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Variable Star

3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,393 Ratings  ·  248 Reviews
The detailed outline and notes Heinlein created for this project lay forgotten for decades, only to be rediscovered almost a half century later. Now the Heinlein estate has authorized Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author Spider Robinson to expand that outline into a full-length novel. The result is vintage Heinlein, faithful in style and spirit to the Grand Masters origina ...more
Audio CD, 200 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Blackstone Audiobooks (first published August 1st 1997)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mar 28, 2016 Carmen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Science-Fiction Fans
When the impossible happens - when a planet MOVES beneath your feet, and won't stop - when you look up on a gorgeous morning and see something huge fly majestically into the side of a tall building - when a man you buried shows up at your door with a six-pack - you're supposed to feel a primitive terror, a superstitious dread. It's in all the books. You pass out, or vomit, or your bowels and bladder void, or you howl. If the universe is prepared to CHEAT, you're screwed, right? The only other al ...more
Jeff Yoak
This is my third reading of Variable Star by Robert Heinlein and Spider Robinson. I enjoyed it immensely, and it in the three years since my last read managed to forget how the plot resolves and so it was like enjoying it mostly for the first time.

Robert Heinlein wrote the outline and some index cards for Variable Star in 1955, but never wrote the novel. It was discovered in 2003 and given to Spider Robinson, Heinlein's friend and a great science fiction author himself, to complete.

The blend is
Wes Metz
Oct 14, 2012 Wes Metz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having read everything Heinlein has written, I was pleased to run across this unfinished work; Spider Robinson has done a creditable job of writing with Heinlein's voice. Initially the story was a bit slow and, I thought, predictable; the romance didn't enthrall me. Things slowly picked up, though, and by the end they moved almost too fast, but it was a fun ride. I found the major plot twist to be rather over-the-top, but Heinlein frequently did, or nearly did that, so I didn't allow it to undul ...more

This may set the record for my quickest time reading a Heinlein novel. I finished reading it at about 2:30AM this morning. I would say it is safe to say that I enjoyed this novel that seems to float between revered and rejected by the Science Fiction community.

In all honesty, I have trouble considering it really a Heinlein novel, as it was written based on 7 pages of outline, a handful of index cards, and a familiarity with Heinlein's voice and style. It d
Jan 25, 2012 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 07, 2010 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction
Robinson is a funnier writer than Heinlein, quite often I was laughing out loud. But the typical Heinlein plot and elements still made me feel like it was a Heinlein work. I only had two problems with the book. One was right at the end when a character acts completely out of character in order for there to be one final climax in the story. The other was an unnecessary reference to the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I realize many people who read this book (especially Heinlein fans who shar ...more
Thomas Baltes
Sep 22, 2011 Thomas Baltes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Thomas by: Michael C. Baltes
As a child, I was raised on a steady diet of Robert Heinlein, which my father gladly fed to me to keep me from causing too much trouble and to keep my mind from becoming dull and pedestrian. Reading the unfinished product of the greatest Science Fiction writer of the 20th century, with the over whelming talent of Spider Robinson to fill in the narrative gaps is quite over whelming, literally at times. The pace of the narrative changes from Heinlein's own objective description and 20th century ve ...more

2.5 stars

Bright teenager Joel Johnston learns something surprising about his beautiful girlfriend, and in consequence makes a rash decision that affects his own future and (indirectly) all of humanity.

I don't know that I've read much Spider Robinson before; maybe a few of his Callahan stories. I have read a lot of Robert Heinlein - most of what there is to read. So I can say with a high degree of confidence that Robinson did a masterful job of producing a new Heinlein nov
Oct 17, 2009 Annette rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
The good: Spider Robinson (who actually wrote the book from a Heinlein-penned outline) sounds almost Exactly like good ol' RAH. You'd think it Was him if it wasn't for the references to Google and The Simpsons. :}
And, the plot was compelling and possessed of many unexpected twists, even if meandering at times. Lots of stock RAH characters: the irreverent geniuses, the TANSTAAFL-believing rugged individualists, etc.
The bad: How can I put this? Bluntly, I guess! Heinlein wasn't just an atheist,
D.L. Morrese
Apr 14, 2012 D.L. Morrese rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Don’t believe the cover. This is not a Heinlein novel. It’s a Spider Robinson novel based on an incomplete outline and some notes Heinlein prepared in 1955. It makes for an odd collaboration, but I enjoyed the story. It’s mostly Robinson, though, with a characteristically crude and flawed main character, fond of drink and socially awkward. It includes clichés, snarky asides, and has a first person conversational style that constantly reminds you that this is just a story. Don’t take it seriously ...more
Apr 21, 2008 Djuna rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If you can get past the horrid predictable sexist stuff in this book, you are still left with a horrid predictable book.

This was a book based on a portion of an outline and some notes discovered after Heinlein's death, and written by Spider Robinson.

