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Jonathan Chance 10-14-2012 07:52 PM

On Re-reading all of Robert Heinlein via The Virginia Edition
 
As some of you may remember last year I purchased The Virginia Edition. TVE is a complete Heinlein. And they mean complete. All the books, stories, screenplays, essays, and letters available that were written by the old man. 46 volumes of leather bound, acid free Heinlein. Heck, each volume even comes with one of those little ribbon bookmarks.

I have never regretted buying it.

But I just, following last year's move, found the box they were packed in. And I'm determined to read the entire thing. Narcissist that I am I thought I'd share my thoughts with you fine folks.

Please feel free to chip in with thoughts and such as we get to them. I'd love to hear your opinions.

I am reading them in no particular order. Merely as whim dictates.

Volume XX: Citizen of the Galaxy


The last of the juveniles, or close to the last, and one that doesn't quite fit in. This is both a classic Heinlein tale of 'Young Man Does Good' and nearly a Horatio Alger tale of 'rags to riches'. The lead character is a young man constantly in search of a home, finds several, but finds them restrictive. It's only when he starts being active rather than reactive that he truly takes control of his place in the world. It contrasts well with the juvenile that went before, Time for the Stars (in which the lead character allows himself to be manipulated until the final few pages) and that followed, Have Space Suit Will Travel (in which the lead is an actor in his life throughout).

Again in this one Heinlein makes hilarious extrapolations about computers and their uses in the far future. While I'm not comfortable dinging him about such the work is set up to 500? 1000? years in the future and my phone is several orders of magnitude more powerful than the machines in use in this book.

Interesting, in the forward there's mention of Heinlein's ongoing quarrels with his editor, Alice Dalgleish. This time she wanted even the mention of girly magazines and a section on doubting religion removed from the text. Both remained this time.

Also, interesting, in several places the text of this novel differs from the paperbacks by which I learned Heinlein in the late 70s and early 80s. Some added paragraphs and such though nothing of true consequence.

silenus 10-14-2012 08:18 PM

I shall be following this thread with some interest.

Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor 10-14-2012 08:22 PM

You luck so & so!


I could never afford TVE!

Washoe 10-15-2012 01:16 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor (Post 15590254)
I could never afford TVE!

I’ve been waiting for this for thirty years. I could do it by either living off of Top Ramen and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese dinners for a year, or by selling my AR-15. Both are plausible options.

Larry Mudd 10-15-2012 02:03 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Washoe (Post 15590912)
I’ve been waiting for this for thirty years. I could do it by either living off of Top Ramen and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese dinners for a year, or by selling my AR-15. Both are plausible options.

I could skip my coffee and breakfast sandwich at Tim Horton's for four years.

I think I'll just pick and choose the e-books, save the storage space, and retain my caffeine and bacon.

(Sorry, Bob - I know you won't mind.)

Ranchoth 10-15-2012 02:23 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Washoe (Post 15590912)
I’ve been waiting for this for thirty years. I could do it by either living off of Top Ramen and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese dinners for a year, or by selling my AR-15. Both are plausible options.

Well, technically, there's a way you could keep the AR-15 and still get TVE...y'know, just sayin'. :D

Jonathan Chance 10-15-2012 07:37 AM

Well, the editor is very nice. She's been helpful.

And they lowered the price to $1500. And they'll work out any payment plan you like, really. It's worth it. Frankly, just for the collection of Heinlein's letter to John W. Campbell discussing what science fiction is and could be.

Just sayin'.

Last night I began Tunnel in the Sky. Give me a day or so.

Jonathan Chance 10-15-2012 07:41 AM

And if you have a Facebook account...

A photo of the collection.

Well, most of it, anyway.

CalMeacham 10-15-2012 07:56 AM

Citizen of the Galaxy was one of the earliest Heinlein novels I read, following Waldo, The Puppet Masters, and Magic, Inc. (my library had these in a triple edition, and it also had CotG).

