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View Full Version : The Cat Who Walked Through Walls: major spoilers and some "gahuuuh?!?"


Enderw24
10-01-2005, 01:16 PM
I just finished The Cat Who Walked Through Walls about ten minutes ago and it left me mightily confused.

This is the first Heinlein book I've ever read. I picked it up because it was free and free is always good. As I kept reading it, the plot got more and more convoluted until I was completely confused and the book ended. That's about where it left me. 90% of the plot points were unresolved and there were no more pages to turn to.

I went searching through the archives here to see if it had been discussed before and it hasn't. Lazarus Long has, however. He's apparently a reaccuring character in Heinlein books, which I never would have picked up on just from this one. It made me wonder how many other character or plot points went completely over my head or Heinlein assumed I would have linked together but obviously couldn't.
So is he somewhat like Randall Flagg of the Steven King worlds?

As for the book itself, I thought the first half of it was highly entertaining and I didn't mind at all there there didn't seem to be a cohesive plot, per se. I was along for the adventure and it sucked me in. But as soon as the time travel twist wrapped itself into the story arc, the novel slowly became a jumbled mess of confusing crap. It was as if Heinlein decided literally halfway through his story that he wanted to take it in a completely different direction but didn't bother to go back to the first half to change any of that. If this novel had been about time travel from the begining that would have been fine. But it wasn't and you could tell that.

Let me try to break down just a few of the things that went unresolved:

The killing at the begining. It's hinted at the end that Richard's wife is the one who did the killing, which is somewhat what I assumed. But for what purpose? What was her motivation?

They're BOTH kicked out of their apartments shortly after being married. Why? Who was doing that? For what purpose?

The attack in on Luna as they travel between stations. Was that an attack on them or a coincidental one based upon other passengers who happened to be there? That was never answered.

What purpose did Bill play, the guy Richard and Gwen picked up and took with from Golden Rule to Luna? He started becoming more and more central to the plot when Heinlein effectively said "eh...fuck it, I can't use Bill anymore. Let's turn him bad again," and poof, he was gone from the story.

Did Richard really get infected with all those viruses and did they really have to use a heat bomb to blow up half a hotel before they whisked him away to the future? I only ask this because it this didn't happen, then someone is lying to Richard. That means we shouldn't trust one (or more) of the characters. But, again, this wasn't answered.

Why is a super secret time travel agency bringing along everyone and their moms to the future and inducting them into the corps? "Oh, you're a legless Rabbi? Why, you'd be PERFECT as an agent. Let's roll!"

What purpose did Adam Selene serve? Who was firing on the group at the end? Did they live? What? What? What the hell was going on? With ten pages left in the book they having conversations concerning whether Richard should join the time corp. Look Heinlein, if you hadn't spent paragraph after paragraph finding new ways for Richard to tell Gwen/Hazel/whatever her name was how much he loved her you might have found the time to put this particular plot point in the MIDDLE of the book like it belonged.

Sorry for this long rant, but this entire book left me confused. It started out so great and, like I said, I don't think ANYTHING got resolved by the end. I did get this book used. Maybe the last 200 pages were ripped out or something...

SnakesCatLady
10-01-2005, 01:41 PM
The book was one of Heinlein's later ones, so there are references and characters from his earlier books. I love Heinlein, but that isn't one of the best books to start with.

Stranger On A Train
10-01-2005, 02:00 PM
I just finished The Cat Who Walked Through Walls about ten minutes ago and it left me mightily confused...This is the first Heinlein book I've ever read.Heh...you really walked into the briar patch this time, fox. :D This was Heinlein's second-to-last novel, and one which he was expanding his "World-as-Myth" concept (alternate and roughly parallel universes) by trying together a goodly amount of his previous and factually incompatible stories. As a result, in the second half of the book, he tosses in a lot of characters and storylines rapid-fire without explaining any of it, under the assumption that you are already familiar with his previous body of work. On top of that, as you indicate, it's a fairly confusing book--one that was written while he was not in the best of health, though far better than he was in the Seventies.

I recommend that you read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Methuselah's Children and his collection of "Future History" stories (virtually all of which can be found in the compendium The Past Through Tomorrow); these are the most accessiblw and, for the most part, best written of his works, and will give you some of the background if you want to revisit The Cat Who Walked Through Walls. Other major references include Job: A Comedy of Justice, Time Enough For Love, The Rolling Stones (which was his first stab at "World-as-Myth"), and The Number of the Beast, although I'm not particularly enamored with any of these except for the second. Friday is probably the most "traditional" of his post-Sixties writing, and it's a fairly good yarn though not a classic by any stretch.

In the end, though, Cat is just a mess 'cause...it's a mess. That this is to some extent deliberate doesn't make it any less annoying.

Stranger

Thudlow Boink
10-01-2005, 02:15 PM
I would have recommended either one of his "juveniles" (Citizen of the Galaxy, Have Spacesuit—Will Travel, etc.) or his shorter, earlier adult novels (Door Into Summer, Puppet Masters) as a good, accessible starting point. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is good, but the accessibility suffers from the (deliberately) quirky style/voice in which it's written.

Heinlein's most famous novel, Stranger in a Strange Land, is a pretty good sampling of his faults and virtues.

Tristan
10-01-2005, 02:23 PM
I just wanted to jump on here and agree in large part with Stranger on a Train before this devolves into the usual "Heinlein was a perverted hack/Heinlein was a genius and you're an idiot for not getting that" debate.

I love me some Cat. I think I have to get another copy now.

*blert*

Inner Stickler
10-01-2005, 02:23 PM
Like Enderw24, The Cat who walked through walls was the first(and only) Heinlen I read. I may rectify that when I have more time.

I found it confusing as all get out as well. I also seem to remember a lot of comma splices. I just can't enjoy a book when the narration is full of "She loaded the gun, shot it." WTF!? Where's his editor? Out to lunch? Which would not be free.

detop
10-01-2005, 04:31 PM
<snip</snip> Out to lunch? Which would not be free.

Of course not. There ain't such a thing as a free lunch.

OtakuLoki
10-01-2005, 05:07 PM
Another vote here for "Not one of RAH's best works."

