August 15, 2004

Heinlein Books


It's Time for a Sunday Book Review
(He's Holding "Footfall", Which I'll Review Another Time)

(Image credit: Steve Jackson Games)

Today, I want to review a type of book that I don't normally like, a collection of short stories/novellas. This one is kind of old and probably hard to find. It's called "The Past Through Tomorrow" by Robert Heinlein. I've read some of Heinlein's novels and generally been unimpressed. Even perhaps his most famous "Stranger in a Strange Land" didn't really do much for me, though I read it as a teenager. I might appreciate it more now.

Anyway, this collection of short stories isn't flawless. I found the longer novellas near the end to be weaker, but there is a cohesive set of stories in the first half that is well worth reading. It starts with perhaps one of the most unforgettable short stories I've ever read, entitled "Lifeline", about a guy who figures out a way to predict the moment of someone's death. Then there is "The Roads Must Roll" about labor issues in a mechanized society and the clever "The Man Who Sold the Moon". Lots of classic science fiction gems are in here, unique plots and ideas I've never seen anywhere else (certainly not written about as skillfully).

Posted by Observer at August 15, 2004 05:53 PM
Comments

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I've always liked Heinlein. "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is my favorite.

Posted by: Humbaba on August 15, 2004 10:51 PM

http://listsofbests.com/list/29/

Sadly, I've only read 36 of those 100.

Posted by: Humbaba on August 16, 2004 08:47 AM

I've read probably close to the same fraction of that list, and based on that, I have to say that list is not a good guide to good reading. Maybe if you include "historical significance" as a factor, it explains why so many bleah books are in the top half.

I mean, maybe "The Man in the High Castle" is significant because it was one of the first alternative histories or something, but as a story, it was just kind of there. Interesting to read, but not an engrossing page-turner. I can think of 20 books off the top of my head that are easily more fun to read in that genre.

Unfortunately, I haven't read nearly enough to make a decent objective list. A good place to start digging around is the SF Resource Guide.

Posted by: Observer on August 16, 2004 09:33 AM

I dunno. While the origins of genres might not end up being the ultimate best example of the genre (barring LotR), it does give one a better appreciation for the genre as a whole. I'm going to start tackling that list once I get off the current crack I'm smoking (WEB Griffin is literary crack as far as I'm concerned)

At least offhand, I'd add Ian Banks' Consider Phlebas, and Tim Powers Anubis Gates to that list.

Posted by: Humbaba on August 16, 2004 09:56 AM

I'll have to review Anubis Gates sometime, because if you think that's top 100 material, you are definitely on crack. :)

Posted by: Observer on August 16, 2004 10:08 AM

Hm. I've read 30 or so off that list. Thinking purely about the authors involved, it's not a bad list at all. On the other hand, I want to express doubt that Phil Dick should rate 3 of the top 15.

And, it's pretty clear that historical significance to the genre matters. Grey Lensman is probably the definitive space opera novel (best of a long space opera saga), but otherwise I don't have much to say for it.

Posted by: Feff on August 16, 2004 11:51 AM

I've always wanted to read the Lensmen series, but it's never in print.

Posted by: Humbaba on August 16, 2004 11:55 AM

Actually, I like this list better: http://listsofbests.com/list/9/

After the "top 10" the titles seem to be listed alphabetically. I've read about half of that list.

Posted by: Feff on August 16, 2004 12:02 PM

I read the Lensman series about 30 years ago, about the time I graduated from high school. I remember seeing full sets in places like Half Price Books, but not for a while.

Posted by: Feff on August 16, 2004 12:05 PM