Thursday, March 15, 2007

Beyond This Horizon

Beyond This Horizon

Robert Heinlein

Date: 1942   —   $6.99   —   Book

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Fiction, Science Fiction

I was arranging our Heinlein books on the shelves in chronological order so that I could see how his fiction developed over time. Naturally, I was very surprised to have a copy of this book at the very beginning, as I had assumed it was one of his later novels that I had yet to read. Imagine! A new old-style Heinlein that I'd never heard of! I wonder why?

Well, after reading it, there's no wonder. This is not a good book. It has a lot of characters that are typical Heinlein, as well as an interesting situation, but... but... he obviously learned a few things about writing in the time between this and Rocket Ship Galileo, his first "juvenile." The pacing's cruddy. The story is both too complicated and not developed enough. He tries to do too many things in too little time. And the apparent central thesis of the book— What happens when we die?— is given almost no time, and when it is, the answer is trite.

Mostly, however, the problem is that you get to the end of the book and wonder what the point was. Heinlein is all about points; his adventure stories are about adventure, his later books all have a purpose, but this story feels like a short-story author trying to write a novel as though it were a short story. Oh, well. At least we know he got better.

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