I don't really hold it against him, any more than I hold the latter Dune books against Frank Herbert. But if someone asked me to reccomend a book by this Heinlein guy - it would be near the bottom. (Job might be the bottom, or Farnham's Freehold. Not sure.)

His better works include: Double Star; his future history stories (The collection The Past Through Tomorrow is a good start.); his juveniles, especially Have Spacesuit, Will Travel and Podkayne of Mars; Starship Troopers; and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Don't read any of his novels from the 70's on until after reading some of the other books, please.

BrainGlutton
10-01-2005, 05:17 PM
. . .The Rolling Stones (which was his first stab at "World-as-Myth" . . .

:confused:

Charlie Tan
10-01-2005, 05:26 PM
Farnham's Freehold deserves the label "stinkeroo".
I get the feeling that Cat was written for the fans, either as something he wanted to give the fans, or a way to recapture earlier success. Cat and Sail are pretty mediocre, at least compared to Job and Friday, which were pretty good. RAH got himself a bit too involved in his minature universe with writers creating actual worlds.
I dislike too because it cheapens TMIAHM. Maybe dislike is too strong a word. It's one of my least favorites.

Charlie Tan
10-01-2005, 05:28 PM
Of course not. There ain't such a thing as a free lunch.
That doesn't acronymisize :D itself as TANSTAAFL. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.
[/nitpick]

Enderw24
10-01-2005, 07:17 PM
Well, at least now I know that I'm not insane. "Cat" doesn't seem to be a good book by fan standards and it's downright confusing for those with no knowledge of the Heinlein universe.

Maybe I will read a few of his other works and I'll look back on this thread for a few recommendations. But for right now I'm going with the phrase TANSTAAFB: There ain't no such thing as a free book. This'll teach me to pick random books up off the book exchange shelf.

squeegee
10-01-2005, 07:40 PM
:confused:
Yeah -- me, too. The Rolling Stones seems as straight-forward a juvenile as you might sample from Heinlein.

Sir Rhosis
10-01-2005, 07:52 PM
Though I can't honestly recommend "Cat," I would advise reading the following books in this order:

1. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress (1966)
2. The Rolling Stones (1953)
3. The Cat Who Walks Through Walls (1985?)

Although, as you can see, the order I've listed them is not in publication order, they are in sequential order, because

The character of Hazel, aged 12 or so, in "Harsh Mistress," will grow old and be Grandma Hazel Meade Stone in "The Rolling Stones," then sometime between then and the events in "Cat," she will have a high tech facelift/rejuvenation and become the character of Gwen (iirc) in the latter.

Sir Rhosis

Stranger On A Train
10-01-2005, 08:39 PM
Yeah -- me, too. The Rolling Stones seems as straight-forward a juvenile as you might sample from Heinlein.My mistake; for some reason I was thinking that Stones was published after The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.

Stranger

BrainGlutton
10-14-2005, 02:15 AM
Farnham's Freehold deserves the label "stinkeroo".

Come on! Farnham's Freehold was the first attempt in 20th-Century SF to envision a high-tech slave society! A field that was not mined again, so far as I know, until S.M. Stirling's Domination of the Draka series.

SenorBeef
10-14-2005, 03:18 AM
I'd read, long ago, I can't recall where, that the first half of the book was written in the 40s or 50s, and put in hold for a very long time. The second half was written 20 years later, when he was a bit crazy. That's why it seems like two entirely different books somehow joined together for no real reason.

My reaction to the book was basically: "Hmm... this is interesting..... uh?...... wtf?!?!" through the beginning, middle, and end.

CalMeacham
10-14-2005, 08:16 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Gaspode
Farnham's Freehold deserves the label "stinkeroo".



Come on! Farnham's Freehold was the first attempt in 20th-Century SF to envision a high-tech slave society! A field that was not mined again, so far as I know, until S.M. Stirling's Domination of the Draka series.


And you call yourself a Heinlein fan!



Dig up your copy of Heinlein's earlier Citizen of the Galaxy and reread it. Or his even earlier short "Logic of Empire".



And if you think no one else touched high-tech slave societies, read Kornbluth and Pohl's The Space Merchants, or a lot of other works I could name.

lee
10-14-2005, 08:29 AM
Adam Selene was there so that fans like me would forgive him for the end of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

What Exit?
10-14-2005, 10:04 AM
Not breaking new territory here but as a Major Heinlein fan.

You did start with the wrong book.

His juveniles were excellent and very dated.
“Rolling Stones” might be the best and includes Hazel.
“Red Planet” still reads well.
“Have Space Suit will Travel” is very good.

His best books that don’t get too R rated.
“Moon is a Harsh Mistress” his best but not most famous
“Glory Road” still excellent and did not date as more of a fantasy then his typical Science Fiction.
“Door into Summer” just a great book
"Podkayne of Mars" will help in under standing at least one usernames name.

R-Rated:
“Stranger in a Strange Land”: To Grok Heinlein you must read this book, but read it after a few of the others
“I will fear no Evil”: Excellent book.

He was also a master of Short Stories:
“—All You Zombies—” is the original story of time travel getting a little strange. This created many of the concepts that later writers used.
Jerry Was a Man (1947) was said to have possibly inspired the planet of the Apes and more importantly was a crafty way to talk about and against racial discrimination.
The Man Who Traveled in Elephants (1957) Just a wonderful little story, should have been made into a twilight zone Ep.


All of the above would make an excellent start.

CalMeacham
10-14-2005, 10:15 AM
“—All You Zombies—” is the original story of time travel getting a little strange. This created many of the concepts that later writers used.

Arguably, "By His Bootstraps" is the Heinlein story of time travel getting a little strange. I'm pretty sure it predates Zombies, and it's the first time travel story I know of with complex re-entrant loops. It's pretty impressive, although, judging from the letters about it in Grumbles Beyond the Grave, Heinlein didn't think it was very impressive at all. "Cotton candy", he called it. Impressive cotton candy, if so.

Jonathan Chance
10-14-2005, 10:25 AM
Well, at least now I know that I'm not insane. "Cat" doesn't seem to be a good book by fan standards and it's downright confusing for those with no knowledge of the Heinlein universe.

