Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Assignment in Eternity” as Want to Read:
Assignment in Eternity
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Assignment in Eternity

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  3,263 Ratings  ·  104 Reviews
Compelling science fiction adventure from New York Times bestseller Robert A. Heinlein: two classic novellas and two short stories with speculation on what makes us human.

"Gulf": in which the greatest superspy of them all is revealed as the leader of a league of supermen and women who can't decide on quite what to do with the rest of us. The prequel to Heinlein's later New

Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 1st 2000 by Baen (first published May 1st 1953)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Assignment in Eternity, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jul 27, 2016 Lyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Four of Heinlein’s stories from the 1940s were collected into this surprisingly good anthology and published together in 1953.

I say surprisingly, not because I expect anything less from Heinlein, or that I think his earlier work is substandard (far from it) or that collections are an inferior vehicle (again - far from it, I am after all a fan of Bradbury, le Guin and Poul Anderson). I am very pleasantly surprised because these stories are tied together under a theme of humans reaching for superh
The problem with Heinlein is that he's so readable. Ordinarily the ability to write compelling prose -- which is not actually a given, especially in hard SF -- would be good, but in RAH's case this often results in me being taken on journeys I really, really did not want to go on, and yet I find myself unable to stop. (See: anything involving incest, relationships with your underage future girlfriend, the entirety of Friday, and really I could keep going. And yet I am still trying to read most o ...more
Feb 16, 2009 Manny rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Carl V.
Jan 04, 2015 Carl V. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Assignment in Eternity is a collection of four of Heinlein’s early published works. Two of the stories are advertised as “short novels”, or what might be more accurately called in current word count designations as novellas, and two shorter works. All four of these were first published in magazine format in the 1940’s, though two were actually written in 1939.

I first became a fan of Robert A. Heinlein over a decade ago when I read his novel Friday. I went on to read Time Enough for Love and then
Some of my favorite reading back in the day was "golden age" science fiction that I had found a stash of in the thrift store of the tiny town I grew up in. Much of that gold was from the pen of Heinlein, and reading this was like going home for summer vacation. The themes are familiar and I have always admired the way he could write bantering dialogue of the sort good friends use. This book contains four of his best stories because of--not in spite of--its abrupt ending. I'd also like to see th ...more
An Odd1
Jan 31, 2014 An Odd1 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Important for their philosophical content rather than science speculation -- for values of 'philosophical' that involved speculative metaphysics and speculative anthropology. Elsewhen was in fact one of his earliest stories -- Opus 5 -- and Elsewhen -- Opus 10 -- was written even before 1939 was out" p 2. "These early stories collected together [for 1953] .. marked the intellectual pathway Heinlein was to follow" p 4 (from Intro by William H. Patterson Jr).
1 Gulf Nov-Dec 1949 Astounding - Joe
Darin Ramsey
Nov 11, 2011 Darin Ramsey rated it liked it
Shelves: classic-sf
I borrowed this from the library because I'm writing a story that follows the basic Heileinian pattern (if it wasn't a word, well it is now). It's not far off from the classic Campbell story, but RAH has a lot of flavors of his own to add, including long, meandering discussions of political and/or personal belief systems. What better way to make the best plot possible than to read all the Heinlein I haven't yet burned through? Besides, this book of four novellas included Gulf, which he wrote as ...more
Jun 18, 2009 Derek rated it liked it
This book has 4 short stories of Heinlein's from 1941 to 1949. The first story, Gulf, has a protagonist who seems very similar to the protagonist from Puppet Masters, a super-competent man-of-action. It deals with his interaction with a group of people that are even more super-competent than he is. However the ending is abrupt and seems like a throw-away, it left me very unsatisfied. It's easy to think that characters like this are just rip-off from James Bond, but then when you work it out this ...more
Jan 12, 2013 sologdin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Collection of shorts & novellas. The novellas relate to secret ubermensch society; the two shorts are apparent one-offs, involving respectively interdimensional travel and bioengineering. None of the stories have much intrigue, and the novellas lack schwerpunkt. The first novella is a spy narrative, wherein a master infiltrator is inducted into the secret society in order to stop some rich greasers from blowing up the earth with the ultimate weapon. The second novella involves some academics ...more
Megan Baxter
Jul 05, 2011 Megan Baxter rated it really liked it
Enjoyable, but nothing special as far as Heinlein goes. The first novella bears striking similarities to Friday - not necessarily the overall thrust of the story, but many of the trappings (secret agent is followed, captured, freed, taken to a farm where s/he learns to embrace his/her full potential.)

