Lion of the Blogosphere

Red Planet by Robert Heinlein

Warning: I suppose this contains some minor spoilers.

Over the past few years I’ve been re-reading Robert Heinlein books that I read a long time ago when I was a kid. (Although I’ve certainly been taking my time. It has been four and a half years since I started this project, and I still haven’t read Rocket Ship Galileo, Space Cadet or The Rolling Stones. When I was a kid I could have read all these books in the course of one or two weeks.)

I believe that this book is one of the first Heinlein books that I ever read, but also one that I only read once and never again. Until now.

I recalled that it’s a book about a boy and his pet Martian, and was expecting to find out that the Martian pet was really something else, and indeed that was the case.

But I totally didn’t remember any of the book’s political stuff. This is really two stories in one. The first half of the book is an adventure story about Jim and his friend Frank trying to make their way home from a boarding school run by an evil headmaster (shades of the Harry Potter book when Dumbledore was cast out and an evil headmaster took over) while chased by Martian cops.

And then the book segues into a story about a revolution on Mars, with the right to bear arms playing an important role. It’s very classically Heinlein, and you can see the precursor to Heinlein’s more famous adult book, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. This is not Heinlein’s only juvenile about colonies revolting from Earth, there is also Between Planets.

The Martians described in this book seem to be the same Martians from Stranger in a Strange Land. These are the only two Heinlein books, that I am aware of, that share this depiction of Martians.

Those looking to be offended will find some things in this book that they could call “misogynist.” I previously wrote that Heinlein novels tell us that girls can do anything boys can do, but what they really want to do is have babies. But in this book written in 1949, one of his very earliest novels, he hadn’t even reached that stage in his writing evolution. The women in this book don’t do much besides raise children and cook.

I rate this book as being better than Between Planets if you want to read a juvenile about a revolution, and I recommend it for big fans of Stranger in a Strange Land who want to learn more about the Martians. Although I wonder if Stranger in a Strange Land actually has any big fans because I found it to be Heinlein’s must overrated novel.

But nevertheless, this isn’t Heinlein’s best juvenile. I still recommend Citizen of the Galaxy, Tunnel in the Sky, and Starman Jones, as his best.

For serious Heinlein fans, an essay about how the edition originally published in 1949 (which is what I just read) was altered from what Heinlein intended:

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

May 2, 2021 at 9:25 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

7 Responses

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  1. “Starman Jones” is really good, other than that Heinlein screwed up how the Special Theory of Relativity works. He went back and fixed that in “Time for the Stars,” an elegant little novel full of insights about identical twins. But he couldn’t come up with a way to top the terrific action climax of “Starman Jones,” so he just repeated it in abbreviated form in “Time for the Stars.”

    “Tunnel in the Sky” is like an optimistic “Lord of the Flies:” kids get stranded on an unknown planet and eventually figure out how to cooperate to survive. It was written simultaneously with LotF, so it’s not a direct response, but could be. The now famous true story of the 6 Tonganese boys who got shipwrecked on desert island in the 1960s and by the time they were finally rescued had worked out an effective system for themselves is closer to “Tunnel” than it is to “Lord.”

    “Citizen of the Galaxy” is like “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel” in that Heinlein has his hero live through successive radically different environments. Heinlein was great at inventing plausible-sounding cultures, and he was such a master of the sci-fi juvenile that by the late 1950s he was using up three or four settings that would have been worth a novel of their own in each book. (He did reuse “Citizen’s” brief Space Marines section at full length in “Starship Troopers.”)

    I particularly liked the bizarre part in “Citizen” where anthropologist Margaret Mead (“Margaret Mader” in the book) explains to the young hero the complex marriage customs of the new society he’s suddenly found himself in.

    My favorite thing about Heinlein was that he’d learn new subjects, write them up in fictional form, then get bored and move on to a new subject. He’d clearly been reading up on cultural anthropology, used it for one fourth of “Citizen,” and then moved on. Lots of his fans wanted him to set himself up as guru/cult leader like L. Ron Hubbard or Ayn Rand. Heinlein had a high opinion of his own capacities, but, at least in his long prime up through “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress,” he’d have gotten bored saying the same thing over and over.

    Steve Sailer

    May 2, 2021 at 10:17 PM

  2. I put down Stranger about 3/4’s through it out of boredom.


    May 2, 2021 at 10:55 PM

  3. “And then the book segues into a story about a revolution on Mars..”

    If you’ve ever blogged about The Expanse I don’t remember it, and yet it is the kind of sci fi that you ought to love. It has the same kind of back story you describe of rising political tensions between citizens of Earth, Mars and the Outer Belt, combined with a more realistic attempt at portraying space travel around the Solar System.

    The only negative thing about it is that it has raised the bar so much that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to enjoy Star Trek again in the way I once did.

    prolier than thou

    May 4, 2021 at 10:09 AM

  4. Extraterrestrials are only fun to watch (not being read about) when they get hostile with humans. Hollywood knows it’s a money maker fully understanding that proles love to watch gore and violence when they come from outer space.

    Aliens hailing from the red planet isn’t nearly as exciting as those who come from Sirius, (google it), which isn’t a planet but a series of stars far far away often used in a sci-fi theme.

    Ok, what, who's this again?

    May 4, 2021 at 7:23 PM

  5. Heinlein is so dated it has become hard to read. Reading his science fiction stories are more about reading alternative histories of the past.


    May 5, 2021 at 10:35 AM

  6. O/t – Prolier and NAM oriented counties tend to have lower vaccination rates in New York State. You probably knew that.

    This interactive map from the website once again shows that Tompkins County, home to Cornell University having the greatest good of a measured value, and this time one of the highest vaccination rates in the state. 2nd behind another county that probably doesn’t have much urban activity to be rated as 1st in NY.

    Ok, what, who's this again?

    May 5, 2021 at 6:05 PM

  7. Thanks.


    May 6, 2021 at 8:08 AM

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