Maybe I will read a few of his other works and I'll look back on this thread for a few recommendations. But for right now I'm going with the phrase TANSTAAFB: There ain't no such thing as a free book. This'll teach me to pick random books up off the book exchange shelf.

Ender, everyone is correct that of all the first Heinlein books to read that was the exact wrong choice. Congrats! You win!

He's my offer, as a Heinlein fan:

If you'll email me your address I will send you three Heinlein books that I think are worth the reading. No charge...no postage. Purely out of my love for the man's writing and a need to share it.

In a sense, the old man taught me what it meant to be an adult. I still try (approaching 40) to live by those standards.

silenus
10-14-2005, 10:35 AM
In a sense, the old man taught me what it meant to be an adult. I still try (approaching 40) to live by those standards.

My sentiments exactly.

The only worse choice you could have made for a first Heinlein would have been To Sail Beyond The Sunset.

My suggestions for starters are:

1) All of the juveniles mentioned by others
2) The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress
3) Starship Troopers - Read the original, and see why the fans consign Verhoeven to a special circle of Hell
4) The Future History stories

My Pixel says <blert> to everybody else's Pixel. :D

What Exit?
10-14-2005, 10:42 AM
Ender, everyone is correct that of all the first Heinlein books to read that was the exact wrong choice. Congrats! You win!

He's my offer, as a Heinlein fan:

If you'll email me your address I will send you three Heinlein books that I think are worth the reading. No charge...no postage. Purely out of my love for the man's writing and a need to share it.

In a sense, the old man taught me what it meant to be an adult. I still try (approaching 40) to live by those standards.

Which 3 would you send. Just interested. I would send Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Glory road and the Door into Summer.

Jonathan Chance
10-14-2005, 10:51 AM
Which 3 would you send. Just interested. I would send Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Glory road and the Door into Summer.

I'd have to think about it. But most likely:

1. The Past Through Tomorrow
2. Have Space Suit Will Travel
3. Either Moon is a Harsh Mistress or Starship Troopers

That should encompass the shorts through the juveniles and into the adult.

Frank
10-14-2005, 10:53 AM
That should encompass the shorts through the juveniles and into the adult.
Good choices. Some of Heinlein's best work is in his short stories.

Jonathan Chance
10-14-2005, 10:58 AM
Yeah, the short stories define his writing. The novels take it to the next step.

What Exit?
10-14-2005, 11:01 AM
I'd have to think about it. But most likely:

1. The Past Through Tomorrow
2. Have Space Suit Will Travel
3. Either Moon is a Harsh Mistress or Starship Troopers

That should encompass the shorts through the juveniles and into the adult.

Good choices, please take Moon over Troopers, just a better overall book.

I nearly forgot: "Puppet masters" was a fun book and predates the original Body Snatchers movie.

CalMeacham
10-14-2005, 11:17 AM
I nearly forgot: "Puppet masters" was a fun book and predates the original Body Snatchers movie.


Movie? It predates Jack Finney's book. And Heinlein was still apologizing for using such and old and tired idea. Take that , all you people who claim that such body-snatching stories were insired by 1950s commie-hunting paranoia!






I love that Puppet Masters reads like "James Bond meets the Body Snatchers", yet it predates both Bond and Body Snatchers. And it's still a great read. Especially now that they've published it with the censored parts restored.

What Exit?
10-14-2005, 11:23 AM
Movie? It predates Jack Finney's book. And Heinlein was still apologizing for using such and old and tired idea. Take that , all you people who claim that such body-snatching stories were insired by 1950s commie-hunting paranoia!


I love that Puppet Masters reads like "James Bond meets the Body Snatchers", yet it predates both Bond and Body Snatchers. And it's still a great read. Especially now that they've published it with the censored parts restored.

Well in theory Puppet Masters harkens back to much 30's pulp fiction short stories and some elements were covers by EE Doc Smith. I think he wrote it on a whim of nostalgia for old time pulp Sci-Fi. :D Kinda of strange now that we are further removed from his book than he was from his inspirations.

silenus
10-14-2005, 11:27 AM
And it's still a great read. Especially now that they've published it with the censored parts restored.

What censored parts? My copy is a first edition, so there was stuff missing? :eek:

CalMeacham
10-14-2005, 11:55 AM
What censored parts? My copy is a first edition, so there was stuff missing?


Yup. get thee to a bookstore -- the censoring starts on the first page.



Recent editions of Red Planet, Stranger, and Podkayne have restored sections, too.

silenus
10-14-2005, 11:58 AM
Off to Amazon.....

Thanks.

SnakesCatLady
10-14-2005, 12:17 PM
I love Glory Road, but then again I love Heinlein. Reading Stranger in a Strange Land at age 12 was the first step in questioning the religious beliefs I had been raised with.

And "blert" right back at ya, Pixel.

I was very suprised the first time a cat actually said that to me. I was also suprised when one said "AFLAC".

Rocketeer
10-14-2005, 01:00 PM
Good choices, please take Moon over Troopers, just a better overall book.

I nearly forgot: "Puppet masters" was a fun book and predates the original Body Snatchers movie.

My three candidates:

The Door into Summer
Have Spacesuit, Will Travel
Podkayne of Mars

Chronos
10-14-2005, 07:46 PM
It's been said that Heinlein went through four phases: Juvenile, adult, senile, and post-senile. All of his juvenile books are good: You'll get some debate about which ones are better than others (personally, I liked Space Cadet a lot better than Have Spacesuit, Will Travel), but you really can't go wrong with a Heinlein juvie (so long as you remember that they were written in the 50s or so).

And many of his adult books are good, also, though tastes may vary considerably on them. I would certainly recommend reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, if you don't mind that it's written in dialect (I personally find that I get into the dialect in a few pages, and that it enhances the story). Mistress is also set in the same universe as the first half of Cat, so it'll help you considerably in retroactively understanding that book. You might also check out the collection The Past Through Tomorrow (many short stories, plus "Methuselah's Children", the introduction of Lazarus Long) and Starship Troopers (no particular connection to Cat, but a darned good book).

