Visions of Paradise

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Farmer in the Sky

I discovered science fiction in the mid-1960s, after which I read primarily current or recent sf. Thus the first Heinlein novels I read were Starship Troopers (too pro-war preachy for me) and Stranger in a Strange Land (the first half was gripping, but the second half was pointless). This was followed by Podkayne of Mars and Farnham’s Freehold (both enjoyable but minor), The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (the best of his post-60s works fiction), I Will Fear No Evil (almost unreadable) and The Number of the Beast (totally unreadable; I abandoned it halfway).

I did go back and read some of his earlier books (The Past Through Tomorrow–the “future history” stories, Double Star and Universe, both of which I enjoyed), but none of them were so awe-inspiring for me to rank Heinlein among my favorite sf writers. Eventually I read a few of his juveniles (Citizen of the Galaxy, Time For the Stars, The Star Beast), none of which changed my opinion. But, of course, I was in my 40s by the time I read the latter books.

Recently I decided to give his juveniles another chance, and purchased Four Frontiers, an SFBC volume containing Heinlein’s first four juveniles. Farmer in the Sky looked the most interesting to me, but it was still nothing special: no plot per se, little characterization, and mostly lecturing on the part of the teenaged narrator about the nuts and bolts of how to establish a space colony (he was awfully knowledgeable for a kid who whined about not having an education through the course of the book). It was easy-reading, and had a few good moments (the discovery of the crystals and the collapse of the heat trap), but to my mind Heinlein is still Heinlein. I give the book a borderline B rating.


  • You and I agree about the later Heinlein, but you don't seem to enjoy the earlier Heinlein like I do. You should try Have Space Suit-Will Travel, Tunnel in the Sky, The Rolling Stones and The Door Into Summer. Alexei Panshin, who might have written the first book about Heinlein, said only a misanthrope would hate Have Space Suit-Will Travel.

    By Blogger Jim Harris, At 12:19 PM  

  • I need to go back and try Heinlein again. I have not read any of his books in a long time. The one that I remember liking the most was The Door Into Summer.

    By Blogger Jim Black, At 10:05 PM  

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