Time Enough For Love: For masochists only

Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein science fiction book reviewsTime 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), even though it’s a classic, is one of these. It’s everything I hate about Heinlein’s later novels. In fact, if I had to sum it up in one word, I’d say “YUCK!”

Time Enough for Love is the last of Heinlein’s novels about Lazarus Long. In fact, the full title is Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long. Lazarus is 2000 years old. He feels like he’s done it all and he’s refusing new rejuvenation treatments because he’s ready to die (and oh how I wish he would!). But the leader of his vast array of descendants wants to keep Lazarus around because he has so much wisdom (**snort!**) to impart. So, the entire long book (589 pages MMPB, 24 hours on audio) consists of Lazarus imparting this wisdom in a series of lectures, parables, and proverbs interspersed with interludes of weird alien sex.

For anyone who’s read any Heinlein, you’ve heard all this wisdom before. I’m sure you can guess what it is. It’s all about how government sucks, taxes suck, surveillance sucks, public education sucks, lawyers suck, farm subsidies suck, compounding interest sucks, politicians suck, slavery sucks, chastity girdles suck (yes, these show up more than once). Granted, most of these things DO suck, but when my favorite record starts skipping, well that sucks, too!

Some of Lazarus’s wisdom is just strings of proverbs: Never trust that the gun isn’t loaded, live each day for itself, don’t argue with the weather, always cut the deck yourself, don’t make your lies too complicated, etc. Some are full-blown lectures. (Heinlein loves to lecture!) There are long lessons in genetics (a bunch of blather), economics, how to deal with women, the importance of education and cleanliness, the importance of proper arch supports for pregnant women, how to properly deliver a baby, how to run a gourmet restaurant while still having time for sex three times a day, how to properly behead a robber, how to load a wagon train for survival… it goes on and on in the most mind-numbing fashion.

And then there are all of Heinlein’s weird fetishes. These show up in many of his adult novels. Nudity, incest, spanking adult women, polygamy, incest, ménage a’ trois, incest, wife sharing, masturbation, incest, Oedipus complex, groups of adults bathing and massaging each other. Time Enough for Love has some really bizarre touches such as a horny computer, a man offering to pluck a woman’s gray pubic hair, another man who samples his wife’s breast milk, a few gynecological examinations (including by fathers), and several mentions of the “family sport” and “Uncle Cuddly.” EW!!!!!

The worst thing about Time Enough For Love, however, is simply that it’s boring. Really boring! I suffered during the 24 hour audiobook produced by Blackstone Audio. I had to increase the playback speed to get through it faster. I kept thinking about poor Tom Weiner, the narrator. He did a superb job, as he always does, but the poor man! Well, at least he got paid. As for me, I wish I had those hours back.

Time Enough For Love is recommended for masochists only.

Future History — (1941-1987) Revolt in 2100 is a story collection. Publisher: The Howard Families were the product of a genetic experiment, an interbreeding programme which had produced one hundred thousand people with an average life expectancy of a century and a half. Now, at last, their existence was known on earth, and the entire world demanded to share the “secret” of eternal youth. “It is contrary to our customs to permit scientific knowledge to be held as a monopoly for the few” was what the expert said and it wasn’t long before members of the Howard Families were the victims of vicious crime. This dramatic and frighteningly believable novel is a welcome addition to the oeuvre of a brilliant science-fiction writer.

Robert A. Heinlein Methuselah's ChildrenRobert A. Heinlein Methuselah's Children, The Man Who Sold the MoonRobert A. Heinlein Methuselah's Children, The Green Hills of EarthRevolt in 2100Revolt in 2100Robert A. Heinlein Methuselah's Children, The Past Through TomorrowRobert A. Heinlein Methuselah's Children, Time Enough for LoveThe Cat Who Walks Through Walls To Sail Beyond the Sunset


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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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10 comments

  1. Well, there are two ways to handle this. 1) Go back to the YA Heinlein books you (we all) loved. Those actually hold up, to a certain extent. 2) Approach those later and far less successful books as a time capsule project and pick up a couple of other books published that year as a comparison. It might be interesting to see what Ursula LeGuin, Ted Sturgeon or Robert Silverberg published the same year Time Enough for Love came out.

    For me, his “groovy seventies” books peaked with Stranger in a Strange Land and went sharply downhill after that. And I always thought with those later ones that he, much like Stephen King a few years later, was no longer getting the benefit of a good editor who would have pared the books down to a manageable size.

    • Fortunately I have been interspersing these with the juveniles that, I’m pleased to say, I still love. Blackstone Audio has been re-releasing a bunch of them on audio recently.