I loved it, of course. It's extremely well-written and flows beautifully, and moves all over the place while investigating new ideas, and setting up the one big one. It's one of those novels that basically describe a civilization and examine it by having a single character travel through all parts of it. Larry Niven (a huge Heinlein fan) used the same concept in Destiny's Road


Re-reading it many years later, I realized things that my much younger self wasn't aware of. The novel comes off as an obvious retread of Rudyard Kipling's Kim translated to science fiction, with the Galactic Slavre Trade as background instead of The Great Game. The anthropologist on board the starship is so obviously based on real-life Margaret Meade that her name is "Mader" . This doesn't detract from the book, which I have re-read numerous times, and will probably re-read many times yet. It shows, I think, that Heinlein wasn';t trying to hide his influences at all. I learned that he wasn't the creator of many of the things in the book, but was a clever re-purposer. It mostly still works, because so much of it is still far-distant (or made up and unlikely to exist) technologies, and it's the human angle that's really important. Although, with each pasing year, the future civilizations and societies Heinlein wrote of seem a little less real because they don't involve the results of the Moore's law/telecom/cybernetic/social media landscape that no one really properly predicted.

Washoe 10-15-2012 11:21 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ranchoth (Post 15590991)
Well, technically, there's a way you could keep the AR-15 and still get TVE...y'know, just sayin'. :D

Yeah, but that crappy little shelf above the toilet is only about three feet long. And my cellie would probably just tear out the pages and use them as needed. On the flip side though, I’d have plenty of time for reading. I could even finally find enough time to write that autobiography I’ve always dreamed of—“Bubba is a Harsh Mistress…”

jasg 10-15-2012 11:50 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Washoe (Post 15591793)
Yeah, but that crappy little shelf above the toilet is only about three feet long. And my cellie would probably just tear out the pages and use them as needed. On the flip side though, I’d have plenty of time for reading. I could even finally find enough time to write that autobiography I’ve always dreamed of—“Bubba is a Harsh Mistress…”

Somehow I doubt that anyone named Bubba would take kindly to being called a mistress. Just sayin'

BigT 10-15-2012 03:18 PM

For that much I think it'd be easier for me to wait 26 years.

Lemur866 10-15-2012 03:23 PM

I re-read all of Heinlein a couple of years ago: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...d.php?t=381565

Nice to see another Heinlein discussion.

BrotherCadfael 10-15-2012 03:36 PM

I managed to locate online ebooks of everything he ever published. Pirated, of course, but I already own every single thing in the collection in hard copy. Anywhere I have my iPad, I have my Heinlein!

Jonathan Chance 10-16-2012 03:27 PM

Well, I doubt you have everything in this collection. Given the background stuff, the letters and guides to writing that are included.

Still, on with the reviews:

Volume XVIII: Tunnel in the Sky

This is another of Heinlein's juveniles. Again we see his themes of self-sufficiency and planning inherent in the storyline.

However, unlike the prior (but later published) Citizen of the Galaxy, we find that the hero, Rod Walker, is inclined against passive acceptance of events. He constantly makes moves to either improve himself or his situation. The amusing things, and something I feel Heinlein intended, is that early in the book most of his actions are entirely wrong. Walker jumps to conclusions or otherwise takes actions that work to his detriment of himself and his teammates.

It's only with some added maturity that we see this particular 'Heinlein character' begin to learn the difference between using 'logic' (which leads him astray...often through its misuse) and 'wisdom' (though it's not labelled as such in the text.

This book also stands in stark contrast to 'Lord of the Flies' which was published around the same time. In LofF the civilized behaviors of the children involved break down to savagery while in Tunnel in the Sky the children (admittedly older being high school and college age) build a town with laws and customs. It's an interesting contrast, though not one I think either author knew about at the time.

In the background material I note no substantive differences in the text from the one I first read in the early 1980s. The editorial information in the front does declare that Heinlein, while working with Dalgleish well enough, was still frustrated by her attempts to alter his copy 'for purposes of sales' and was determined to pull something off with this one.

First, he made the protagonist black. It's never said outright but there are several subtle hints in the text that indicate it. The largest of which comes at the end where Rod Walker, speaking to his sister, refers to a girl who is described earlier as a 'Zulu' as being 'She looks a lot like you'. That implies that his sister is black and therefore so is he.

Also, from the more juvenile put one over the editorial preface notes that Heinlein had 'Tunnel in the Sky' as a working title but submitted this to Scribner, and therefore Dalgleish, under the title 'Schoolroom in the Sky'. When Dalgleish rejected the title because no child would buy a book with 'Schoolroom' in the title Heinlein accepted her suggestion of the working title. He is said to have enjoyed the acronym this gave the book.

Next up, Starship Troopers. Then I'll get to some of the harder, non-fiction, material. Perhaps How to Be a Politician (alternately called Take Back Your Government).

