There have been many science fiction novels written about time travel, but The Door Into Summer is my pick for the greatest among them. It comes remarkably close to conveying the very theory of the subject in layman's terms. I'm not saying Heinlein's arguments are correct, but they darn near make sense. The experiment with the two coins and with the two guinea pigs (just one, actually) is fascinating, and Heinlein's introduction of several paradoxes in the protagonist's actual temporal dislocation lends his science even more believability. Time travel doesn't even enter into the pages of the first half of the novel (not directly, at least), but the whole story is totally engrossing from the very start. Dan is an engineer and a darn good one. His inventions have been designed with the view of easing the housework of women everywhere: Hired Girl cleans floor; Window Willie washes windows, and Flexible Frank, his newest creation, will be able to do just about anything around the house, from changing a diaper to washing dishes. Life seemed to be treating Dan pretty well. Then his fiancé and business partner swindle him out of their business, and he decides to take the Long Sleep (cryogenic suspended animation) for thirty years so that he can come back to chastise an ex-fiancé who will be thirty years older than he will be. Of course, he won't do it without his best friend Pete, his feisty, ginger ale-loving tomcat and true friend. He sends his remaining shares in the company he created to his partner's young daughter Ricky, his only other friend in the world, trying to make sure that those don't fall into the wrong hands as well. His only mistake is in confronting his traitorous friends one last time. He gets the Long Sleep all right, but he wakes up in 2000 without any money and without Pete. He starts trying to find Ricky and start a new life, but he eventually, prompted by subtle clues to things that will have taken place, works up a plan to journey back in time and change things-of course, he won't really be changing things because they have actually already happened. It's so much easier to time travel when you know everything you will have done before doing it.
I love this novel. It's brilliant the way he works in clues to Dan's future past, and Heinlein's discussion of time travel is enough to make anyone a fanatic about the subject. When I think about time travel, I continue to think of this novel and its simple experimental analogies of coins and guinea pigs. It's mind-boggling yet completely comprehensible. I also love animals, and good old Pete is one of the most memorable feline characters in the universe of fiction. Finally, the concept of the title is well-nigh epiphanous (if I may coin a word). Dan explains how Pete would make him open every door in his house whenever it snowed, convinced that behind one of those doors it will be summer time. Dan describes all of his adventures as his own search for the Door Into Summer. The only possible explanation I can formulate as to why this novel did not win the Hugo for best science fiction novel of 1957 is the fact that Heinlein won the award the previous year for Double Star and could not comfortably be given the award two years in a row. The Door Into Summer is much better than Double Star; in fact, it is much better than all but a handful of science fiction novels ever published.
on 6 June 2000
Heinlein deals with the topic of time travel against a backdrop of personal and corporate betrayal. Dan Davis, the ideas man and inventor starts his own business with the aim of creating robots for domestic use with the aim of improving everyone's quality of life. His partner, Miles is the business brain behind the venture, and Belle, Dan's wife, deals with all of their admin.
In a deft double betrayal, Belle and Miles effectively steal the business from under Dan's nose, abandoning him to the affections of his last true friend, Pete, his cat. Dan is then plunged into a series of events in which he travels in time the slow way and the fast way.
This book doesn't waste time in lengthy discussion of the ethics and problems of time travel or the question of paradox. All of the relevant issues are dealt with, but are so well woven into the fabric of the story that you will only notice your mind reeling with the torrent of ideas when you put the book down to put the kettle on. Old Heinlein fans will be able to recognize his characterizations immediately and the familiar personalities only add to the peculiar sense of family that one seems to develop when reading Heinlein's books. Those of you new to Heinlein, however, will not find the characters difficult to identify with, you just may find them a little stereotyped or cliched, initially, but this only makes them that much more accessible. Welcome to the family.
