Best Robert Heinlein novel?

psikeyhackr

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Haven't read that many books by Heinlein, non of his late ones.
However I greatly enjoyed "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress" and his juvinale "Red Planet".
But I think my all time favourite is "Orphans Of The Sky" closely followed by "Citizen Of The Galaxy", a sort of SF version of Kippling's "Kim".
Wow! A 10 year old thread. This thread is older than I was when I started reading science fiction.

I think that is a major point of SF. The Golden age of science fiction is 12.

I searched this thread for "idea", "orphan" and "age"

I think SF can be very important in relation to the AGE at which a book introduces a child to ideas.

Orphans of the Sky may not have been the first Heinlein book I read but if it wasn't then I don't know what it was. That book introduced me to the idea that a society has a paradigm of reality and it might be completely wrong. The obvious comparison to the real world is Galileo's conflict with the Catholic church.

It was my first introduction to the concept of mutants, generation ships and artificial gravity by rotation. So SF is useful for the introduction of ideas. I am not sure grade school kids care that much about the quality of the writing but the quality of the story FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE could matter a lot. The story might not interest people over 30 very much.

Next for ideas is Citizen of the Galaxy. This introduces ideas about child rearing and education and touches on reality with Samuel Renshaw. He was a real psychologist whose developments were used to train soldiers in World War II but now we never hear about him.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress mentions Loglan which if researched leads to Alfred Korzybski whose ideas interested Heinlein as far back as the 1940s.

Good science fiction is not just fiction. Modern stuff has become shallow junk.

What is there really of any depth to Hyperion?

This is from Torch of Freedom by David Weber:
"You just . . . don't really know, Anton. That's not a criticism, it's just an observation. From the time you were a kid, you lived in a world with wide horizons."

Zilwicki snorted. "Not usually the way the highlands of Gryphon are described!"

"Try growing up in a Dolist slum in Nouveau Paris. Trust me, Anton. The difference is huge. I'm not talking in terms of any scale of misery, mind you. I'm simply talking in terms of how narrow a view of the universe you're provided with. When I entered StateSec Academy, for all practical purposes I had no real knowledge of the universe beyond what I'd grown up with. Which wasn't much, believe me. That's . . ."
The right sci-fi books provide an expanded view of the universe of ideas not just stories.

Heinlein did that better than most.

psik
 
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tinkerdan

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I've read any of his that I could get a hold of.

I really like all of his later books though a lot of people I've spoken with have said they consider those to be his worst. They do seem to wander more from the Simon Pure but I always though his characters to be singularly outstanding from the average and his science was always just a bit edgy anyway.

At one time Stranger in a Strange Land was my tops then;
I Will Fear No Evil and Time Enough For Love

But it shifted to

To Sail the Sunset
and
The Cat Who Walked Though Walls


Considering the large variety of people who appreciate his work I'd say that the ones with the most problems with his diatribes are the critics and their apologists.
 

j d worthington

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I've read any of his that I could get a hold of.

I really like all of his later books though a lot of people I've spoken with have said they consider those to be his worst. They do seem to wander more from the Simon Pure but I always though his characters to be singularly outstanding from the average and his science was always just a bit edgy anyway.

At one time Stranger in a Strange Land was my tops then;
I Will Fear No Evil and Time Enough For Love

But it shifted to

To Sail the Sunset
and
The Cat Who Walked Though Walls


Considering the large variety of people who appreciate his work I'd say that the ones with the most problems with his diatribes are the critics and their apologists.

I seem to be another who, unlike many, quite likes his later works, including The Cat Who Walked Through Walls and To Sail Beyond the Sunset. True, his later novels become more discursive, but that, too, is a recognized literary genre, albeit of an older sort, and my feeling is that Heinlein used it to fine advantage.
 

dask

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I just looked discursive up in the dictionary and it can mean either rambling or coherent. If Heinlein was becoming more discursive as he got older I'm not sure whether that's a good or bad thing.:confused:
 

j d worthington

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I just looked discursive up in the dictionary and it can mean either rambling or coherent. If Heinlein was becoming more discursive as he got older I'm not sure whether that's a good or bad thing.:confused:

Generally, it would mean (to quote the Merriam-Webster): "talking or writing about many different things in a way that is not highly organized; moving from topic to topic without order" (from, as the same source notes: "Medieval Latin discursivus, from Latin discursus, past participle of discurrere to run about"); hence, rambling. This is the meaning I was going for, but in a limited sense: that it appears rambling. However, what is more often actually going on is something much closer to the didactic novel, which can indeed go from topic to topic during its course, yet retains its own internal integrity as a whole. This, I would argue, is what happened with much of Heinlein's later work... which was, really, nothing more than an expansion of tendencies which appeared as early as his first published story, "Life-line"....
 

dask

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The Merriam-Webster dictionary I have access to says:
1 a: moving from topic to topic without order: RAMBLING
1 b: proceeding coherently from topic to topic

Not disagreeing with your analysis, just find it annoying when one word can have apparently opposite meanings. Thing I have.:eek:
 
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tinkerdan

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I suspect that this was not so noticeable in his early work because of creative editing.

Generally, it would mean (to quote the Merriam-Webster): "talking or writing about many different things in a way that is not highly organized; moving from topic to topic without order" (from, as the same source notes: "Medieval Latin discursivus, from Latin discursus, past participle of discurrere to run about"); hence, rambling. This is the meaning I was going for, but in a limited sense: that it appears rambling. However, what is more often actually going on is something much closer to the didactic novel, which can indeed go from topic to topic during its course, yet retains its own internal integrity as a whole. This, I would argue, is what happened with much of Heinlein's later work... which was, really, nothing more than an expansion of tendencies which appeared as early as his first published story, "Life-line"....
He was either given more freedom in the later works or had better editors who understood his style of writing.
 

j d worthington

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The Merriam-Webster dictionary I have access to says:
1 a: moving from topic to topic without order: RAMBLING
1 b: proceeding coherently from topic to topic

Not disagreeing with your analysis, just find it annoying when one word can have apparently opposite meanings. Thing I have.:eek:
Weeeelllll... that is something that quite frequently happens with language. No word has an intrinsic meaning; it is given its significance by context (including common usage). The etymology of the word is important for understanding the way it comes to mean various things, but even this is limited. One of my favorite examples is the term "curious", which originally signified "full of care or pains, careful, assiduous, inquisitive"; most of these have fallen away save for special usage*, but from this came a variety of shades of meaning, all interconnected. For example (quoting from the OED):
I. As a subjective quality of persons:
1. Bestowing care or pains; careful; studious, attentive.
b. Anxious, concerned, solicitous.
2. Careful as to the standard of excellence; difficult to satisfy; particular; nice, fastidious.
a. Esp. in food, clothing, matters of taste.
b. Generally: particular, cautious.
c. Particular as to details, or as to the manner of action.
3. Careful or nice in observation or investigation; accurate.
b. Said of the eye, ear, etc. (e.g., Romeo and Juliet: "What curious eye doth quote deformities?")
4. Ingenious, skillful, clever, expert.
5. Desirous of seeing or knowing; eager to learn; inquisitive. Often with condemnatory connotation: Desirous of knowing what one has no right to know, or what does not concern one; prying.
b. Minute in inquiry or discrimination, subtle.
c. Devoting attention to occult art.
d. Of actions, etc.: Prompted by curiosity.
6. Taking the interest of a connoisseur in any branch of art; skilled as a connoisseur or virtuoso.

II. As an objective quality of things, etc.
7. Made with care or art: skillfully, elaborately or beautifully wrought. [Lovecraft was particularly fond of this one, with its various shadings.]
b. Of food, clothing, etc.: Exquisitely prepared, dainty, delicate.
8. Carefully worked out or prepared, elaborate.
9. Of actions or investigations, etc. Characterized by special care, careful, accurate, minute.
10. Characterized by minute inquiry or treatment.
a. Unduly minute or inquisitive.
b. Intricate, abstruse, subtle.
c. Recondite, occult.
11. Minutely accurate, exactl, precise.
12. Of materials: Fine, delicate.
13. Of or pertaining to the exercise of care, skill, ingenuity; skilled, skilful.
14. Without explicit reference to workmanship. Exquisite, choice, excellent, fine (in beauty, flavour, or other good quality).
15. Calling forth feelings of interest; interesting, noteworthy.
16. Deserving or exciting attention on account of its novelty or peculiarity; exciting curiosity; somewhat surprising, strange, singular, odd; queer.
17. Such as interests the curious or connoisseur.

III. 18. Curiously. (E.g., Congreve, Old Batchelor: "'Tis most curious fine weather".)
I suspect that this was not so noticeable in his early work because of creative editing.

He was either given more freedom in the later works or had better editors who understood his style of writing.