Chronos 10-16-2012 05:39 PM

Quote:

This book also stands in stark contrast to 'Lord of the Flies' which was published around the same time. In LofF the civilized behaviors of the children involved break down to savagery while in Tunnel in the Sky the children (admittedly older being high school and college age) build a town with laws and customs. It's an interesting contrast, though not one I think either author knew about at the time.
Wait, they were published at about the same time? I had always assumed that Heinlein wrote Tunnel as a deliberate response to Flies, since the parallels (and perpendiculars) are so obvious.

As for the main character's race, his comparison of his sister to Caroline Mbutu could also be taken to indicate a society where skin color isn't considered any more important than any other superficial feature. Besides, that comparison was never primarily about physical appearance, but more about personality and attitude.

Jonathan Chance 10-16-2012 08:31 PM

There's some cheating going on here, Chronos. I took the fact that they were published independent from the introduction by Dr. Robert James and William Patterson, Jr, Heinlein's biographers.

In this one, Heinlein is quoted as writing later that, "In another book (Tunnel in the Sky) I used a Negro boy as my hero - but never mentioned his skin color and buried the proof like clues in a detective story. Intentionally. My editor was an English woman from a (Negro) Caribbean Island - I pointed out the proof to her some years after publication. She was furious!"

I do believe that Heinlein's intent was to provide clues as to Rod Walker's race but have the world in which he existed no care at all.

As to Lord of the Flies and William Golding the second to last paragraph of the introduction states that neither writer knew of the other or the other's work. Lord of the Flies was published in late 1954 while Tunnel in the Sky was published in 1955. So there's as little as a few months to a year between them. I think it's a matter of two writers mining a similar vein but coming up with extremely different outcomes.

silenus 10-16-2012 08:34 PM

Yet Lord of the Flies is required reading in high schools but Tunnel In the Sky is ignored.


Tanj.

Chronos 10-16-2012 10:21 PM

On the other hand, though, Rod at least considers the possibility of a romantic relationship with Caroline (he rejects the notion, but for reasons that have nothing to do with race). If one assumes Rod to be white, that would push at least as many buttons, in the 1950s, as him being black himself.

And if neither author knew of the other's work, is it then possible that they both mutually drew inspiration from some earlier source? It seems uncanny that they'd be completely independent.

Dave Hartwick 10-17-2012 02:30 AM

TITS (never noticed that) is a favorite for me. I've probably read it more times than any other of RAH's juvies. Did you catch the scene where another kid mentions that Rod's phone is "sounding"? I like to think that not only did RAH predict the mobile phone, but he also predicted the ring tone. At least, that's how I remember it. Wish I had a (searchable) copy.

CalMeacham 10-17-2012 08:06 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Chronos (Post 15596642)
Wait, they were published at about the same time? I had always assumed that Heinlein wrote Tunnel as a deliberate response to Flies, since the parallels (and perpendiculars) are so obvious.

As for the main character's race, his comparison of his sister to Caroline Mbutu could also be taken to indicate a society where skin color isn't considered any more important than any other superficial feature. Besides, that comparison was never primarily about physical appearance, but more about personality and attitude.

i was surprised to find that Jules Verne had written a very simillar book over 65 years earlier. Two Years Holiday/Adrift in the Pacific ([/i]Deux ans de vacances [/i]) is about a ship full of boys from a boys' school who get marooned on an island and have to survive on their own, dealing with not only their physical survival but also their rivalries and disagreements. I'd bhe interested to know if either Heinlein or Golding knew about this. In any event, Verne's schoolboys act i n the best Jules Verne Shipwrecked Hero tradition and manage to arrange a workable societty, as in Heinlein, and don't go tribal-wild, as in Golding.









*Verne really loved Robinson Crusoe and the Swis Family Robinson stories. There are a lot of such survival storioes in his works, inclding two sequels to SFR. His own Desert Island Clasic, [u]The Mysterious Island[/i], started off as a SFR-type story before he rewrote it as a non-family story.

MarcusF 10-17-2012 08:16 AM

While we are on TITS (like Dave Hardwick I'd never noticed that :D ) can anybody tell me what RAH was thinking of when he mentioned the Walker's religion. Early in the book he says:

Quote:

Dinner was on the table, still warm in its delivery containers; they took their places, standing, and Mr. Walker solemnly lighted the Peace Lamp. The family was evangelical Monist by inheritance, each of Rod's grandfathers having been converted in the second great wave of proselyting that swept out of Persia in the last decade of the previous century, and Rod's father took seriously his duties as family priest.
What's "Monist"?