I was sad that Robinson didn't delve into the various social structures as much as Heinlein would have, so he missed out on what could have been some thought-provoking moments. He also failed to say anything insightful about oh, the end of all human
Jun 21, 2013 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, sf-fantasy, audio
My first Heinlein was Starman Jones and that beginning led me to read almost everything he wrote. I am old enough that I was reading while he still was writing. I know all of the criticisms of him, but I love his books in spite of the criticisms. This book, written by Spider Robinson, is based on a few scant pages of Heinlein's notes but it has the feeling of Heinlein juvenilia. The love Robinson has for RAH is evident in this homage.

I really enjoyed this book. Robinson has a wonderful sense of
Kevin Connery
Aug 24, 2015 Kevin Connery rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
It's a so-so Spider Robinson book, with some of Heinlein's tropes (one used more effectively in both The Door into Summer and Time for the Stars) and a couple of his mannerisms ("Stinky" and "Skinny" as affectionate terms of address to a girlfriend). Some continuity errors, and some very pre-supposed situations which were never identfied. (A rich man is declared to be ruthless, without any explanation of why that is believed. The hero who has been largely clueless throughout the book suddenly de ...more
Paul Bonamy
Sep 11, 2010 Paul Bonamy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read too much of Heinlein's work, but what I have read is enough to convince me that this is, in truth, a book by the Grand Master himself. It has much of what I think of as his style, his distinctive feel, and in that regard, Variable Star is excellent. Of course, the flip side of being a Heinlein novel is that it's a Heinlein novel, with much that that implies about the role of women within the story. However, this aspect of the story is necessary to the aforementioned Grand-Master-n ...more
Dec 05, 2011 Tim rated it liked it
This is the second time I've gone through the audio book version. There's a lot I love about it, but also there's a lot that annoys me. First, Spider Robinson is in love with his bits of music he's included so one has to deal with the reader (who is actually Spider) singing (not particularly well) lyrics written for the novel. That segment goes on far too long near the beginning of the book and then portions re-appear later in the book. Second, Spider gets overly cute in his word choice/descript ...more
Neil Fein
Feb 13, 2010 Neil Fein rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"If you happen to be one of the fretful minority who can do creative work, never force an idea; you'll abort it if you do. Be patient and you'll give birth to it when the time is ripe. Learn to wait."
Robert A. Heinlein

"Finishing" a book left by a dead author almost never works out. While Variable Star was written by Spider Robinson from notes left by the science-fiction superstar, it comes across as more of an homage than a bastard novel.

Joel Johnston is a college student on Earth, hailing fro
Steve Walker
Jun 25, 2010 Steve Walker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful Heinlein book. Spider Robinson has taken an 8 page outline that Heinlein abandoned in 1955 and written a story quite well in the voice of Heinlein. For the most part I would never have guessed it wasn't actually Heinlein. One disappointment is the use of some vulgar language (sparingly). This is clearly an outline for Heinlein's juvenile series (and has a lot of stuff from "Time for the Stars") but Spider has added some "modern" elements such as ambiguous sexuality, the use of drugs, ...more
Feb 25, 2013 Dawn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It starts very Heinlein-esque; although I was pulled up short by a few more modern turn of phrases (google [as on the computer], something described as sucking, etc), but RAH would have no doubt used google if he were still alive to write, so OK then. I've never read Spider Robinson, so can make no comparisons there.

Set in an off-shoot of the Future History novels, so you will recognize a few names and places: New Frontiers, Leslie LaCroix, Andrew Jackson (Libby, one presumes, since he designs a
The book is based on an outline of notes Heinlein put together back in 1955. Upon his death, the outline was discovered and given to author Spider Robinson to create a full-length novel.

The protagonist is Joel, who has just graduated from high school (or its future equivalent) and is awaiting a scholarship acceptance so that he may study to be a composer. His high school sweetheart Jinny wants to get married, but he is so poor he cannot justify it. Then Jinny reveals she actually Jinny Conrad, t
May 13, 2012 Darth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: heinlein
Generally I am not a fan of when an author finishes up another (dead or alive) authors book or takes spare notes, and turns it into a book.
That was the case here. Spider Robinson took 7 or 8 pages of an outline RAH left behind, and fleshed it out into a novel.

In this case however, I thought it was great. I saw the footprints of SR all over it, but it didnt bother me at all. The story had plenty of familiar elements from other RAH books, without feeling like a rehashing of the events of previous
Better than a sharp stick in the eye, but not as good as a the worst Heinlein book (by which I mean Number of the Beast, not the Stinkeroos).

It is well that Robinson does not purport to have created a Heinlein novel. There were too many swears, for one thing, which I thought needlessly disrupted the Heinleinian feel. (I'm not opposed to swearing, but one simply does not picture a Heinlein character uttering an oath stronger than, "bushwah!" or, in great extremity, "damn it all!") And too much o
Dec 10, 2013 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: listened-to
Marvelous. A beautiful synergy of Heinlein's early bold cosmic naiveté and Robinson's hippy wonder at the human heart and the cosmos that made it. If you don't read the previews or blurbs it's not as predictable as one might think, and it's full of those delightful witticisms and startling quotes that elevate good SF to intelligent, introspective, thought-provoking literature.

