Award in 1956 and was nominated for Locus’ All-Time Best Science Fiction Novels. Double Star is a character-based novel that explores some important political issues without getting preachy.


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Citizen of the Galaxy: One of Heinlein’s best Juveniles

Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein’s best books are those he wrote for kids, and Citizen of the Galaxy is one of the best of those. Originally serialized in Astounding Science Fiction in 1957, this is an anthropological adventure story with strong libertarian and anti-slavery themes.

We first meet Thorby, a young belligerent orphaned slave boy, as he has just landed on an unfamiliar planet and is on the auction block. Nobody wants him — he’s too feisty — but he is eventually sold for a pittance to Baslim,


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The Door Into Summer: A charming time-travel story from Golden Age Heinlein

The Door Into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein

The Door Into Summer (1957) is an immensely enjoyable time-travel story told effortlessly by Robert A. Heinlein long before he turned into a crotchety, soap-box ranting old crank who had a very unhealthy obsession with free love and characters going back in time to get involved with their mothers (gross!!).

So, back to this book. The Door Into Summer is the story of Daniel Davis, a hard-working engineer in 1970 who invents a wonderful robot vacuum cleaner named Hired Girl (not at all sexist,


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Have Space Suit — Will Travel: Appealing space adventure for kids

Have Space Suit — Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein

More than anything, Kip Russell wants to go to the moon, and that means he needs to go to college first — the best college he can manage to get into and pay for. So, with the encouragement of his father, who has (gleefully) pointed out the deficiencies in Kip’s public education (and complained extensively about taxes), Kip educates himself and works hard to earn money. When he enters a slogan contest for a national soap company, he hopes to win the money he needs for tuition,


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6xH: Six Stories By Robert A. Heinlein

6xH: Six Stories by Robert A. Heinlein by Robert A. Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein, certainly one of the most influential authors in science fiction history, was also one of the most celebrated. As reported in The Science Fiction Encyclopedia, Heinlein was the guest of honor at three World SF Conventions, received the first Grand Master Nebula Award, and was selected “best all-time author” in many readers’ polls. His four Hugo awards for Best Novel is a record that stands to this day, and in his long and prolific career,


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Starship Troopers: A 250-page lecture on the ethics and morals of war, violence and race

Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

As part of my reading routine, I like to go to the way-back machine and catch up on genre classics. Within sci-fi, a few years ago I reread Frank Herbert’s Dune, which is as heavy and awesome as I’d remembered. I discovered and loved Walter M. Miller’s wonderful Canticle for Leibowitz.

Robert Heinlein, of course, is one of the heavyweights of the genre, but I’d never read anything of his and my only previous exposure to Starship Troopers (1959) was from the 1997 sci-fi film of the same title.


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Stranger in a Strange Land: Authorial politics override the story. DNF

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

Robert Heinlein was one of the most influential writers of sci-fi in the 20th century. He published more than thirty novels, several of which won awards, and many more received nominations. Considered one of the ‘big three’ alongside Asimov and Clarke — the American perspective, that is — Heinlein’s agenda included independence, personal responsibility, freedom, and the influence of religion and government on society. Stranger in a Strange Land, arguably his most famous book — and perhaps most controversial — is the subject of this review.


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Glory Road: Sandy loves it, Kat doesn’t

Glory Road by Robert A. Heinlein

So what does an author do after writing one of the most beloved science fiction novels of all time and in the process picking up his third out of an eventual four Hugo awards? That was precisely the conundrum that future sci-fi Grand Master Robert A. Heinlein faced in 1962, after winning the Hugo for Stranger in a Strange Land, and he responded to the problem by switching gears a bit. His follow-up novel, Glory Road,


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Podkayne of Mars: Heinlein gives us a smart feministic mixed-race heroine

Podkayne of Mars by Robert A. Heinlein

Podkayne (“Poddy”) Fries is a pretty, mixed-race teenager who lives with her parents and her younger brother (Clark) on Mars. We learn about her family and her adventures via the diary entries she writes. Poddy tell us that her family was planning to take a vacation to visit Old Earth, but when there is a mix-up with some frozen embryos, they had to cancel the trip so Poddy’s mother can take care of the unexpected new babies. Poddy is devastated until her Uncle Tom, a man who is a respected politician on Mars,


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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress: The American revolution in an SF context

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

“Sometimes I think that government is an inescapable disease of human beings. But it may be possible to keep it small, and starved, and inoffensive.”

It’s the year 2075. The Earth, which has a worldwide government of Federated Nations, sends its criminals and exiles to the moon where they won’t bother anyone on Earth. The “Loonies” are governed by wardens who require them to grow hydroponic grain which is sent back to Earth. This has been going on for over a century,


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The Number of the Beast: Great audio, awful story

The Number of the Beast by Robert A. Heinlein

When I was a kid I loved some of Robert A. Heinlein’s “Juveniles” — science fiction stories for children and teens. Red Planet was one of my favorites and I must have read it at least five times. These novels are part of the reason I kept reading science fiction — they left such an impression on my young mind.

Despite this nostalgia, I haven’t read Heinlein in years. When Blackstone Audio recently started releasing some of his later novels on audio,


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All You Zombies: Five classic stories by Heinlein

All You Zombies: Five Classic Stories by Robert A. Heinlein by Robert A. Heinlein

All You Zombies: Five Classic Stories by Robert A. Heinlein is a short (3 hours) audio collection of five speculative fiction stories written by Robert A. Heinlein and read by Spider Robinson. I like it a lot. This is a diverse set of tales (fantasy, science fiction, magic realism) that display some of Heinlein’s favorite themes as well as some aspects of Heinlein’s imagination that you may miss if you’ve read only his more popular novels.


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Citizen of the Galaxy by Eric Gignac and Robert Lazaro

Citizen of the Galaxy by Eric Gignac and Robert Lazaro

Citizen of the Galaxy is one of the classic Robert Heinlein juveniles, and would seem a perfect choice for a graphic adaptation — a relatively simple, straightforward plot, a wholly linear structure, a coming-of-age story with space slavers, all told in a relatively few number of pages. Unfortunately, IDW’s graphic version by Eric Gignac and Robert Lazaro is not close to a perfect adaptation.

The story is, as mentioned, relatively simple.


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Magazine Monday: Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, Inaugural Issue

Galaxy’s Edge Magazine is a new bimonthly publication appearing in both paper and electronic forms. The March 2013 issue is the first, and I purchased a copy of the electronic version as soon as it came to my attention. However, compared to Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, and F&SF, among others, it is a mediocre collection of mostly reprints.

Galaxy’s Edge appears to be aimed toward those who miss the old pulps or want more hard SF that reads like the present Analog.


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The Giant Anthology of Science Fiction: Of Stark and Crag and Court and Cord

The Giant Anthology of Science Fiction edited by Oscar J. Friend & Leo Margulies

For the past five years, all the books that I have read, be they novels or short-story collections, and whether in the field of sci-fi, fantasy or horror, have had one thing in common: The were all written during the period 1900 – 1950; a little self-imposed reading assignment that I have often referred to as Project Pulp. But all good things must come to an end, and to bring this lengthy series of early 20th century genre lit to a close,


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Previous SFF Author: Justin Heimberg

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