But The Cat who Walked through Walls is one of his post-seniles. My hat's off to you for finishing it; if that had been my introduction to Heinlein, I know I sure wouldn't have. Really, in order for it to make any sense, you have to read Mistress, The Rolling Stones (one of his juveniles), The Past through Tomorrow, Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long (further adventures of L. L., many many years after "Methuselah's Children") and The Number of the Beast (which I don't actually recommend reading). If you've read all of those, then Cat will make sense, but even still, it's not one of his best.

What Exit?
10-14-2005, 09:03 PM
It's been said that Heinlein went through four phases: Juvenile, adult, senile, and post-senile. ...snip....

Of course the Juveniles & Adults overlapped
The last Juvenile was 1959 Starship Troopers and the first was 1947 Rocket Ship Galileo.
Methuselah's Children was 1941, The Puppet Masters was 1951, The Door into Summer 1957 etc.

His strictly adult novels were from 1961 with Stranger in a Strange Land through 1973 Time Enough For Love.
Then was the Hiatus no books until The Number of the Beast in 1980 and maybe one of his best books Friday in 1982.
3 Senile or Post Senile:
I guess Job: A Comedy of Justice, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls & To Sail Beyond the Sunset. These were 1984 to 1987.
I guess I can't agree with your breakdown.

silenus
10-14-2005, 09:28 PM
The senility came and went. Personally, I find I Will Fear No Evil to be the worst of the lot, and it was early in the down-period. Friday and Job I liked, a lot. To each his own. At least we can all agree that the juveniles are some of the best SF around, bar none. Can't we? :D

Stranger On A Train
10-14-2005, 11:24 PM
The senility came and went. Personally, I find I Will Fear No Evil to be the worst of the lot, and it was early in the down-period. Friday and Job I liked, a lot. To each his own. At least we can all agree that the juveniles are some of the best SF around, bar none. Can't we? :DHeinlein came down with a nearly lethal case of peritonitis in 1970, shortly after completing an initial draft of I Will Fear No Evil, during which his agent and his wife (who was also is business manager) elected to publish the novel as is, which explains the rather crude form. In the mid-Seventies he suffered from an arterial blockage which rendered him essentially nonfunctional. After that was cleared in what was then an experimental surgery (now common) in 1977, he returned to normal functioning and started writing in earnest. Expanded Universe (mostly a collection of old and unpublished stories and essays with a few new bits), Job, and Friday are from this period. (Of course, so is The Number of the Beast, but it seems to have had its genesis during his mid-Seventies period.) After Friday, Heinlein, a heavy smoker, started suffering the effects of emphysema, and while still mentally accute was not able to research or write as continuously as he had previously. (Heinlein typically put in full eight hour days, seven days a week, of solid writing while working on top of responding to fan and business correspondence and other tasks.) His last two books suffered accordingly, I think, varying in style, tone, and consistancy throughout.

I think Heinlein is so revered in part because he pulled science fiction from the gutter of pulp magazines and made it respectable by focusing on characters rather than technology or abstract philosophy. The actual quality of his writing is somewhat subjective; some people think very highly of his dialog, but I think some of it stinks. (I say the same about Hemmingway, too, and for the same reason: he knew little about people and nothing about women, but he pretended he did.) He was also, if one wanted to grasp a single cause, the nucleous for the New Wave of science fiction; Stranger in a Strange Land was indeed a pivotal novel; not for being the first to venture into philosophy, certainly, but the first (or at least the first successful) one to come to public consciousness. His later attempts to enter into that subgenre (of which I think his "World-As-Myth" counts) are less than appealing and somewhat clumsy, though.

And yes, his juveniles are bar none great reading, as much today as they were then. Aside from a few technical details (the navigator in Citizen of the Galaxy using a slide rule and sextant or taking images with photographic plates) they haven't aged, in part, because Heinlein never wrote down to his presumably childish audience; he extends to them the same ethical issues as he later did to adults. And he never has the Earth rotating the wrong direction, Larry. *snicker*

Stranger

silenus
10-14-2005, 11:29 PM
And he never has the Earth rotating the wrong direction, Larry. *snicker*


I have in my possession a signed First Edition of Ringworld (paperback, of course, since that was how it was first published) with the inscription "I did that on purpose! Larry Niven." When I asked him to sign it that way he laughed. Nice guy, overall. :D

Stranger On A Train
10-14-2005, 11:47 PM
I have in my possession a signed First Edition of Ringworld (paperback, of course, since that was how it was first published) with the inscription "I did that on purpose! Larry Niven." When I asked him to sign it that way he laughed. Nice guy, overall. :DHeh. Someone would pick up that reference, here. ;)

Heinlein, though, who was famous for working out complex Hohmann orbits or spacesuit equalization mechanisms in order to support one or two sentances of text in a four hundred page novel, never would have let something like that slip by. But then, when you're willing to let an entire billion-Earth-mass celestial structure slide into the sun by gross miscalculation or throw a character through the egosphere of a black hole with a gravity gradient so steep it would strip the electrons from an atom, what's a counterrotating planet here or there? :D

Stranger

Voyager
10-15-2005, 12:46 AM
I think Heinlein is so revered in part because he pulled science fiction from the gutter of pulp magazines and made it respectable by focusing on characters rather than technology or abstract philosophy.

I'd say Campbell did that - but I'm not knocking Heinlein. I've read Astounding for the entire Golden Age (1938 - 1945). You can see the vast improvement as Campbell got and trained new writers. But even of that sterling lot Heinlein stood out, almost always getting the top AnLab spots, or two at once if there was an Anson McDonald story there. The analogy that comes to mind is the Beatles in 1964-65.

I've really got to reread him in the proper order. Curse you, thread!

Chronos
10-15-2005, 02:38 AM
And he never has the Earth rotating the wrong direction, Larry. *snicker*Oh, it gets better. In later editions, he corrected the Earth's rotation, but even still, Ringworld consistently uses a value of g = 9.98 m/s2, instead of the correct 9.8. But what the hey... If Pluto is ten times the size it is in our world, who's to say that Known Space's Earth isn't maybe a little bigger than ours, too?

OtakuLoki
10-15-2005, 03:25 AM
silenus, I have, at one time, owned a copy of that, as well. And the only reason I knew to look for the blooper was because Larry, himself, was not shy about admitting his error.