CalMeacham 10-17-2012 08:21 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MarcusF (Post 15598845)
While we are on TITS (like Dave Hardwick I'd never noticed that :D ) can anybody tell me what RAH was thinking of when he mentioned the Walker's religion. Early in the book he says:



What's "Monist"?

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


Heinlein loves throwing out disorienting bits in his book. Isn't the family neo-Zoroastrian in this book, too?



By the way, what does it say about me thsat I noticed the acronym TITS a long time ago?

Jonathan Chance 10-17-2012 08:51 AM

Either nothing good or something awesome, Cal. Six'll get you five and pick'em.

I, too, had never noticed the acronym. And it's likely I read this book 10 times during my pre-teen and teen years. And trust me, I was obsessed with the subject of the acronym. So I first became aware of it having read the introduction earlier this week. Now I can't unsee it.

And I admit as well that I had to look up Monism and such when I was a boy to understand what was going on. That might have been my first experience with religions other than Christianity and Judaism. But I wouldn't count on that.

BrotherCadfael 10-17-2012 12:17 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MarcusF (Post 15598845)
While we are on TITS (like Dave Hardwick I'd never noticed that :D ) can anybody tell me what RAH was thinking of when he mentioned the Walker's religion. Early in the book he says:



What's "Monist"?

People who worship Monet, of course.

CalMeacham 10-17-2012 12:18 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by BrotherCadfael (Post 15599696)
People who worship Monet, of course.




Monet isn't everything.

BrotherCadfael 10-17-2012 01:20 PM

The lack of Monet is the root of all evil!

detop 10-17-2012 01:43 PM

Monet for nothing and TITS for free :D

Lemur866 10-17-2012 01:51 PM

Rod's family's religion is another classic Heinlein touch of barely mentioned throw-away details that emphasize the strangeness of the future in the midst of the familiar.

Jonathan Chance 10-17-2012 02:22 PM

Yeah, like how Rod lives in the Grand Canyon suburb of Greater New York.

Sam Stone 10-17-2012 03:56 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jonathan Chance (Post 15600249)
Yeah, like how Rod lives in the Grand Canyon suburb of Greater New York.

This is one of those delicious details which shows that Heinlein really thought hard about the ramifications of the science in his stories. If you have teleporters, then why couldn't a 'city' be a legal concept more than a geographic area? You can imagine remote towns and regions choosing which city to join, and then being legally incorporated into them as 'suburbs' even though they might be across the continent or across the world.

Heinlein probably had reams of background information drawn up for the story that no one ever saw. He was the kind of writer who could spend days working out the details that would allow him to get a single sentence right. He was famous for doing this with spaceflight - A throwaway line in a story about how long a trip took would be the result of hours of hours of orbital calculations by Robert and Virginia.

I wish more writers paid that much attention to detail. It's those little touches that make a book feel grounded and real - especially important with science fiction.

silenus 10-17-2012 05:25 PM

"The door dilated..."


RAH said that it was the little things that had the greatest impact in show a different place/time/society.

Lemur866 10-17-2012 05:51 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Dave Hartwick (Post 15598518)
TITS (never noticed that) is a favorite for me. I've probably read it more times than any other of RAH's juvies. Did you catch the scene where another kid mentions that Rod's phone is "sounding"? I like to think that not only did RAH predict the mobile phone, but he also predicted the ring tone. At least, that's how I remember it. Wish I had a (searchable) copy.

In "Space Cadet" one of the cadets waiting in line at induction mentions that he turned off his phone so he wouldn't have to talk to his parents. Also in "Between Planets" the main character is out horseback riding in the canyon when he gets a phone call. Future generations aren't going to realize that these were supposed to be throw-away science fictional bits.

BrotherCadfael 10-17-2012 07:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lemur866 (Post 15601167)
In "Space Cadet" one of the cadets waiting in line at induction mentions that he turned off his phone so he wouldn't have to talk to his parents.

He has characters turn off or leave behind their pocketphones in several stories - Lost Legion and Blowups Happen to name just two.

I have observed several times on this board that predicting the pocketphone (ie: a cell phone) is pretty trivial. Predicting that people would find being always reachable to be a royal pain in the ass: genius.

Chronos 10-17-2012 11:30 PM

Huh, I picked up on the religion, and just filed it away mentally as "OK, in this future, things are a bit different, and some novel new religion has sprung up and become established as semi-mainstream. I guess it's sort of like the Mormons.". But I never realized that it was a real religion that he was using.

