Lion of the Blogosphere

Time for the Stars (1956) by Robert Heinlein

with 17 comments

This is one of Robert Heinlein’s so-called “juvenile novels,” novels the were written for teenage boys and generally are coming-of-age stories in which the main character is a teenage boy. But like a lot of Heinlein’s juvenile novels, adults can appreciate them as well. Heinlein did not dumb down his juveniles. A lot of modern media aimed at youth seems to take the attitude that the target audience is too stupid to notice plot holes and stuff that doesn’t make any sense. Never with Heinlein. Other than the age of the protagonist and the lack of anyone explicitly having sexual intercourse, there isn’t much to distinguish the juveniles from Heinlein’s non-juvenile novels from the same time period. And the lack of sexual intercourse is for the best because Heinlein was really bad at writing anything sexy.

Nothing about this book causes me to change my opinion that the three best Heinlein juveniles, in declining order of greatness, are Citizen of the Galaxy, Tunnel in the Sky, and Starman Jones. Time for the Stars is an enjoyable read with a lot of retro Heinlein goodness, but the book seems too short, and with the exception of telepathic communication between twins, the other themes in this book are captured better in other Heinlein novels. Life aboard a spaceship is done better in Citizen of the Galaxy and Starman Jones. Encounters with strange hostile aliens on unexplored planets, once again done better in Starman Jones. I’d even go so far as to say that Heinlein did first-person-narrative better in Podkayne of Mars.

In the 1950s, Heinlein thought he was being very feminist in depicting a future spaceship crew where there seem to be about an equal number of women as men, with some of the women even being scientists. But people read the book today and only see the stuff that’s politically incorrect. Even I see that stuff, but I enjoy it, the best part of Heinlein is seeing how attitudes towards women have changed so much, and maybe Heinlein’s viewpoint is right and the modern viewpoint is wrong.

As in many Heinlein juvenile novels, the protagonist’s mother is emotional and useless, and usually a roadblock early-on, standing in the way of the protagonist going on cool adventures and becoming an independent man.

Some of my favorite politically incorrect quotes from the book:

She was awfully pretty, I decided, even though she was too old for it to matter … at least thirty, maybe older.

Heinlein wasn’t into teenage boys hooking up with MILFs, but he was perfectly fine with relationships veering in the other direction.

Another quote:

I will never understand Janet and perhaps it is just as well that she promised to “be a sister to me.” She said that she did not mind my being younger than she was, but that she did not think she could look up to a man who could not solve a fourth-degree function in his head. “… and a wife should always look up to her husband, don’t you think?”

As much as people today might scream about that being misogynist or something like that, it seems to be the reality that most women aren’t happy in marriage unless they see their husband as being superior in some way that matters to them.

Heinlein has a special thing for red-headed women. At the beginning of the book there are two red-headed twins:

They were red-headed sisters, younger than we were but not too young-sixteen, maybe-and cute as Persian kittens.

Those sisters had the effect on us that a light has on a moth. Pat whispered, “Tom, we owe it to them to grant them a little of our time,” and headed toward them, with me in step. They were dressed in fake Scottish outfits, green plaid which made their hair flame like bonfires and to us they looked as pretty as a new fall of snow.

And then the red-headed twins depart from the novel:

The red-headed twins got up and walked out, noses in the air. They did not have to speak to make it clear that they would have nothing to do with anything so unladylike, so rude and crude, as exploring space. In the silence in which they paraded out Pat said to me, “There go the Pioneer Mothers. That’s the spirit that discovered America.” As they passed us he cut loose with a loud razzberry—and I suddenly realized that he was not telepathing when the redheads stiffened and hurried faster.

But Tom, eventually does get to marry a red-head at the end, his twin brother’s great-granddaughter! A surprise that totally came out of nowhere, nowhere that is if you are unaware of Heinlein’s fascination with incest and other taboo sexual pairings. At the end of Citizen of the Galaxy, Thorby marries his first-cousin once removed. And in Door Into Summer, the protagonist marries his business partner’s little girl, but thanks to time travel and suspended animation, she gets to turn 21 while he remains in his thirties, thus preventing the two from having too much of an age difference. So the weird ending of Time for the Stars is par for the course. One of the lessons from Heinlein is that the best wife is one you start grooming to be your wife when she’s a little girl, but I suspect that it’s a lesson which doesn’t work in real life. Even if you could do time travel (which you can’t), it still probably wouldn’t work. Except for Woody Allen.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 1, 2019 at EST pm

Posted in Books

17 Responses

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  1. I agree that Citizens of the Galaxy is great but I’ve got a loyalty to Orphans of the Sky. It’s the Heinlein novel I’m most likely to give as a gift.

