Posts Tagged ‘heinlein’

30 Days of Books: Day 05 – A book that makes you happy

This may be the easiest day of the 30 day book meme for me.  As soon as I saw this prompt, I knew exactly which book I wanted to write about.

glory_road Glory Road is Robert Heinlein’s one true foray into the fantasy genre, and he pulls it off admirably in a fun Swashbuckling-Musketeers meets Young-Galahad meets Hero-for-Hire plot in a whimsical and humorous set of worlds (yes, that’s meant to be plural) of Heinlein’s creation.

Oscar Gordon (as the protagonist is soon nicknamed) is a veteran of the unWar in Vietnam, and suffers from a bureaucratic Catch-22 of the unWar – namely, he is ineligible to have his much-deserved university education paid for by the G.I. Bill.  In a fit of desperation, he answers an intriguing advertisement he discovers in the Personals section of a newspaper:

ARE YOU A COWARD? This is not for you.  We badly need a brave man […] proficient with all weapons, some knowledge of engineering and mathematics essential, willing to travel, no family or emotional ties, indomitably courageous and handsome of face and figure.  Permanent employment, very high pay, glorious adventure, great danger.

(What young man HASN’T daydreamed about answering just such an advertisement at one time or another?)

Along with a beautiful woman (nicknamed Star) and sarcastic but trusty sidekick Rufo, our hapless hero fumbles his way through dangerous foes and hazardous obstacles on the way to retrieve the Egg of the Phoenix from the labyrinthine Dark Tower where it is guarded by the dreaded Soul Eater.

Yes, the above plot sounds like standard fantasy-fare, but you don’t need a completely original plot to develop a fun story.  Especially when Heinlein puts his own special twist on the fantasy genre and does more than just permit the Hero to achieve his quest and win the girl – he explores what happens to the Hero after the quest is over and done, and the Glory Road has dead-ended with no further goal in sight.

As he does in most of his works, Heinlein also works in quite a bit of commentary about society, cultural morals, sexuality, government, and the quality of life.  Many of the more critical reviews of the book harp unceasingly on his heavy-handed references to free sexual societies and the implication that the monogamous norms of present-day humanity are outmoded and unjustified.  While I too find his arguments hard to accept at face value, they in no way caused me to devalue the fun I had every time I joined Oscar, Star, and Rufo on their foray along the Glory Road. (After all, sometimes a good debate won’t change your mind, but it will make you think, and become more confident in the reasoning behind your own opinion.)

This book exudes some special sort of aura that makes me happy when I pick it up – I can’t explain it but I certainly can recognize it, and that is why this is the perfect book for me to write about in today’s book prompt.

Show us a great April Fools' Day joke.

I'm not a big one for practical jokes.  In Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, humor is codified, for the sake of an intelligent computer's understanding, as "Funny Once", "Funny Always", and "Funny Never". Some things are funny only the first time, some are always funny no matter what, and some things just aren't funny at all.  For me, practical jokes usually fall in the "Funny Once" category, although if they're mean-spirited or cause stress for the person being pranked, they immediately go in the "Funny Never" bucket.


WARNING: The rest of this post is sort of geeky.  If you don't consider yourself kind of geeky, you may find it funny.

That being said, I do appreciate when an April Fool's joke doesn't harm anyone AND manages to be "Funny Always".  One example that I recall is when a former boss of mine sent me some cut-sheets for some new electrical components he was thinking of buying, and asked me to review and provide my input.

Write Only Memory (1/2)Write Only Memory (2/2)

Yes, these are cut-sheets for "Write Only Memory".  Just as you'd infer, where "Read Only Memory" devices have data on it that can only be read (and not written to), "Write Only Memory" devices can only be written to (and not read from).  Some of the uses suggested on the cut sheet for Write Only Memory:

  • Don't Care Buffer Stores
  • Least Significant Control Memories
  • First-In, Never-Out (FINO) Asynchronous Buffers
  • Post-Mortem Memories (Weapons Systems)


It took me a little while to figure out what the hell the stuff was supposed to be, but I chuckled quite a bit as I started reading the descriptions and looking at all the hard work that was put into these cut sheets.

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Variable Star
Robert A. Heinlein & Spider Robinson

Hold the phones, stop the presses – Robert Heinlein is writing new novels from beyond the grave!

Well, technically, it's a collaboration, but Variable Star by Robert A. Heinlein and Spider Robinson reads like a Heinlein novel, and delivers everything you could want from a book written by two of the greatest writers of modern science fiction.