Jonathan Chance 10-18-2012 07:28 AM

Yep. Heinlein was throwing in a real thing that would still feel alien to his young readers. Nice trick.

MarcusF 10-18-2012 08:05 AM

Thanks for the link! I'm with Chronos - mostly I filed it in the same pile as "the door dilated", set dressing to make the future different, although I think there was a background element of "I'd understand this if I was American" :dubious:

Jonathan Chance 10-18-2012 09:52 AM

Well, forget that. I'm American and it threw me as well!

Interstitial note on reading Starship Troopers:

In the section at the beginning of boot camp where Zim is offering to fight the boots. The section fight Zim has is with two German boys. It contains this sentence:

Zim: "And tell your Korpsbruder that I'm ready now."

I don't recall ever reading that line before. Can someone check me on that? Is it possible that even an oblique reference to the Wehrmacht was still too touchy at that point?

silenus 10-18-2012 09:55 AM

I remember that line from my copy. I don't have it here at school to check, but I remember it. Because the lines previous indicate that one of the German boots doesn't speak English, and Zim says that he didn't either when he first signed up.

"Rules?"
"How can there be, with three?"
"True. But we should agree that gouged eyes are to be given back after the round."
Agast Boot.

Jonathan Chance 10-18-2012 09:59 AM

Yes, the line with Korpsbruder occurs immediately following that exchange.

I'm perfectly willing to be educated here. But there have been many versions. Somewhere around here I have the pulps with the original serialization of ST (called 'Starship Soldiers'). Maybe I'll check that.

silenus 10-18-2012 10:09 AM

My reread until the pages fell out paperback copy was printed back in the late 60s. The one with the green cover featuring the bug-looking retrieval boat.

Jonathan Chance 10-18-2012 10:26 AM

My first one was a paperback with Rico on the cover is Darth Vader looking armor. Sometime in the early 1980s. It was terrible.

Elendil's Heir 10-18-2012 11:38 AM

I've been introducing my son, 12, to Heinlein. We've read Podkayne of Mars and Have Space Suit - Will Travel together. I think we'll do Space Cadet next; Time for the Stars, Starship Troopers and Glory Road are also old favorites of mine.

Quote:

Originally Posted by CalMeacham (Post 15591256)
Citizen of the Galaxy [is]... one of those novels that basically describe a civilization and examine it by having a single character travel through all parts of it. Larry Niven (a huge Heinlein fan) used the same concept in Destiny's Road....

Not sf, but Gary Jennings masterfully does the same thing in his epic historical novel Aztec. One of my favorites.

Quote:

Originally Posted by detop (Post 15600078)
Monet for nothing and TITS for free :D

FTW!

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jonathan Chance (Post 15603371)
My first one was a paperback with Rico on the cover is Darth Vader looking armor. Sometime in the early 1980s. It was terrible.

This one?: http://img1.fantasticfiction.co.uk/images/n0/n1835.jpg

I preferred it to this, at least: http://www.lwcurrey.com/pictures/133436.jpg

detop 10-18-2012 12:19 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Elendil's Heir (Post 15603719)

I preferred it to this, at least: http://www.lwcurrey.com/pictures/133436.jpg

This cover looks quite similar to the Avalon Hill game box

Ruby Slippers 10-18-2012 12:21 PM

I was a huge Heinlein fan in my early years. Still am for the most part, but I'm looking forward to your comments about Number of the Beast and Time Enough for Love. I don't think of these as his finest hours.

Elendil's Heir 10-18-2012 01:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by detop (Post 15603937)
This cover looks quite similar to the Avalon Hill game box

Both dopey IMHO.

silenus 10-18-2012 01:17 PM

This one at least shows something. Or this one, which was from the uniform re-issue back in the 80s.

Chronos 10-18-2012 11:28 PM

Of course, a lot of science fiction books would just get a random SF-ish picture slapped on the cover, without regards to anything that actually happened in the book. So something that at least shows a dude in armor can't be all that bad.

Jonathan Chance 10-20-2012 06:59 AM

Interstitial on reading Starship Trooper 2

I have just finished gotten to the part where Rico graduates from boot camp. In this edition it's page 103. The total page count for the book is 208. That means 50% of the book (a hair less) takes place before the action begins.

This is not your typical war book.

Chronos 10-20-2012 11:14 AM

Well, the book does start off in media res. So there has been some action there. Wasn't the 20-second bomb in the first couple of pages?


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