Philosophically, I think that Heinlein's biggest contribution (and to some, his biggest flaw) was that he always had, as an unconscious assumption for all his books, the belief that problems are soluble. The solution may not be easy, nor complete, nor necessarily survivable: but solutions are possible. He was also willing to write about complex engineering problems, without ever forgetting that what makes a story is the characters, not the engineering conundrum at the center.

He has his many flaws in his writing. But that doesn't keep him from being one of the real fathers of SF, nor from being a great writer.

Stranger On A Train
10-15-2005, 04:25 AM
Oh, it gets better. In later editions, he corrected the Earth's rotation, but even still, Ringworld consistently uses a value of g = 9.98 m/s2, instead of the correct 9.8. But what the hey... If Pluto is ten times the size it is in our world, who's to say that Known Space's Earth isn't maybe a little bigger than ours, too?Well now...we don't know the gravity of the Pak homeworld, so 9.88 m/s2 might be alright for them. But if you're really going to nitpick Niven...the field is wide open; from orbital mechanics (Neutron Star) to evolutionary biology (Protector, The Mote In God's Eye) to cosmology ("The Borderland of Sol"), Niven has made some grand blunders. But at least he has vision; The Integral Trees was brilliant in concept. I choked when it came to The Legacy of Heorot, and wish I hadn't read The Ringworld Throne. And Destiny's Road was simply intolerable.

But we were speaking of Heinlein...and his favorite of mine was The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, seconded only to ...If This Goes On. I guess there's nothing like a good revolution.

Stranger

Stranger On A Train
10-15-2005, 04:32 AM
Well now...we don't know the gravity of the Pak homeworld, so 9.88 m/s2 might be alright for them.Urg...9.98 m/s2. Lest I be contributing to the error at hand.

Come to think of it, though...how would a species even have time to evolve in the volitile core worlds, where x-ray and gamma radiation from the core would sleet through systems like daggers? And the Ringworld...oh, never mind.

Stranger

Darth Nader
10-15-2005, 07:24 AM
Aww, I hate to interrupt a good Niven tangent, but I have to speak up.

There are two real Heinlein Stinkers: I Will Fear No Evil, and The Number of the Beast.

The Brain Transplant Book With Sex suffered mostly from his illness. If he had been able to cut a third of the dialog, it might have been a classic. Folks tend to forget he wrote it, when they list his adult novels-- Which really ought to include a bunch of the pre-1961 novels. Double Star was thought by some at the time to be a good tale...

As for "The Swiss Family Robinson meets Dorthy and the Tin Man"?

I dunno. Read this (http://www.heinleinsociety.org/rah/numberbeast.html), I guess.

(Obligatory Niven Content? Go re-read "Cloak of Anarchy" I haven't read it in maybe 12 years, but I was thinking about the story a few weeks ago when folks had to move in to the Superdome. He nailed it.)

What Exit?
10-15-2005, 09:27 AM
Aww, I hate to interrupt a good Niven tangent, but I have to speak up.

There are two real Heinlein Stinkers: I Will Fear No Evil, and The Number of the Beast.

The Brain Transplant Book With Sex suffered mostly from his illness. If he had been able to cut a third of the dialog, it might have been a classic. Folks tend to forget he wrote it, when they list his adult novels-- Which really ought to include a bunch of the pre-1961 novels. Double Star was thought by some at the time to be a good tale...

As for "The Swiss Family Robinson meets Dorthy and the Tin Man"?

I dunno. Read this (http://www.heinleinsociety.org/rah/numberbeast.html), I guess.

(Obligatory Niven Content? Go re-read "Cloak of Anarchy" I haven't read it in maybe 12 years, but I was thinking about the story a few weeks ago when folks had to move in to the Superdome. He nailed it.)

I'm a die-hard fan. I enjoyed both of the books you pan. Beast is just plain fun and expands on the parallel universe concepts he had used much earlier.
I will fear no evil is flawed and light on Science Fiction. It is an interesting character study and he did seem to have changed his mind about homosexuals by this point, which fit more with his usual libertarian views. I thought the characters were interesting and the grittier future he outlined was one you could see from the trends of the late 60’s. Weak Sci-Fi but still a good if unimportant book.

Darth Nader
10-15-2005, 09:48 AM
His strictly adult novels were from 1961 with Stranger in a Strange Land through 1973 Time Enough For Love. .

Weird. I don't want to disagree with you., but gosh. How about Glory Road...

Thats a story written by a man with a completeley different viewpoint than one in SIAASL or STroopers. And that's too many, right?

"Friday" uses stuff from "I will fear no evil", and nearly makes a real world of it's leftovers. Robert had to

What Exit?
10-15-2005, 10:02 AM
Weird. I don't want to disagree with you., but gosh. How about Glory Road...

Thats a story written by a man with a completeley different viewpoint than one in SIAASL or STroopers. And that's too many, right?

"Friday" uses stuff from "I will fear no evil", and nearly makes a real world of it's leftovers. Robert had to

I hope you are okay.

Glory Road (1963) was right in the heart of his adult novels. No Juveniles in this period. I was not listing a complete list of books, just establishing my own break points for his career. Glory Road was done almost on a challenge. Someone suggested that fantasy may be harder for him to write.

Darth Nader
10-15-2005, 10:13 AM
Aww, I hate to interrupt a good Niven tangent, but I have to speak up.

There are two real Heinlein Stinkers: I Will Fear No Evil, and The Number of the Beast.

The Brain Transplant Book With Sex suffered mostly from his illness. If he had been able to cut a third of the dialog, it might have been a classic. Folks tend to forget he wrote it, when they list his adult novels-- Which really ought to include a bunch of the pre-1961 novels. Double Star was thought by some at the time to be a good tale...

As for "The Swiss Family Robinson meets Dorthy and the Tin Man"?

I dunno. Read this (http://www.heinleinsociety.org/rah/numberbeast.html), I guess.

(Obligatory Niven Content? Go re-read "Cloak of Anarchy" I haven't read it in maybe 12 years, but I was thinking about the story a few weeks ago when folks had to move in to the Superdome. He nailed it.)

