Saturday, August 18, 2007

Heinlein Centenary -- Double Star

Double Star is one of my favorite Heinlein novels and has been since I read it for the first time about 50 years ago. It's narrated by The Great Lorenzo, a down-on-his-luck actor who gets asked to play the role of a lifetime, that of "the most important statesman of the 21st century," who's been kidnapped.

Even when I was a kid, I knew this was Prisoner of Zenda in Space, but I didn't care. I loved it. So did a lot of others, as I believe it was a Hugo winner.

Lorenzo begins as a xenophobic, self-absorbed, egotistical actor. But, as another writer warned, "we are what we pretend to be." Over the course of the novel, Lorenzo gets into the role he's playing and becomes considerably more enlightened and humane. At first, he's a fine comic character; by the end, he's a different man.

I think this is as much a coming-of-age novel as Tunnel in the Sky, and a better one. It's not nearly as polemical, and it clips right along in spite of the fact that the only deadly confrontation is within the first ten pages or so and that the villains of the piece never appear on stage afterward. Quite a feat of writing, I'd say.

One problem for some readers might be the lack of strong female characters like the ones in Tunnel in the Sky. In fact, the sole woman is all too much of a cliche, the helpful assistant hopelessly in love with the man she works for.

Oh, and there's carbon paper. A future with carbon paper? I suggest that you don't let this spoil your fun, though.

9 comments:

Randy Johnson said...

A future with carbon paper. It can't spoil my fun. I recently re-read Slan, along with the completed Slan Hunter, and chuckled about the manual typewriters. But it didn't spoil the fun. Not by a long shot.

Bill Crider said...

Mine, either.

Ed Gorman said...

I still reread it every couple of years. And it never lets me down. Pure crafty fun.

Bill Crider said...

I knew I wasn't along in liking this one.

Ethan Iverson said...

I adored this book as an early teen! Must have read it ten times. Right before dying, a Martian squeaks to his killer: "You will tell my nest?" I adopted that phrase for awhile. I also loved the escalating alarms the spaceship used before taking off, culminating in a modernist symphony with tympani solo played at full blast over the ship's PA. Great memories.

Bill Crider said...

That's a cool line, all right. Lots of good stuff in this one.

Todd Mason said...

Did anyone else see "Jerry Was a Man" on Saturday night?

Bill Crider said...

Missed it. How was it?

Todd Mason said...

ok. Check my name-hotlink...