Set in the not-too-distant future, just a little while past Heinlein's Crazy Years period, the protagonist is a young musician (saxophone) and composer named Joel Johnston.  Joel's pride and stubbornness (and a whirlwind series of events) cause him to book passage on a colony ship destined to become the Earth's 20th colony, on a planet 85 light-years away from everything he held near and dear to his heart.  The novel is as much about humanity, kindness, love, music, and hope as it is about the Joel's experiences on his voyage to the stars.

The novel feels like a Heinlein juvenile, and for good reason.  During the period that Robert A. Heinlein was writing his juveniles, he put together a very dense-but-unfinished outline of eight typed pages and fourteen 3×5" index cards of extensive handwritten notes about Variable Star.  And then, for some reason, he never wrote the novel and instead put them in a desk drawer, where they sat undiscovered until members representing his estate went through all of his works, and in 2003 asked Spider Robinson to turn the outline into a full novel.

Spider Robinson, first called "the new Robert Heinlein" by the New York Times Book Review in 1982, eagerly accepted the challenge to turn the outline into a novel that would make the Grand Master proud.  He managed to follow faithfully in the classic model of a Heinlein Space Opera, complete with RAH's own trademark phrases and quips.  Yet Robinson also poured his own life and soul into the story, bringing about a depth to the characters and scenes that only Spider Robinson could dream up.  Although he restrained himself somewhat compared to other of his novels (like his Callahan series), Robinson still managed to sprinkle a liberal dose of puns throughout the story – but rarely, if ever, do they appear to be puns for punning's sake.

Readers should be aware that Robinson does bring a bit of the contemporary to the stereotypical '50s style of Heinlein's earlier works.  There are some references to sex & drugs, and some minor profanity that you wouldn't expect if the novel was solely authored by Heinlein.  However, these are not very graphic at all, and I would say the book is a safe read for anyone 13 years and older.

This book is a fantastic read that kept me up way too late for many nights in a row until I devoured it from cover to cover.  As a long-time fan of both authors, I could not think of a more enjoyable story to cap off Heinlein's long writing career.  This is a definite must-read for anyone who is a fan of Robert A. Heinlein's books, and fans of one of Heinlein's greatest students will not be disappointed with Spider Robinson's latest creation, either.

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"Don't ever become a pessimist… a pessimist is correct oftener than an optimist, but an optimist has more fun, and neither can stop the march of events."
    -Robert A. Heinlein

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Februarium, Day Five

Why you love.

Write an answer to this question. "Why do you love?" It's not as easy as it seems. Do it, though, and see where the entry takes you.

"Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own."
-Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land.

I don't know what to say on this topic. I mean, love's love, right? You ask me, "Why do I love?" Shouldn't the question be, "Why shouldn't I love?"

Everyone is going to define love, and the act of loving another, differently. Some feel LOVE is synonymous with devotion, others with lust, and still others with some sort of simply indescribable feeling that is 1 part obligation, 1 part happiness, and one part belonging. I can't define love for you…if I do, you're going to stop reading right hear and now, convinced I'm wrong, certain that I have no idea what's going on in your heart and who the hell am I to lecture you about love when I can't even put your definition into words?

So I won't.

I'm happy to take Robert Heinlein's words, above, and apply them to my own life. There are many, many people out there that I love, according to that great science fiction writer. And when I stop and think about it, those are the exact people that I would want on a list of "People I Love". His definition makes sense to me: I cannot truly be happy unless those I love are feeling content and in good spirits…when they are down, or hurting, or simply just not satisfied with things, I will do ANYTHING in my power to make things better! It doesn't matter the cost, the sacrifice, the troubly my way to get there…I can't live happily ever after in a little prism of solitary happiness; everyone I love must be there too. It's not something I can control, it's just something I must live with.

So maybe there are some skeptics out there, thinking about what I'm saying, asking, "So, if there's so much sacrifice and unhappiness linked to another's sorrow, why even bother to love them in the first place? Why start the vicious cycle of only regaining true happiness when all those love are on the same plateau of bliss?" And for that, I guess I'm sort of at a loss for words. I don't think you can really choose who to love, it just sort of happens. And as for the "benefits" and "why" of loving others? Well, I'll just leave that up to R.A.H again, who seems to have had all the answers…

"The more you love, the more you can love — and the more intensely you love. Nor is there any limit on how many you can love. If a person had time enough, he could love all of that majority who are decent and just."

-Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough For Love.

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