Enderw24
10-15-2005, 10:38 AM
But The Cat who Walked through Walls is one of his post-seniles. My hat's off to you for finishing it; if that had been my introduction to Heinlein, I know I sure wouldn't have.

The first half of the book was quirky and interesting. The fact that no one seemed to be doing anything didn't really bother me because it was a fun adventure Heinlein was taking me on.

But I think it was when Bill, a semi-major character, was abandoned, turned back into a rogue thug, and then killed all for no apparent reason I began to say "huh?" Then a few pages later he mentions Time Travel for the first time, which suddenly becomes the entire focus of the book from here on out despite the fact that there was no whiff of time travel being at play at any point prior to this.
That made me again go "huh?" Only a tad louder as sound doesn't travel that well in space and i wanted to make my voice heard.

It was then I realized again what I realized all along: these characters aren't doing anything! Only in the bad way. And each page brought them closer to the end of the book and each page my dread of none of the mysteries getting solved became more and more entrenched.

With about 60 pages left I was thoroughly confused but it was at this point I resolved that I MUST finish this book...if only so I could have bitching rights afterwards. And so here I am!

Jonathan Chance your offer is most kind and I believe I will take you up on it. I'll e-mail you my info tomorrow. Thank you.
what exactly are his "juveniles"?

jayjay
10-15-2005, 11:52 AM
What exactly are his "juveniles"?

What would be called "Young Adult" today, aimed at preteen/midteen readers. It should be noted, though, that Heinlein's juveniles are head and shoulders above most of the dreck that passes and has passed for adult science fiction.

silenus
10-15-2005, 12:21 PM
What exactly are his "juveniles"?

A generally accepted list:
Rocket Ship Galileo (1947)

Space Cadet (1948)

Red Planet (1949)

Farmer In the Sky (1950)

Between Planets (1951)

The Rolling Stones (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 Suit Will Travel (1958)

Starship Troopers (1959) (Although I consider the politics behind this one to be very adult in nature)

All of them excellent. My favorites are Tunnel, Farmer, and Stones, along with Troopers.

Stranger On A Train
10-15-2005, 01:10 PM
What would be called "Young Adult" today, aimed at preteen/midteen readers.That is to say, the protagonists are all teenagers (and except for Podkayne, boys), and with regard to graphic sex and violence...essentially, there is none. You could publish the books in Boy's Life, and indeed, I think a couple of them may have been in one form or another. But he didn't dumb down the novels to fit the perception of "juvenile" sensibilities (though he did have to accept some editorial censorship to match the moral strictures of the time and audience.) There's very little difference in terms of style or content, though, other than the age of the protagonist, between his juvies and his "adult" short novels/novellas of the same period (Double Star, The Door Into Summer, et cetera.) If you like one, you'll probably like the other. Heck, Lazarus Long wasn't much more than a big obnoxious kid himself, especially in Methuselah's Children.

Stranger

Tamerlane
10-15-2005, 01:46 PM
A generally accepted list:


All of them excellent. My favorites are Tunnel, Farmer, and Stones, along with Troopers.

I grew up on Heinlein's juveniles as well - Red Planet was the first novel I ever read. But as Stranger noted you left off Podkayne of Mars :).

My least favorite is Troopers, the weakest of the juveniles IMHO, but still entertaining. My own favorites ( if I have to pick three ) are Citizen, Tunnel, and Have Space Suit.

However I came in to mention the collection The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag. All the stories are good, but the title story in particular is thematically somewhat atypical for Heinlein and genuinely creepy at times. It's always been a dark horse favorite of mine.

- Tamerlane

OtakuLoki
10-15-2005, 01:56 PM
I agree, Tamerlane that The Unpleasant Profession is genuinely creepy, but my favorite story from that collection is "The Man Who Travelled in Elephants." Which is just as atypical as Profession, but in a completely different direction.

Polycarp
10-15-2005, 06:17 PM
:confused:

"Sez you!
-- The Galactic Overlord"

Given the premise advanced in The Number of the Beast and expanded on in Cat, this supposed unexplained practical joke in The Rolling Stones has an interesting point. (BTW, this is the chronological first appearance of Hazel Meade (Gwen Novak, Sadie Lipschitz) Stone, who reappears in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and both the abovereferenced books.)

Polycarp
10-15-2005, 06:23 PM
I'd read, long ago, I can't recall where, that the first half of the book was written in the 40s or 50s, and put in hold for a very long time. The second half was written 20 years later, when he was a bit crazy. That's why it seems like two entirely different books somehow joined together for no real reason.

My reaction to the book was basically: "Hmm... this is interesting..... uh?...... wtf?!?!" through the beginning, middle, and end.

That was Stranger in a Strange Land (a decade later), not Cat. Details available in Grumbles from the Grave if you're sufficiently interested.

Polycarp
10-15-2005, 06:46 PM
But we were speaking of Heinlein...and his favorite of mine was The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, seconded only to ...If This Goes On. I guess there's nothing like a good revolution.

Stranger

Well, you know, we all want to change the world! ;)



The point to Cat which makes it so annoying as a casual-read novel and IMO so important in Heinlein's canon is that it defines from the very title what it is attempting to do, and then we get annoyed when it actually does it.

We want our fiction carefully wrapped, with no loose ends (unless they're set up for a sequel). Real life isn't like that.

Worse, according to modern indeterminacy theory, the fricken Universe isn't like that, with things that are not only not known but unknowable. Indeterminacy, quantum theory, collapsing of quantum indeterminacy.

"Pixel is Schrodinger's cat." Somebody (Jane Libby?) says that explicitly in the book. Is Schrodinger's cat alive or dead? Under the setup of the thought experiment, you can't know -- until you open the box after the experiment. And that is exactly where Heinlein leaves Pixel -- and the protagonists.

What about all those loose ends? From Enrico Schulz to Bill the Galactic Derelict to Rabbi Ben Ezra? (and yes, the puns are intentional, and not, I suspect, mine but RAH's) Heinlein makes a half-baked attempt at explaining some of them via Uncle Jock and Jubal, but intentionally leaves several unexplained.

Just like real life.

