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  1. #1

    Rereading Heinlein's juveniles

    There was an interesting discussion at John Scalzi's blog about Heinlein, and whether he was still relevant for younger generations. It started because Scalzi (who has always acknowledged a strong Heinlein influence in his writing) reported that he had given his 13-year-old daughter a copy of Starman Jones. She started reading it but soon abandoned it:

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/03/1...outh-of-today/

    The discussion included the subject of how parents would like to share the books they had loved in their youth with their own children, and how it is natural but sad that it's often difficult because, as someone put it, Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis (The times are changed and we too are changed in them).

    The fact that old SF feels aged because of the technology changes was also discussed. Of course, the old debate about whether Heinlein was misogynous was revisited.

    All that conversation made me want to revisit Heinlein's juveniles. I was born in 1978, but I still enjoy YA books. In my teens, I remember reading and enjoying Starship Troopers, Have Space SuitóWill Travel and Citizen of the Galaxy. Will I be able to enjoy those books now?

    So this is my Heinlein's juveniles reading list:

    Rocket Ship Galileo, 1947
    Space Cadet, 1948
    Red Planet, 1949
    Farmer in the Sky, 1950
    Between Planets, 1951
    The Rolling Stones aka Space Family Stone, 1952
    Starman Jones, 1953
    The Star Beast, 1954
    Tunnel in the Sky, 1955
    Time for the Stars, 1956
    Citizen of the Galaxy, 1957
    Have Space SuitóWill Travel, 1958
    Starship Troopers, 1959
    Podkayne of Mars, 1963


    I don't know if I'll get tired before the end, but I'll post my impressions after finishing each book...

  2. #2
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Be interested in reading what you think, farseer!

    Just to check, though: You know I've been doing this for a while at SFFWorld as well, right?

    For example/comparison:
    Space Cadet: http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/916.html

    Red Planet: http://www.sffworld.com/brevoff/926.html

    Star Beast should be my next. Quite looking forward to getting to Lummox...
    Mark

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbit View Post
    Just to check, though: You know I've been doing this for a while at SFFWorld as well, right?
    No, I didn't know that! I guess I normally pay more attention to the fantasy part of the site than to the SF part

    Do you intend to reread the whole of Heinlein's bibliography? I'm just tackling the juveniles. It'll be nice comparing my reaction to yours, though. I do not intend to write full reviews, but I'll post my opinion here as I finish each book.

    I'm reading Rocketship Galileo now. I guess you started with that one but didn't write a review, right?

  4. #4
    Live Long & Suffer psikeyhackr's Avatar
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    I think Heinlein's juveniles are more oriented toward boys than girls even if calling them misogynist is a bit extreme in my opinion. 40s and 50s sci-fi was not aimed at the girl market. SF writers were as much victims of the culture as everyone else.

    I think Citizen of the Galaxy is the best and least dated of the lot.

    But then I think reading about people using slide rules is just hilarious. Though I also think slide rules are a great way to get across the idea of logarithms.

    psik

  5. #5
    Live Long & Suffer psikeyhackr's Avatar
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    Check out Rite of Passage by Alexei Panshin for comparison to Heinlein. He was a Heinlein fan.

    http://www.tor.com/blogs/2009/08/gro...ite-of-passage

    psik

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by psikeyhackr View Post
    Check out Rite of Passage by Alexei Panshin for comparison to Heinlein.
    Thank you for the recommendation. Rite of Passage is a book I want to read, although I won't read Jo Walton's article for the moment since I prefer to discover the book with as few preconceptions as possible. I have to say, though, that I really love Jo Walton's articles. She is amazing, with her erudition, wit and love of the genre:
    http://www.tor.com/Jo%20Walton

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by psikeyhackr View Post
    I think Heinlein's juveniles are more oriented toward boys than girls even if calling them misogynist is a bit extreme in my opinion. 40s and 50s sci-fi was not aimed at the girl market. SF writers were as much victims of the culture as everyone else.
    Yes, that's my impression too. It says more about the cultural atmosphere of the time than about Heinlein's attitudes. In fact, I have the impression that Heinlein might have been advanced for his time in his treatment of female characters, although that view is based on the very incomplete knowledge I have of Heinlein's work. Perhaps my view will change after reading these books. In that respect, I'm particularly interested in getting to Podkayne of Mars, since that book is often cited as an example of his alleged misogyny. Ideologically, Heinlein must have been a complex man, and the style of his writing changed a lot during his lifetime. I'll bet that in his body of work you can find examples and counterexamples.

    If I enjoy the read of his juvenile novels, I might go on and read a few more. I remember starting Stranger in a Strange Land and not liking it, though, while I loved Double Star.