Any fan of Heinlein will recognise immediately the moral, sociological and political fish swimming just beneath the surface of the story. As usual, Heinlein cannot resist questioning the social mores by which we live our lives and judge others, but you won't find any diatribes or sermons in what he writes. He just invites you to think about some of the customs that we take for granted in our daily lives and ask ourselves if they really are as sensible as familiarity makes them. This is not unusual for a Heinlein book, and probably less obvious in The Door Into Summer than in, for example, Time Enough For Love, Job, The Number of the Beast and, of course, Stranger in a Strange Land. The suspicion one gets from the title of a hunt for a utopian ideal is satisfied, but the search for the door into summer is no mission on which any of the main protagonists in the book embark. Instead, the reader gets buoyed up on a gradual dawning of optimism, and although the book leaves you with some things to mull over, I challenge any fan of a great story to read this book cover to cover and not have a smile tweaking their lips on reading the last paragraph. Definitely a nostalgia book, and if you're the kind of person who reads a book more than once if you like it, buy this one in hardback ! Not his greatest book. Not his most thought provoking and stimulating by any means. It is a damn good read, though.
on 2 June 2008
I must have read this first in the 60s (it was first published in the 50s), so coming to it again, it was almost, but not quite, like reading it for the first time. A couple of Heinlein's perennial themes come through - love of cats and engineering, the hero being a cat-loving engineer. Despite being neither or these, nor, indeed, particularly heroic, I enjoyed the book. It is set largely in 1970 and 2000, neither of which is at all recognisable to those of us who have lived through them - a constant problem with old sf. I suggest you assume it took place in a parallel universe where many things are significantly in advance of our universe, but some things, communications and much of computing, for example, are far behind. The hero in 1970 invents what are, to all intents and purposes, domestic robots, is cheated out of his rights, goes into cold sleep, wakes 30 years in the future, travels back to 1970 invents some more, goes back into cold sleep, gets the girl and lives happily ever after. We also get some interesting comments on time paradoxes. Does this précis do justice to the book? Of course not. Although by today's standards it is a rather short novel, it shows that Heinlein is beginning to develop the style that later led to his major works. Interesting from that point of view, but, above all, a good read. Get it.
on 9 April 2012
This was one of the first SF books I ever read, at about age 14 some 40 years ago, and was one of the books which gave me a lifelong love of SF novels. One of the reasons why I think it is an outstanding example of the genre, is that someone like myself, at age 14 with absolutely no knowledge of physics was able to read the book without having to skip through pages and pages of technobabble (something which still irritates me today - if I want to read a story, give me a story, if I wanted physics 101, I would find the relevant literature).
Something that struck me as interesting after completing the book this time round, is that although the part of the story set in the year 2000 is now history, I wasn't bothered by the lack of current (then, future unimagined technology like PC's) in the story. At no time did I sit there thinking for example: ''well that's just stupid, why wouldn't the hero just Google his niece'' To me, this just confirms the superiority of plot and writing ability which has lasted right up to the present day, without ageing and becoming unreadable.
on 22 December 2001
If you like Sci-Fi,time paradoxes and cats, you can't do better than this story.It has everything,from scientific advances~many of which have come to pass in the years since this tale was written~to a love story with Heinlein's inimitable twist and, of course,the Cat,Pete, who is responsible for the title,as he searches, as do we all,for that Door into Summer.
on 23 January 2012
Spend a long time trawling through my mind for the name of the book as I read it previously in an other language, but it was worth it. I read this book when I was a teenager and when having read it again now it struck me that though the character was in a (very) difficult position he nevertheless did not lose his head (though he was a bit inclined to) but picked himself up and used his brain to get up again. A positive read with no sentimentality, fast paced and perhaps a nudge to those people in similar positions (though not posessing deep sleep or time travel). Makes you laugh in a introspective way. And Pete was sweet.
on 21 December 2000
Utterly, utterly charming. The sort of book which creates a smile which lasts 'til you read it again. Heinlein's affection for cats shines through - and the sun rises gradually towards the end of the book. Technology features but the human spirit dominates over technology - "you don't railroad until its time to railroad" - maybe there's a lesson in sustainable economic development there ?
on 4 March 2003
This is a good holiday book. Easy to read, enjoyable and ultimately very satisfying. This is light entertainment in book form.
