George Kelley and I have been talking a little about the special Heinlein Centenary issue of Locus, and we were both inspired to do a little re-reading of Heinlein's work. I went to the closet in my daughter's old room, and sure enough, 'way back on a shelf were all the paperback editions of the Heinlein novels I'd bought her when she got interested in reading as a kid. She loved them as much as I did, obviously, or they wouldn't still be hiding in there.
In the first stack was The Door into Summer. I thought at first that I'd probably read this as a paperback when it hit the stands back in 1959, but that's not right. I was reading F&SF every month back in those days, so I'm sure I read the serial version. I thought it was great. The opening and closing bits about "the door into summer" are still among my favorite paragraphs in all Heinlein's writing. Nobody ever did cats any better.
The book's not about cats, though. It's about Daniel Boone Davis, who gets cheated out of everything he has by his partner and fiance in the year 1970, takes "the long sleep," and wakes up in the year 2000. Davis is an engineer and an inventor, who's making a heap of dough in 1970 from something that very much resembles a Roomba except that it's better. And while he's at it, he's inventing other great stuff as well. But never mind that. When he wakes up in 2000, he has revenge on his mind.
One of the things that struck me when reading the book is that Heinlein would've been very disappointed in the actual year 2000. It didn't have very many of the wonders he anticipated. One thing he got wrong: Davis says, "My Country 'Tis of Thee had never succumbed to police-state nonsense, so there was no bureau certain to have a dossier on each citizen, nor was I in a position to tap such a file even if there had been." Davis's search for certain people would have been a lot easier in the real 2000 (and I won't comment any further, though Heinlein, libertarian down to the soles of his feet, certainly would).
Now about that revenge. Does Davis get it? Absolutely, but not in the way you might anticipate. Stuff set up in the beginning of the book, stuff you might have wondered about, is all played out in the end. To say more would be unfair.
Quibbles? Well, there's one aspect of the book I think current readers will find a little creepy. You'll know what I mean if you read it, and if you don't, well, I was wrong.
One thing that struck me again in reading this was how similar Heinlein seems to me to be to John D. MacDonald. They both love to preach, though JDM is a little less prone to it than RAH. They both know a heck of a lot about nearly everything. They both write the same sappy dialog for people in love. In fact, their styles seem similar to me in ways I can't even explain. I think I once said that if JDM had kept on writing SF, he'd have been RAH. I still think so. They're that much alike, at least in my mind. Maybe that explains why I like their work so much.