Robert A. Heinlein is generally recognized as the most important American science fiction writer of the 20th century. This is the first detailed critical examination of his entire career. It is not a biography—that is being done in a two-volume work by William Patterson. Instead, this book looks at each piece of fiction (and a few pieces of sf-related nonfiction) that Heinlein wrote, chronologically by date of publication, in order to consider what each contributes to his overall accomplishment. The aim is to be fair, to look clearly at the strengths and weaknesses of the writings that have inspired generations of readers and writers.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a reasonable critical analysis of Robert Heinlein's work. While they give some attention to a few critics who made careers, of sorts, out of being outraged by Heinlein, both the man who started this project and the critic who took over for him after he passed away see Heinlein as a very important author who earned his high reputation. The flaws that they see in his work result from their reading of the material and not from the received opinion of SF fandom and SF critics. At times I even agree with them. They see the controversial "late Heinlein" as being a product of ambition and not of senility or ego. This is a big improvement over those who condemn these books, ignoring the massive sales that they generated. This book can be added to Gifford's work and to Bill Patterson's biography to get a good picture of the author.
It is a difficult thing to read criticism of a figure that played such a pivotal role to one's thinking, development and maturation, but the 11-year old reader of Heinlein can reflect back now at the middlin' age of 55 and come to accept that his personal hero was a living, breathing human being, with flaws, idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies, same as the rest of us. On the whole, this a balanced, thoughtful assessment of one of the most important and influential voices in science fiction, neither worshipful nor guilty of lese majeste.
My only real complaint is the number of typographical errors and more substantial reference errors I found while reading through at a fairly rapid pace. Hopefully these will be corrected at some point, at least in the digital editions.
Despite that moderate quibble, for anyone seriously interested in Heinlein and his works, this is a recommended read, as is the encyclopedic two-volume authorized biography by William H. Patterson,...
An insightful review of Heinlein and of SF of that era without being particularly academic. I enjoyed reading it and being reintroduced to RAH stories and books from my youth.
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