As I understand it, he seldom suffered editors interfering all that well, though he would sometimes alter things himself as per request or advice; but a more important influence would be the changes in his own perspectives on both life and the role of his art in life -- see the 2-volume biography Robert A. Heinlein in Dialogue with His Century, by William H. Patterson.
 
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tinkerdan

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I was aware of these books and had forgotten about them, but now they are on order and should arrive soon.

As I understand it, he seldom suffered editors interfering all that well, though he would sometimes alter things himself as per request or advice; but a more important influence would be the changes in his own perspectives on both life and the role of his art in life -- see the 2-volume biography Robert A. Heinlein in Dialogue with His Century, by William H. Patterson.
Thanks.
 

Toby Frost

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I don't know what to make of Heinlein, personally. I thought that The Puppet Masters was very good, and managed to be both entertaining and intelligent, but Starship Troopers is a pretty bad book (I don't mean the politics, but the execution, which was crude and dull). I'm wary of going back to him, although I gather that his books covered a lot of territory.
 

tinkerdan

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I never liked the Starship Troopers and it was likely because at the time I wasn't interested in space marines and boot-camp. But overall you are right about it being one of his worst.

I don't know what to make of Heinlein, personally. I thought that The Puppet Masters was very good, and managed to be both entertaining and intelligent, but Starship Troopers is a pretty bad book (I don't mean the politics, but the execution, which was crude and dull). I'm wary of going back to him, although I gather that his books covered a lot of territory.
That much said; I'd give him another try with some of the later years unless you need to have hard science.
 

j d worthington

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Actually, that's another where I fall at odds with most readers these days. For the genre it's in -- the outright didactic novel -- it is actually rather well done; and it continues to do what it was intended to do: stir up controversy and get people to thinking about these issues. As a story, per se, little can be said for it; but as an example of a particular type of recognized literary genre, it ain't half bad....


To be honest, though, I hated the darned thing first time I read it. Only going back to it some years later did I find myself coming to have a much higher regard for his accomplishment there... which, incidentally, puts it much closer to his later work rather than the earlier....
 

Brian G Turner

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I'm even more at odds - I enjoyed both the book, and the film adaptation of Starship Troopers. :D

I found the latter to be especially clever for its cynical interpretation of Heinlein's political arguments.
 

Toby Frost

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I think the film is rather good, too, in a cynical way.

Confining my arguments to the way that Heinlein presents his views, and not the views themselves: my main problem with Starship Troopers is that, whether or not it is in a genre of didactic books, it pretends not to be. It is nominally about a big war in space with robot suits and aliens (possibly because nobody picks up an SF novel about voting reform). But then it fails to deliver in terms of physical adventure. That's what I mean when I say that it's dull.

It also isn't very well argued, in my opinion. I say this because there is nobody in the book capable of countering Dubois, the obvious author-substitute. By position and intellect, he's put much higher than anyone else. It's not much of a fight when everyone else can't compete, and it doesn't help Heinlein's arguments.

The only other book with a Dubois-type figure that I can think of is 1984, which has O'Brien. But the big difference is that O'Brien is the villain: his speeches effectively say "I am evil and this is why", and the reader is not supposed to think that he is right. (O'Brien also is never properly challenged, because the other person in the argument is in agony). In 1984, O'Brien's speeches cause the reader to understand him, but make him all the more repulsive. Dubois' speeches are meant to draw the reader in, but had the opposite effect on me because he was an authorial mouthpiece knocking over straw men.
 

j d worthington

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I won't get into the arguments here, as that is material enough for at least one thread of its own... but as for "it" (the novel) pretending not to be a part of that didactic genre... well, I'd say that is more marketing decisions rather than anything to do with the novel itself or Heinlein's preferences. All of his juveniles (and this was intended as the capstone of the series) are in that vein, some with more "story" and some with less (e.g., Space Cadet, which in many ways is very similar in structure and themes to Starship Troopers). Nearly all of Heinlein's writings from this period on are largely in that vein as well; again, some have more "story" than others, but they progressively became more about addressing, from one perspective or another, various political or philosophical topics.
 

Fried Egg

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I loved "Starship Troopers" and I'm quite glad that it wasn't much focused on action. It certainly wouldn't have had the lasting appeal that it did if it had been predominantly an action novel.
 

Fried Egg

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I don't know if it will be a favourite but I'm reading "Door into Summer" right now and so far it's a cracking read.
 
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