The second novella I liked more - it had an odd touch of mysticism, for Heinlein, although many other of his common themes. And the two short stories that comprise the rest of the book were enjoyab
Mikael Cerbing
Jun 28, 2016 Mikael Cerbing rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Heinlein, as usuall, make quick entertaining stories where he explores ideas with very similar characters. I think that he might have been pretty progressive when it came to women in his stories, but the still feel very dated today. Not one of his best, but a good quick read if you like mr Heinlein.
Aug 18, 2013 Thom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A fairly good set of four stories, or two novellas and two short stories. Read about Gulf in the afterword for Glory Road, and immediately sought it out (I plan to re-read Friday sometime soon). Enjoyed Lost Legacy quite a bit also.
Dec 05, 2008 Peter rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Syd Logsdon
Mar 10, 2017 Syd Logsdon rated it it was amazing
Assignment in Eternity contains several of Heinlein’s works, but Lost Legacy stands above the rest, and is the focus of this review. If you are a writer, or want to be, you should seek out Lost Legacy because Heinlein puts on a clinic in how to write. Beware though, to enjoy the story you have to keep reminding yourself that in 1941 the functions of various parts of the brain were unknown and that our relatively full complement of pre-human ancestors had not yet been dug up. You also have to res ...more
Matteo Pellegrini
Jan 22, 2014 Matteo Pellegrini rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantascienza

« L'uomo è più di un animale perchè ragiona; il superuomo e più di un uomo perché ragiona meglio ». Ouesta frase sintetizza la tematica dei quattro romanzi brevi riuniti in questo volume, uno dei più significativi apparsi durante la cosiddetta « Età d’Oro della Fantascienza ». Negli Stati Uniti dell’avvenire, le opposte forze del bene e del male si combattono sul terreno della facoltà parapsicologiche: sarà compito di una ristretta 
cerchia di giovani selezionati recuperare la perduta eredità de

Beverly Diehl
Jun 25, 2011 Beverly Diehl rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, fantasy
Read this many moons ago, and the stories were written even longer ago than that: Gulf (1949), Elsewhen (1941), Lost Legacy (1941), Jerry Was a Man (1947).

All but the last story focus on the idea of psychic or supernatural powers; the idea that, if trained, humans could think faster, react faster, use telepathy and telekinesis, perhaps even levitate and travel through time and space.

In Gulf Joe Greene is "converted" to the cause of supermen/women against evil, taking on an evil genius determined
Brian Lewis
May 13, 2015 Brian Lewis rated it really liked it
This is a fantastic book. It's really a compilation of 4 short stories, all very worth reading. After reading Starship Troopers, I was a bit hesitant to read more from Heinlein, however, the work in this book is a lot more finely polished. While Starship Troopers dragged heavily mid-book, the stories here are well paced and full of analytical thinking and action when it needed it.

Gulf was my favorite story in the series. The characters were mysterious, the events depicted gave you an impression
May 17, 2014 Kimberlyn rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: lovers of cerebral sci fi
I’ve been trying to refresh my memory of the golden age sci-fi authors that I’d loved as a kid. This collection was not on the list of must-reads, but became available at my local library, so I figured, what the hell?

I should first state that these stories were mostly written during an era of optimism in American science fiction. There was strong, confident belief in the inevitable improvement of humanity, and that with technological advances, hunger, war, racism, and illness would gradually be
Jul 10, 2011 James rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
Quite the Assignment!