    Edit: There's a nice article in the NY Times about this:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/02/bo...anted=all&_r=0

  8. #8
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    No, I didn't know that! I guess I normally pay more attention to the fantasy part of the site than to the SF part
    LOL. OK - might be useful that I pointed it out, then! I hope you find it useful.

    Do you intend to reread the whole of Heinlein's bibliography?
    Yeah: I'm lucky to own a set of the Virginia editions as well as my old battered paperbacks. I am generally working them out in chronological order, though I do sometimes succumb to alternatives - I've read Puppet Masters, Glory Road and Sixth Column as well, for example.

    I'm just tackling the juveniles. It'll be nice comparing my reaction to yours, though. I do not intend to write full reviews, but I'll post my opinion here as I finish each book.
    Oh, good. Be interested to hear what you think.
    I'm reading Rocketship Galileo now. I guess you started with that one but didn't write a review, right?
    No, it's around somewhere: will post a link when I can find it. Quick summary: it's not his best, but there's some nice touches in it. Having just read Allen Steele's V-S Day, which follows a similar path (Nazis in suborbital space!), it is interesting to read something that's over 60 years old. But it has dated badly.
    Mark

  9. #9
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    And because it seems to have disappeared, here's the Rocketship Galileo review (from May 2009!) revisited: http://www.sffworld.com/2014/03/sffw...bert-heinlein/

    M.
    Last edited by Hobbit; March 31st, 2014 at 05:40 PM.
    Mark

  10. #10
    Live Long & Suffer psikeyhackr's Avatar
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    Here is a woman commenting on Heinlein:

    Anything by Robert Heinlein. Those were my favorite sci-fi novels when I was growing up, and I still reread them today. Now of course it's like watching Mad Men with the casual sexism woven in. But he also had very strong female characters which I liked as a girl - Friday was my hero. I just reread I will Fear no Evil and loved it all over again. It's the original transgender novel, I think. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress should be required reading. And the Lazarus Long series which explores all sorts of alternative relationships.
    psik

  11. #11
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Connie Willis is a BIG fan too... although I think it's more the early Heinlein than the later.

    M.
    Mark

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbit View Post
    Connie Willis is a BIG fan too... although I think it's more the early Heinlein than the later.
    I also prefer the early Heinlein. He is a great storyteller when he concentrates on telling a story, but I don't enjoy it as much when he loses sight of that and starts having political rants or putting the characters and the plot at the service of his latest philosophical theory. I know it's a much simpler novel, but I clearly prefer Double Star to Stranger in a Strange Land.

  13. #13
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    If it helps, farseer, I'm more of a fan of his short fiction than his longer, later books - possibly for the reasons you describe!

    We've just had his Future History series (Past Through Tomorrow) reissued here in the UK as part of the SF Gateway series. I'm quite looking forward to getting to those, though whether I review them... not sure yet.

    M.
    Mark

  14. #14
    Good point. The market nowadays is so dominated by novels that I tend to forget that the Golden Age was driven by short fiction, because that's what the market (the magazines) demanded then. Reading story collections is a truly excellent way to explore this era.

  15. #15
    Live Long & Suffer psikeyhackr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by farseer2 View Post
    I also prefer the early Heinlein. He is a great storyteller when he concentrates on telling a story, but I don't enjoy it as much when he loses sight of that and starts having political rants or putting the characters and the plot at the service of his latest philosophical theory. I know it's a much simpler novel, but I clearly prefer Double Star to Stranger in a Strange Land.
    Have you read For Us the Living?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_Us,...edy_of_Customs

    written in 1938 but published for the first time in 2003.

    How much is it like this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beyond_This_Horizon

    Heinlein was really always into political rants but was simply smart enough to realize it would not sell lots of books. But once he was a success and over 60 why should he have given a damn if the rants bothered some people? He was 59 when The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was published.

    I figure he was always dissatisfied with how society really worked and it shows to varying degrees in most of his works but he had to survive within the system too so it is less blatant in most earlier works than later ones. Orphans of the Sky was one of his first books that I read. The idea I got from that story was the majority of people could be TOTALLY WRONG. THINK FOR YOURSELF! F___ 'EM!

    People try to analyse the writing too much and assume the writer is writing for their benefit. No doubt plenty are and follow the rules of what will sell at the time. So we get lots of zombie and vampire junk. Maybe that is why it is so hard for me to find stuff I like. But I think the ones writing for the readers usually don't have much to say. Harry Potter has nothing to say but it was a great success. I would rather have something to think about even if I disagree. Who knows, I may be forced to the conclusion that I am one of the dummies in the majority.

    psik
    Last edited by psikeyhackr; April 1st, 2014 at 11:21 PM.

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