      I have read quite a bit of Silverberg’s work which was published around this time and there are many of the same themes, especially the free love and incest, but at least there was usually something ELSE going on in Silverberg’s stories, too. In Time Enough For Love, there really wasn’t anything else.

      But, even though I hated the book, I’m glad I read it just for the education.

  2. Yeah, Heinlein really cut loose with full-bore creepiness, almost a parody of the author as a dirty old man. I regret to say I read this back in high school and found it only slightly disturbing. Guess my judgement was pretty suspect back then. I don’t think I’d give it any more time again. As Marion said, this guy was too big to be subjected to an editor, since his name alone would sell tons of copies no matter how awful the books were.

  3. The Beast /

    Wow, way to judge an epic story, decades ahead of its times, decades after. Grow up. Once you produce anything boarding on 10% as revolutionary as Heinlein did, then you can come back here and express your small minded “oh my gosh, he said what?” opinions. Creepy? Tough to see uphill isn’t it? And, just to clarify, I do NOT agree with everything Heinlein purposed, I personally think Socialism is superior to Libertarianism, but with opportunities for risk takers and free thinkers who are brave enough to think outside the box. Go back and review and quote what Heinlein said about critics, then actually produce something new and unique yourself. . . . creepy, lol, go back to church and get judged yourself, see how self-righteousness feels when turned on yourself. Open your mind to possibilities and consider the impossible, then actually do something.

  4. Marcus /

    Stereotypical socialist female commentary. I’d be willing to bet you’re single and own a dozen cats, and have no kids. You are exactly what RAH warned men about. Add to that, if you actually understood what he was getting at, (I’m assuming you’ve never read Plato, Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius or Plotinus) THEN YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT HES TRYING TO CONVEY. You are simply bothered by the violation of social taboos. The whole point of his later books was to shake up your notions and view of your world. I cannot even read Dora’s story anymore, it hurts so bad. How many novels can bring a tear to your eye still, more than 25 years after you first read it? Do you have any idea how much of my education in life early on came from Admiral Bob? I’m alive today because of that man. Maybe if you weren’t a man-hating pinko, you could think rationally. Furthermore, you cant say if Lazarus showed up in your life, the richest man in the universe, that your inner-gold-digger wouldn’t kick in, and suddenly allow you to tolerate any weird kink he had. But then again, you look like a dude in transition, and lack red hair, and are about 30 years beyond your prime. So, you’d just be barking up the wrong tree. Last, listening to an audiobook version of TEFL is almost sacrilege, imho. No-one yet has done a passable version, that doesn’t sound like the person hates reading it. Try actually reading it, and hearing the characters with your own imagination. Now, get off here, and go feed your cats, and listen to some AOC rants, you over-the-hill hack.

    • Wow, Marcus. Way to hit it out of the park. I’ve been married to my husband for 30 years, have five kids, one dog and one cat, and I lean libertarian. I have read all of those guys you mention, including Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations within the last month. Think rationally? A university pays me to teach students how to think critically. You may be right about me being an over-the-hill hack, though, and I am definitely 30 years beyond my prime if you’re going to judge me on how I look but, if that’s how you plan to assess my worth, I’m not interested in considering any of your opinions.

      No, I have no idea how much of your education came from Admiral Bob. How could I know that since I know you about as well as you know me? I’m sincerely glad you enjoyed this book, but we all have different tastes and I, like many others, find Heinlein’s adult novels repetitive and icky. Am I not allowed the personal freedom to think and say so? I feel certain that Heinlein would give me that liberty.

      • Darrell Wilson /

        I thought your review was spot on. I first read this book many, many years ago and thought it might be among my favorites. Right up there with SISL. But I just read it again this past week, finished this evening, and was bored to tears. I found myself skipping over major sections, including that tome on genetics so that the two kids on his spaceship could have their baby. An editor would’ve deleted that entire part, among others I’m sure. It seems like there is this tendency in Heinlein novels to have this old fart character who doesn’t want to get close to anybody at first but finally caves in and screws everybody. Not that I’ve turned off to Heinlein now, I still consider him my favorite author. But this time around TEFL almost killed me with boredom. I’m not as concerned about the alternative family situations and sexual encounters but the book was just too long. And I need to discuss this more with my daughter who just recently got her masters in the English so she would know better than me, but it really seems like Heinlein switched randomly between first second and third person. Not that it was hard to follow but it was irritating at times.

        I’m 65 now, I guess I was probably in my 40s when I last read the thing.

        • I’m glad to hear that you agree with me, Darrell. Interesting how your opinion changed over time. Also interesting, whether they love it or hate it, how passionately people feel about this book.

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