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. This has become a problem, however, as technology in the United States has reached the point where people are identified by their DNA and it will soon be impossible to hide. So some of the family members are experimenting with a new plan; they’re outing themselves — telling their friends and neighbors about their longevity and hoping for a good response.
Unfortunately, this has backfired. The government doesn’t believe that genetics is the cause of their longevity; they think the families are hiding information and techniques that anyone could use to delay death, and they see this as treason. The families are now on the run. They plan to hijack a spaceship and escape the planet before they’re all rounded up for examination. Then they’ll cruise the universe, looking for some other world where they can live happily ever after.
Methuselah’s Children is short (7 hours on audio) and mildly entertaining. The book, originally published in 1941, has aged fairly well and deals with the topics of class warfare, civil liberties, personal property, privacy, freedom, and the need for meaningful work. Further features include some dull meetings, some aliens who remind us that humans are pretty weird, and a trite resolution to the whole affair. At the end I was left wanting to see more of Lazarus Long, and wondering if Heinlein has written any books for adults that don’t include incest.
Brilliance Audio’s version was narrated by MacLeod Andrews. He has a really nice voice and, judging by his photo on the back of the audiobook (which I enjoyed looking at much more than I liked looking at the cheesy cover art for Methuselah’s Children) I thought he looked too young to pull off a convincing 200 year old Lazarus Long. Wrong! He was really good.