|Submitted by Archren |
(Feb 08, 2006)
This is an interesting book of Heinlein's, one that I picked up well after I had read most of his standards. It seems transitional, in that he is moving away from the straightforward space writing in "Starship Troopers" and moving towards the social and political writing that would make him famous in the Sixties with "A Stranger in a Strange Land." As such it has elements of both worlds, but isn't in either of them.
In this book an actor is hired to be a body double for an incapacitated politician during a delicate phase of diplomacy with Mars and the Martians. That really is the essential plot. It is all from one point of view, and the plot unfolds quite linearly, with only a few twists.
The characters are starting to sound a lot like they will in Heinlein's later books, particularly like Jubal Harshaw will later. Now, Heinlein was never afraid to have characters stand around and explain why his philosophy of the world was right, but previously that had been subsumed by other things, whereas here it is starting to come further into the foreground. The other major difference here to his earlier career is that there is no military involvement at all in this novel.
One huge difference between this and what will come later is the lone female character: late his females will be hyper-compentent, able to do anything kind of gals. This one is a little useless. In most scenes she cries, and she even faints twice. It's a bit embarassing, really. To contrast that, however, there is a strong message of racial tolerance in this book. One of the characters is incredibly afraid of and bigoted towards Martians and is shown the error of his ways. Considering that the book was written in 1956, it was a bold statement.
Overall, if you've ever enjoyed a Heinlein book you'll enjoy this one, and if you've always loathed his writing, this won't change your mind. I for one, enjoyed it quite a bit.