Back in Number of the Beast, there's a discussion between the four lead characters on the distinction between "random" and "chance" and whether anything is "pure chance" that still leaves me sleepless occasionally.

Heinlein's creed was that all problems have solutions.

Quantum theory and indeterminacy, along with Godel, say that not only do not all problems have solutions, but we cannot possibly know the answers even if they do.

To a man of Heinlein's makeup, this abdication of scientific inquiry into a sort of vague mysticism was unconscionable.

So he devoted an entire book to saying, It won't work; it isn't true. There is an answer. Here's why it's so much BS.

If the book leaves you vastly unsatisfied, that's precisely his point. As Jake Burroughs says, in so many words, in that discussion in the Dora that Lazarus's bad temper (where'd he get that from?) ends.

SenorBeef
10-15-2005, 06:47 PM
That was Stranger in a Strange Land (a decade later), not Cat. Details available in Grumbles from the Grave if you're sufficiently interested.

Really? huh.

It made sense to me, because it seems like the first half and the second half of Cat are entirely different books. Stranger has a fairly dramatic change to examining the implications of someone raised outside of human culture to hippy love fest, but it's not as jarring, or as mostly incoherent as the second half of Cat.

Chronos
10-15-2005, 06:50 PM
A generally accepted list:I would include Orphans of the Sky on that list, but not Starship Troopers. The juveniles aren't completely well-defined. Oh, and a word of warning: Don't expect to learn anything from Time for the Stars: He completely botched all of the relativity in that one (which was pretty much the entire point of the book). I guess I'd consider that one to be the exception to "all of Heinlein's juvies are good" (though it's still better than the second half of Cat).

And why the heck are all of the Google ads for mystery books?

Sam Stone
10-15-2005, 09:06 PM
I would include Orphans of the Sky on that list, but not Starship Troopers. The juveniles aren't completely well-defined. Oh, and a word of warning: Don't expect to learn anything from Time for the Stars: He completely botched all of the relativity in that one (which was pretty much the entire point of the book). I guess I'd consider that one to be the exception to "all of Heinlein's juvies are good" (though it's still better than the second half of Cat).

And why the heck are all of the Google ads for mystery books?

How did he botch the relativity?

Jonathan Chance
10-15-2005, 09:12 PM
Yeah, I'd like to know that as well.

Ender, I look forward to the email!

Stranger On A Train
10-15-2005, 09:51 PM
Stranger has a fairly dramatic change to examining the implications of someone raised outside of human culture to hippy love fest, but it's not as jarring, or as mostly incoherent as the second half of Cat.Actually, Heinlein claimed that he plotted out Stranger In A Strange Land beforehand (and it was one of the few, if not the only novel, he ever plotted out in that detail). The breakpoint is deliberate and intentionally jarring, just like Janet Leigh's "premature" death in Psycho or Orson Welles' appearance half-way through The Third Man, and the subsequent change in tone from a pulp mystery to a moral conundrum.

Don't mistake a deliberate shift in tone for sloppy, inconsistant writing. In this case, at least, it was all part of the plan.

Stranger

Voyager
10-15-2005, 11:51 PM
I would include Orphans of the Sky on that list, but not Starship Troopers. The juveniles aren't completely well-defined. Oh, and a word of warning: Don't expect to learn anything from Time for the Stars: He completely botched all of the relativity in that one (which was pretty much the entire point of the book). I guess I'd consider that one to be the exception to "all of Heinlein's juvies are good" (though it's still better than the second half of Cat).

Orphans was serialized in Astounding, so it is really a part of the Future History Series - the ship was the first of the series the second of which was hijacked by Lazarus Long and company.

More about juveniles - if you grew up in the '50s, you read juevenile sf, some with rocket ships on the spine so you knew what it was. :) Some were crap, but much of it was written by people like Lester del Rey and Wollheim. Many of these could be found in your school library and the juvenile sf ghetto that my library, at least, had.

I believe Starship Troopers was meant as a juvenile, but was not released as such.

Polycarp
10-15-2005, 11:58 PM
I believe Starship Troopers was meant as a juvenile, but was not released as such.

Starship Troopers was written as the 1960 submission for Heinlein's annual juvenile novel published by Charles Scribner's Sons. It was unanimously rejected by the firm's editorial board, despite the fact that a precis of what he'd be doing with it had been submitted and accepted.

G.P. Putnam bought the book on the open market from his agent, and published it without promoting it as a juvenile, though they were well aware that it was written as a juvenile. ("There's a Heinlein juvenile available? Grab it!" -- Verbatim instructions reported to Heinlein by his editor as having been given him [the editor] by his boss) My understanding is that Heinlein was one of a very few authors whose juveniles sold as well on the open market as they did in specialized children's books marketing (which of course accounts for the majority of juvenile-book sales), and Putnam intended to pick up on that by placing it in their general list.

Stranger On A Train
10-16-2005, 12:16 AM
I believe Starship Troopers was meant as a juvenile, but was not released as such.I believe Troopers was meant as what was at the time called a "cadet"--a novel for middling-upper teenagers. Although the tone of the novel is jingoistic (Heinlein claimed to have wrote it as a response to people disappointed in the nonresolution in Korea and the nascient peacenik movement), the reason his then contracted publisher (Scribners) elected not to publish it was because they didn't think that particular segment of the market was a profitable one, what with televison, drive-thrus, drive-in movies, three-two beer, et cetera. That's their sucks, I guess; despite the controversy it still engenders it remains one of Heinlein's best-selling novels, probably second only to Stranger. Putnum took option on it instead, and the rest is history. (We'll consigned that dreadful Paul Verhoeven movie adaptation to the rubbish bin of lost history, thank you.)

Stranger

Fenris
10-16-2005, 09:42 AM
Yeah -- me, too. The Rolling Stones seems as straight-forward a juvenile as you might sample from Heinlein.
Hmnmm.....

Someone could make an argument that it's the first stab at World-As-Myth. Remember the whole bit with John Sterling: Hero of Scourge of the Spaceways/The Galactic Overlord? Remember when they had to put their cargo into orbit and when they came back and got it, there was a note from The Galactic Overlord? Someone could argue that that was one of the first appearances of it.

I wouldn't, but someone might.

