Sunday, June 29, 2014

What's Your Favorite Heinlein?

I know. It's one of those either/or questions. Either you don't like Robert Anson Heinlein, or his work, or both, at which point you may as well stop reading now, or you like all his books and were vastly influenced by his work in an infinite number of ways. Guess which camp I fall into?
Right now, I'm reading volume two of William Patterson's brilliant biography of Heinlein. It's taking a while, as I have to go reread books he mentions, with a new outlook on what was happening when RAH wrote them.
My favorite Heinlein is generally the one I'm (re)reading at any given moment. I cut my teeth on his juveniles, and I'm especially fond of TUNNEL IN THE SKY and HAVE SPACE SUIT-WILL TRAVEL, though BETWEEN PLANETS is especially good as well because, really, who could not love that delicious Venusian dragon, Sir Isaac Newton? Who reappeared, by the way, in THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST. Huzzah!
Currently, I'm rereading THE PUPPET MASTERS for the gazillionth time. Not a juvenile by any means, though it came out during the 1950s when most of his boys' books were published. A dark invasion story, later ripped off reimagined by lots of other authors, but none of them have, to me, quite matched RAH's particular vision. The movie based on it—though, really, lots of other movies have been based on it in so many, many ways—which was released in 1994 and starred Donald Sutherland, eminently drool-worthy, Eric Thal and Julie Warner, was a pale reimagining of the book.
Quick aside: why has there never been a good movie based on a Heinlein work? No, not STARSHIP TROOPERS, though I loved its take-no-bug-prisoners attitude.
 In THE PUPPET MASTERS, the Earth is invaded by slugs from Titan—or were they?—who attach themselves to humans by some delightfully squishy means and totally control their actions, though the humans are aware and screaming silently for help inside. A stalwart secret agent, working for the Old Man and his super secret agency, gets involved in the slug fight, falls in love with another agent, and deals with daddy issues, all while fighting this nasty invasion. The USA gets swarmed, and we don't even want to mention those behind the Iron Curtain—or, as Sam-the-agent asks in the book 'How would we know?' when the discussion of whether they were invaded as well comes up.
To me, the book succeeds on so many levels. Danger, adventure, sex, violence, pain, joy, love, hate, fear. Read it yourself if you don't believe me. Every time I read it, I find new things to like about it.



  1. I found Heinlein as a teenager, and went through his books pretty fast. That was long ago, and I haven't read any a second time, though I loved them back then. It's hard to remember which one I liked best. HAVE SPACE SUIT WILL TRAVEL comes to mind, but so does THE GREEN HILLS OF EARTH, STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, ROCKETSHIP GALILEO, GLORY ROAD, and STARSHIP TROOPERS when I was a kid. He was one of the Masters.

  2. I've only read a handful of his novels, but I like Heinlein in general. I think my favorite so far might be Double Star, but I just finished reading Farmer in the Sky, which was pretty fun as well. I actually haven't read The Pupper Masters yet. On the subject of movies, there was recently quite a good movie (in my opinion), Predestination, which was based on one of his short stories.