    It seems to me the perfect Mencius Moldbug message: things are not as you’ve been told and even when confronted with undeniable evidence that a central regime, or religious, rationalizing story is false many will stick with the story over the evidence.

    Curle

    December 1, 2019 at EST pm

  2. I was hoping for some reviews of your Thanksgiving with your prole nephews

    Bozothedolphin

    December 1, 2019 at EST pm

    • I was wondering if he had any interesting family interactions over Thanksgiving as well.

      destructure

      December 1, 2019 at EST pm

  3. Few things are a bigger letdown than a hott chick with flaming red hair who is shaved completely bald.
    God damn it.

    Peter

    ironrailsironweights

    December 1, 2019 at EST pm

    • Heinlein never wrote about that sort of female grooming, as far as I know.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      December 1, 2019 at EST pm

      • It didn’t exist back then.

        Peter

        ironrailsironweights

        December 1, 2019 at EST pm

    • Irondude, if you haven’t already, you need to watch the movie “Short Cuts.” Trust me on this one. You’re welcome in advance.

      njguy73

      December 2, 2019 at EST pm

      • Why? Does it have anything to do with women’s pubic hair removal, NFL fans being alpha studs who get all the chicks, or fat middle-aged 5’s shooting guns being described as “cute girls shooting guns?”

        Hermes

        December 2, 2019 at EST pm

      • Four words: Julianne. Moore. Frontal. Natural.

        njguy73

        December 3, 2019 at EST pm

  4. A topic that would be interesting to see the Lion cover is “The Curse of Competence”. (Example article from a Princeton alum: https://abovethelaw.com/2016/03/the-curse-of-competence)

    anon

    December 1, 2019 at EST pm

  5. Yes, it’s interesting how science fiction of the past tried to anticipate what they considered “progressive” changes in society, but there were limits to how far outside the box they could think as they unconsciously assumed various things they could never imagine being different. Thus, Heinlein has women being sexually liberated, joining spaceship crews, and becoming scientists… but at the same time, everyone still acts like they believe there are real difference between the sexes, men are still in charge, and people still do all kinds of things that would be considered “sexual harassment” today, like men calling women “dear” or “sweetie,” saying things like “don’t you worry your pretty little head about that, playfully pinching them, etc.

    Hermes

    December 1, 2019 at EST pm

  6. Have Space Suit, Will Travel is right up there with Tunnel in The Sky, Starman Jones and Citizen of the Galaxy….also, in Have Space Suit, Will Travel, we have the same trope about getting young girls being prepped for marriage…it’s clear that our 18 year old protagonist will have some future dalliance with the 12 year old girl Pee Wee.

    rapping boomer

    December 2, 2019 at EST am

    • Disagree about Have Spacesuit. It’s one of Heinlein’s few juveniles that is actually juvenile. But yeah, now that I think about it, it does have that theme about the underaged girl.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      December 2, 2019 at EST am

  7. “As in many Heinlein juvenile novels, the protagonist’s mother is emotional and useless, and usually a roadblock early-on, standing in the way of the protagonist going on cool adventures and becoming an independent man.”

    You’ve described how every woman in every boxing movie is portrayed, with the exception of Adrian in the Rocky movies. She is described as being opposed to Rocky’s boxing, but her reasons are always sound. She is always on Rocky’s side.

    gothamette

    December 2, 2019 at EST pm

  8. A lot of excellent, more recent sci-fi that you could be reading:

    Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

    The Three Body trilogy, by Cixin Liu.

    The Rama series, by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee.

    Any novel published over the last 25 years by Kim Stanley Robinson

    David Pinsen

    December 2, 2019 at EST pm

  9. […] I reviewed Time for the Stars, I stated that “in many Heinlein juvenile novels, the protagonist’s mother is emotional and […]


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