You could make a stronger case for the short story "Assignment In Eternity" where a character walks into a world where the Biblical heaven exists (more or less)

Fenris
10-16-2005, 10:02 AM
You could make a stronger case for the short story "Assignment In Eternity" where a character walks into a world where the Biblical heaven exists (more or less)

And before this gets me pitted, I mean the stuff about streets of jasper and walls of gold and gates carved from humongous pearls and like that*. Weirdly, the character gets it wrong, btw: she becomes an angel after her death. She appears in Heaven as an angel, but IIRC, people don't become angels.

*Sorry folks, if Heaven really does look like John described it, and it's not just a metaphor for "Really, really kewl", then God lost his sense of good taste after he built the earth and the universe.

A couple of comments: Farnham's is not a Drakka parallel, IMO. It was intended to be a "How'd you like it if the shoe was on the other foot" novel. It fails at this miserably, but the intent was to show his (predominately white) audience that racism and slavery suck by doing it to whites.

Technically, neither Starship nor Podkayne are juvies. The "cannonical" juvies were A)published by Scribners (bye-bye Podkayne and B) Marketed by Scribner's as such--including library submissions/marketing (bye-bye Troopers). I'd agree that Podkayne almost feels like a juvie (except for the ending--and the compromise ending is the only one that works, IMO) but, to me, Troopers doesn't feel like a juvie. I'd never heard the term "Cadet novel" before, but that makes a ton of sense.

Polycarp
10-16-2005, 01:26 PM
Hmnmm.....

Someone could make an argument that it's the first stab at World-As-Myth. Remember the whole bit with John Sterling: Hero of Scourge of the Spaceways/The Galactic Overlord? Remember when they had to put their cargo into orbit and when they came back and got it, there was a note from The Galactic Overlord? Someone could argue that that was one of the first appearances of it.

I wouldn't, but someone might.

Someone did. See post #58. ;)

Jonathan Chance
10-18-2005, 09:55 PM
OK, folks.

Ender contacted me. I've Amazoned him up these titles:

The Door Into Summer
Have Space Suit Will Travel
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

They didn't have a copy of The Past Through Tomorrow Available. Can you guys believe that?

Ender...you should have them by the end of the week or so. Maybe Monday at the latest.

Keep us posted!

Enderw24
10-18-2005, 10:51 PM
OK, folks.

Ender contacted me. I've Amazoned him up these titles:

The Door Into Summer
Have Space Suit Will Travel
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

They didn't have a copy of The Past Through Tomorrow Available. Can you guys believe that?

Ender...you should have them by the end of the week or so. Maybe Monday at the latest.

Keep us posted!


Thank you very much Jonathan Chance! The only one I've heard of is the last one. It's won a few awards, hasn't it?

Behold, the power of the internet. The Hugo award. That's probably where I learned of it.

I'm looking forward to the package.

What Exit?
10-18-2005, 10:57 PM
Thank you very much Jonathan Chance! The only one I've heard of is the last one. It's won a few awards, hasn't it?

Behold, the power of the internet. The Hugo award. That's probably where I learned of it.

I'm looking forward to the package.

Moon is absolutely great, Door is awesome and Have Spacesuit was the second RAH book I read after Rocketship Galileo.

Enjoy. You are now in for a real treat.

Enderw24
10-21-2005, 06:57 PM
Jonathan Chance, I got home today and found a box waiting for me upon arrival. I thought these were just books you had around your place you were willing to give away. There was no need to go to such troubles for me, but I thank you all the same. I'm looking forward to reading them.

I just finished Mort yesterday, one of the few Terry Pratchett books I've read. As an aside, I really enjoyed that and I'm going to have to pick up more of his works in the future.
So I have nothing on my sci-fi fantasy list until mid November when A Feast of Crows comes out (which I simply must get as it hits the bookstores). This will be perfect to fill the slot in between.

So what order would you all recommend?

In order of my title recognition:
Moon
Spacesuit
Door

In order of publication:
Door
Spacesuit
Moon

Alphabetical:
Spacesuit
Door
Moon

I could keep going. :)

I'll start reading your choice on Sunday.

Chronos
10-21-2005, 08:36 PM
Good choices, Chance. The Door into Summer is my personal favorite, though it's not precisely to everyone's tastes (I'm a sucker for happy endings). And Spacesuit seems to be the most popular of the juvies. Enderw24, I would recommend reading them in age-level order, Spacesuit first, then Door, then Mistress. Spacesuit (the juvie) will be a quick read, and that'll let you sort of work your way into Heinlein.

Quoth Sam Stone:How did he botch the relativity?In a word, completely. He correctly calculates the dilation formula, but he misapplies it. I understand that he was trying to simplify relativity to make it easier to understand, but his simplification is to introduce a privelidged frame of reference, which completely chucks relativity out with the bathwater. While it's true that the homebound twin (I can't remember their names) would regard the travelling twin as aging slowly, the travelling twin would also regard the homebound twin as aging slowly. This state of affairs, with each twin older than the other, would continue until and unless one of them turned to rejoin the other. At which point which one was older would depend on which one turned.

Jonathan Chance
10-21-2005, 08:48 PM
Jonathan Chance, I got home today and found a box waiting for me upon arrival. I thought these were just books you had around your place you were willing to give away. There was no need to go to such troubles for me, but I thank you all the same. I'm looking forward to reading them.

It's truly no trouble, Ender. I hope you enjoy them. Give us all here some feedback.

Like Chronos, I recommend Have Space Suit Will Travel first. The Door Into Summer can move you into a more mature writing style. Then The Moon is a Harsh Mistress can move you into his adult fiction.

Enjoy the books.

silenus
10-21-2005, 08:51 PM
I second Chronos' order. Work your way up. Moon is the best of the three, so save it for last. (Best of the three: like picking the most attractive of triplets!) Besides, I think it is my all-time favorite book. :D

OtakuLoki
10-22-2005, 12:07 AM
Jonathan Chance, I got home today and found a box waiting for me upon arrival.

First off - Enderw24, I am jealous. You're going to get to read, for the first time, some great novels.


As for order, I'd endorse that proposed by Chronos and all the others.

Enjoy!