It does, at times, get a little straight-forward or convenient, and did feel like it rushed towards the 'end' a bit. But
Nov 15, 2010 Jeff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Camille, Tom, Brian, Kevin
Recommended to Jeff by: Discovered at a book sale
Shelves: science-fiction
Take the solid and trusted frame of a Heinlein "Juvenile" and give it to one of the punningest and positivistic writers in the genre today to fill in and flesh out. From this rare and unusual pairing you get Variable Star a sum that is more than its parts.

The only thing that kept me from giving this book 5 stars was the "deus ex machina" Robinson pulls near the end of the novel and just barely gives a possibly believable reason for. Other than that the way Robinson and Heinlein so smoothly blend
Mathew Whitney
Variable Star is a novel by Spider Robinson, based on an outline/story idea by Robert A. Heinlein. Much of the early portions of the book and certain ideas feel very much like classic Heinlein novels from the 1950s, which is the period in which he is believed to have written the material which was used as the basis for this book. In fact, the first few chapters almost feel like Robinson is attempting to write the novel Heinlein never got around to writing (with the exception of the dialogue, mos ...more
May 26, 2015 Crew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As with any Heinlein story I've read (I have only read 3 or 4) this one has some interesting cultural norms that are thrown in off-hand, such as triad and quad marriages, in addition to gay marriage and monogamous hetero marriage. I find this odd in this book, given it takes place on a colony ship, and several of the unions depicted seem less than ideal for creating a thriving colony. This is different than the marriage families depicted in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress that explained the marriag ...more
Richard Alexander Hall
One more win for the practical hero!

This takes a quick turn for wrenching after a very engaging start, and then ultimately becomes very redeeming. This is a wonderfully human story with a good amount of science (or fantasy dressed up as science) gee-wow.

The author's ending anecdotes of ghost experiences are very fascinating, too (and to me, convincing--I've no reason to doubt him).

Of particular note, or something I particularly appreciated in this book, is its cynical take on how popular approac
Feb 22, 2015 Aries rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks-queue

A never-before-published masterpiece from science fiction's greatest writer, rediscovered after more than half a century.

When Joel Johnston first met Jinny Hamilton, it seemed like a dream come true. And when she finally agreed to marry him, he felt like the luckiest man in the universe.

There was just one small problem. He was broke. His only goal in life was to become a composer, and he knew it would take years before he was earning enough to support a family.
But Jinny wasn't willing to wait.

Karen Wyle
Aug 12, 2014 Karen Wyle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is, appropriately enough, a collaboration stretched across time. Robert A. Heinlein left behind notes for a novel involving events, inventions, and themes used in several of his other novels; Spider Robinson used those notes, his knowledge of Heinlein's work, and his own muse to produce Variable Star. The references to, e.g., the reign and downfall of the Prophet, telepathic twin-to-twin communication over light years, and the New Frontiers space ship are quite piquant and satisfying f ...more
Gerald Kinro
This is a newly-discovered work by the sci-fi master, Heinlein. Working with Heinlein’s outline and notes, Spider Robinson finished the project, emulating Heinlein’s style. We find Joel Johnston and Jinny Hamilton, new junior college graduates and a young couple in love. So in love that Jinny wants to marry him and will not wait. However, Joel is a destitute wannabe musician and composer, and, at best, will require years before he is able to support a family. Jinny will not take no. She then rev ...more
Eric Goodall
Feb 19, 2014 Eric Goodall rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As time as gone on, I've become less enamored with many of Heinlein novels. His chauvinistic and 50's aw shucks/gee whiz attitudes that I found sort of quaint in my teens have become somewhat grating in my middle age. Nevertheless I also enjoy the rather retro view of the future and basic standard space opera story lines. The combination of Heinlein's outline with Spider Robinson's more modern writing leaves an interesting mental flavor. Heinlein's voice is still very strong, especially in the f ...more
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Finally a properly-edited SF book 3 33 Nov 24, 2014 01:14PM  
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  • Callahan's Key (The Place, #1) (Callahan's Series, #8)
  • Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve
Robert Anson Heinlein was an American novelist and science fiction writer. Often called "the dean of science fiction writers", he is one of the most popular, influential, and controversial authors of "hard science fiction".

He set a high standard for science and engineering plausibility and helped to raise the genre's standards of literary quality. He was the first SF writer to break into mainstre
More about Robert A. Heinlein...

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“Well, some men learn by listening, some read, some observe and analyze — and some of us just have to pee on the electric fence.” 16 likes
“Mankind is divided into two basic sorts: those who find the unknown future threatening ... and those who find it thrilling. The rupture between those two sides has been responsible for most of the bloodshed in history.” 12 likes
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