The characters are straight forward, which is not a bad thing as it suits the style of the book, yet interesting enough to make you care what happens too them. The relationship between Dan (the main protagonist) and his cat Pete is particularly charming (a shame there wasn't more interaction between these two in the book). The story is also of the basic time travelling fare but with just enough twists and challenges to keep you reading.
The weakness of this book is the way in which the author gets bogged down in the technical aspect of Dan's inventions or the contractional issues and patent rights of his business with his partners. These take up quite a large portion of the book and can give one the feeling that they are reading an instruction manual or a law book! This is unfortunate as the rest of the book really is a very good read (although, and this might be just me, but Dan's feelings for his friends young daughter do seem a little 'strange').
So sit back, relax and enjoy this sweet story (just skip the technical gobbledy gook!).
on 25 January 2004
At least until the group of books he wrote very late in his career, Heinlein tackled the theme of time travel very rarely, but when he did, most notably in "By His Bootstraps" and "...All You Zombies", the results were exemplary. With this book, Heinlein not only deals with time travel in a logically consistent manner, he manages to foresee CAD (computer aided drafting), the equivalent of Velcro for clothing, cryogenics applied as a method people might use to freeze themselves hoping for later medical advances to cure their ills, and the proliferation of robotics down to the household level. This last prediction hasn't come true yet, but it's at least on the horizon. In all, a remarkable set of technological predictions. But these are just side points to an excellent story of love and betrayal, told in first person from the viewpoint of one Daniel Boone Davis, inventor, engineer, and totally naive in the ways of women.
It's this last trait that leads to all the troubles Davis faces, as he falls head-over-heels for the secretary he and his partner hire to help run their new business of making and marketing his Hired Girl robot. Naturally, the 'secretary' is a sharpie out to take the company for all she can get, and she and Davis' partner eventually manage to screw Davis royally, leaving him bitter and willing to take the 'Cold Sleep' treatment for 30 years to get away from the mess. Before going to sleep, however, he decides to talk to his partner one last time. The ensuing scene, with his partner and secretary being attacked by his cat Pete while he is drugged into immobility, is one of the most amusing and endearing 'fights' in all of SF. The 'fight', however valiant, is lost, and Davis ends up taking the cold sleep, to awake in the year 2000.
His impressions and problems for the that year, and how he eventually finds a way to travel back to the year 1970 in order to straighten out the problems with his former partner and secretary, form the balance of this fine adventure. Through all of this, Heinlein, most unusually for him, paints an extremely optimistic viewpoint, both for scientific advances and for human nature. Lacking in the heavy philosophy that so often characterizes his later works, it never the less has something important to say about the human condition, best exemplified by this quote: "I had taken a partner once before -- but, damnation, no matter how many times you get your fingers burned, you have to trust people. Otherwise you are a hermit in a cave, sleeping with one eye open. There wasn't any way to be safe; just being alive was deadly dangerous...fatal. In the end."
A fun, fast read, and the characterization of Davis is excellent, a person you get to know and admire for all his block-headed stubbornness. The ending will probably bring tears to your eyes -- hopefully, yes, one of the doors of your house will be a Door into Summer, if you just keep trying doors.
This book probably missed out on a Hugo due to an accident of timing, as the 1957 World Science Fiction Convention was held in London and decided not to give out any Hugos for fiction. Perhaps it will be awarded a 'Retro' Hugo in 2007 - it deserves it.
on 17 September 2015
Really great Science Fiction novel. I read this first as a young teenager and have enjoyed coming back to it from time to time. Not sophisticated, perhaps but it tells its tale well. Classic!