Lion of the Blogosphere

The Star Beast (1954) by Robert Heinlein

This is a weird one. It’s one of Heinlein’s so-called “juveniles.” As you know, Robert Heinlein wrote a bunch of books that were marketed to teenage boys, featuring main characters who were teenage boys, and lacking subject matter that were considered inappropriate for teenage boys back in the 1950, therefore no one has sex in Heinlein juveniles, although often the main characters get married at the end.

This is a weird one because its style is a more like Stranger in a Strange Land (without the sex) than the typical Heinlein juveniles. This book is worth reading, but I consider Heinlein’s top-three juveniles to be Citizen of the Galaxy, Tunnel in the Sky and Starman Jones.

**Warning, there are spoilers ahead!**

When I reviewed Time for the Stars, I stated that “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.” The mother in The Star Beast is perhaps the most horrible and vile mother in all of Heinlein’s juveniles, perhaps as bad as the mother in Farnham’s Freehold (which was not a juvenile). Heinlein really hates mothers.

The teenage boy main character, John Stuart XI, is a not-too-bright and not-very-ambitious lumphead. The smartest character in the novel is the boy’s girlfriend, Betty. She’s smarter than all of the adults. I can’t help but wonder what exactly she sees in John. I guess that, back in the 1950s, you didn’t have to be a rock star with huge muscles and model-looks and alpha-male “game” to have a pretty girlfriend who was totally into you.

I should really say that the boy is one of the main characters, which is why this novel is different than other juveniles. This novel is told from the point of view of several different people, and there’s a second main character, Henry Kiku, who is the highest-level career employee in the planetary government’s equivalent of the Department of State. He basically runs things because his politically appointed boss is a moron. All the adults in this novel are morons except for Kiku, and Kiku himself makes some decisions that seem pretty dubious. Kiku is from Kenya, so Heinlein is obviously sending a message to 1950s bigots that they shouldn’t be prejudiced against blacks.

Yes, Kiku represents what conservatives these days call the deep state. The message from Heinlein is that we should be thankful for the deep state, because the politicians are morons.

There’s a lot of chit-chat between Kiku and the other people in his department, and with Dr. Ftaeml who is an alien who acts as a translator and go-between with the alien Hroshii who have come to earth looking for their lost princess, who happens to be the “star beast” of the book’s title. Regarding the chit-chat part, Heinlein’s later novels, beginning with Stranger in a Strange Land, are littered with this type of chit-chat, but Heinlein isn’t very good at writing chit-chat.

Heinlein also fashions himself as some sort of authority on law because he was involved in some lawsuits, and like many of his books, there’s a lot of legal stuff in this one. Heinlein’s legal subplots are usually the weakest and least interesting parts.

The big irony of the novel is that the star beast, John’s “pet” whom he calls Lummox, is considered an animal by the moron humans, but in reality the Hroshii are more advanced than humans and we find out that Lummox actually considers John to be his pet! Heinlein is telling us to not to judge people based on superficialities like appearance or lack of English-language ability.

Has the book changed my mind about immigration or HBD? No, it hasn’t.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 7, 2019 at 7:59 PM

Posted in Books

8 Responses

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  1. This book is worth reading, but I considered Heinlein’s top-three juveniles to be Citizen of the Galaxy, Tunnel in the Sky and Starman Jones.

    Is that use of past tense a typo or are you saying you no longer consider those to be the top three?

    CamelCaseRob

    December 7, 2019 at 9:12 PM

  2. you wrote:
    “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.”

    Contra: the Rocket Ship Galileo, the father of one of the three protagonists has forbidden his son to go to the moon on Donald Cargrave’s proposed rocket ship, but the mother overrules him, saying that she “wouldn’t want the blood to run thin”

    rapping boomer

    December 7, 2019 at 10:19 PM

  3. I’ve always found it weird that one of the main things people praise Heinlein for is his dialogue. His dialogue is ridiculously unrealistic.

    Hermes

    December 8, 2019 at 12:48 AM

  4. I really can’t discern a stylistic distinction between a novel like Citizen of the Galaxy and Double Star except for the age of the protagonist.

    Curle

    December 8, 2019 at 10:14 AM

  5. BTW – Totally Lion-type article with Lion-type themes on changing fortunes of America’s professional class.

    Lots of good stuff in this article. Including scathing evaluation of what passes for conservative intellectualism.

    https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2019/11/the-real-class-war/

    Curle

    December 8, 2019 at 7:52 PM


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