Sunday, February 6, 2022

Review of "Time for the Stars," by Robert Heinlein

 Review of

Time for the Stars, by Robert Heinlein

Four out of five stars

Very much in the Heinlein niche

 People familiar with the styles of science fiction writers of the 1950’s would recognize this as a work of Robert Heinlein very quickly. The father of the two main characters is very much anti-government, to the point of being on the edge of a revolutionary. Later, when there is discussion about the captain of the ship always being right, there is the clear expression of authoritarianism.

 Tom and Pat are identical twin teenaged boys, and they were born outside the normal quota of children that married couples can have. They are close, yet far apart, certainly beyond the cliché of how identical twins are generally depicted. Yet, they do have one very significant skill in common. Properly trained and coached, they can communicate with each other telepathically.

 With overcrowding a real issue, the government is embarking on project Lebensraum, where spaceships are being sent to investigate nearby stars in a search for other habitable planets. There is no faster than light drive, so it will take years for a ship to reach their assigned stars. In order to maintain communication over the vast differences, identical twins that demonstrate a significant level of telepathic  ability are sought out and trained. One will remain on Earth while the other will depart on a spaceship. The ships will approach the speed of light, so the twin that remains on Earth will age must faster than the one on the ship.

 Tom is the one that departs on the ship, and they have several adventures on the newly discovered planets. Heinlein makes most of his characters quirky, specifically the professionals. On one planet, they encounter a water dwelling species that fights back and nearly destroys the entire crew of the spaceship. Heinlein wraps up the adventure with a speech by an attorney explaining how important their mission was to the human species.

 This is a YA adventure in the classic mold of the science fiction of the fifties. A powerful drive motor that allows for near light speed travel and telepathy are fundamental components of the plot with no attempt to explain how they work. It is narrated from the perspective of a young man, with the usual conflicts and rivalries between brothers. Even though their role in society is extremely critical, personal feelings creep in.

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