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Sadness and Joy in equal measure
on 26 February 2011
Don't get me wrong; I'm really glad I read this book, and if you're a die-hard , Heinlein fan, then I think-and hope- you will be, too. But it left me wanting so many things to have been different that three stars are all it can have.
Firstly, to get the real rant out of the way, what is all that swearing doing in there? One of the joys of Heinlein was often the slightly different-almost genteel, or perhaps just a different time- nature of his world and language as compared with the crudeness of nowadays. Unnecessary, and it almost stopped me reading the book altogether.
A good point is that all the characters were SO Heinlein, I was happy, HAPPY HAPPY ! about that. Probably only the ship's Captain was not given the chance to show his Heinlein colours, and the protagonist just wasn't enough-you'll know what I mean. The plot elements surrounding the characters are familiar from so many of Heinlein's books- perhaps most typically "The Door Into Summer"- that it was on occasion like being hugged by the great man, and having him whisper "see, I didn't leave you alone, after all." (which places me squarely in the plot of "The Number of the Beast", I guess.)
It wasn't always obvious where the plot was going, as Heinlein had done so many things with his space travellers that you could have been on tenterhooks until the point when the meaning of the title (at least one of them) became a player. This made it enjoyable- even affectionate. But there is so much padding up to that point that there are either a hundred and fifty surplus pages before roughly page 250 for it to be old Heinlein, or a hundred and fifty too few after it to be more recent (say post "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress") Heinlein. The long slow journey up to page 250 is followed by a real rush to finish it off.
There are some good puzzles in a way; having over forty Heinlein books under my belt, I was comparing plots all through, and at one time, I thought we had the prequel to "Orphans of the Sky" on our hands.
To be fair, it may be as good a book as "For Us the Living", but given the experience of both authors since that book, it ought to be, didn't it ?
At the end of the day, I'm glad I read it, and I was probably-if this is not too much of an oxymoron-no more disappointed than I expected to be.
Oddly, I haven't read any of Spider Robinson's "own" books; something I shall have to correct.
Don't be put off, it's worth a read, but, well, you can see I wish it had been better.