Early Heinlein, for me, is a bit interesting regardless of its sly wit and occasional weak female characters. These were written in the 40s and were decent and entertaining but not up to the level of story Heinlein wrote in the Sixties and beyond, "Stranger in a Strange Land," etc.

This book is an anthology, all having something to do with the improvement of the human condition, and a bit of fantasy mixed into the science.

"Gulf" starts out as a spy novel, but then evolves i
Jul 07, 2015 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the other reviewers on here said it pretty well: Heinlein is just too darn readable, even if you can't get past some of his themes and attitudes. So even the long boring crap about supermen saving all us others who are too dumb to take care of ourselves is tolerable for a while longer than expected.
A word first about Bronson Pinchot as a narrator: Outstanding. Especially for Heinlein. He reads the characters as they sound in my head. He sounds older now, too, because he is, of course. An
Aug 20, 2012 Zane rated it really liked it
Assignment in Eternity captivated me with mind bending reality changes throughout the four short stories which are within it's pages. Heinlein, being the "dean of space-age fiction" (The New York Times), seems more occupied with mental awakenings that occur in the future rather than any sort of technological advances. Unlike most sci-fi, Assignment in Eternity deals with fantasy type powers such as levitation, mind control, and above all, extremely superior intelligence. The short stories Gulf, ...more
Charles Harrison
Dec 07, 2016 Charles Harrison rated it really liked it
Heinlein compilations always have a certain amount of risk but this one really delivered. I think this set is worth reviewing book by book as this level of detailed pure science fiction deserves it.
The first story is a great espionage thriller with plenty of excitement and skin of your teeth scrapes. I enjoyed the Babel-17 type language concept thrown into the middle which dragged the book into the realm of science fiction.
The second book is pure thought experiment, indeed the tale itself is ess
***Dave Hill
Oct 11, 2015 ***Dave Hill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: text
Entertaining collection of 1940s Heinlein shorts / novellas.

"Gulf" is the precursor (tonally and, through a recurring character, literally) to the later novel Friday. Heinlein could tell a heck of a super-spy tale, as this story shows. It also highlights, in a way that later works obscured, his philosophical conflicts between freedom and respect for the individual as sovereign, and the elitist idea that there are Better and Wiser Folk who rightfully manipulate the others for their own good.

Aug 08, 2011 Bob rated it liked it
This is a collection of four short novellas. The language is a little dated, but the ideas behind the stories are solid.
All four stories are related to Mind, and what Mind is capable of.
"The Gulf" follows a secret agent who discovers he is actually a superior human- and part of a select group of such. This group is trying to guide the rest of Humanity away from disaster as we 'normals' gradually evolve into Homo Superior.
"Elsewhen" tells about a group of college students who are taught how
Julius Butcher
Mar 20, 2015 Julius Butcher rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
Sometimes I treat old books as if they were old wine, savoring the story matured during decades. But sometimes they go sour, lose their flavor, and I just spit them out. I mean I give up reading. This is what happened to me reading Assignment in Eternity.
It took off well, the first story, "Gulf" was promising. I like fast paced action, so I followed the story with interest. Then the fast flow of events slowed down like a river leaving the mountains and spreading out wide on the plains. What fol
Aug 30, 2013 Joan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: true sci-fi and Heinlein fans
I noticed that the people doing either the foreword or afterword echoed Heinlein's well known complaints about editors changing his stories. Well, I suspect the editors knew exactly what they were doing. These are some of his earliest works, if I'm understanding correctly. They are interesting in that you can see themes that he developed further and more expertly later on in life. However, I wouldn't call them exceptional stories of the typical Heinlein level. Although I must say I loved "Jerry ...more
Thomas Fackler
Nov 25, 2014 Thomas Fackler rated it it was amazing
Heinlein has probably written the script for every sci-fi movie, ever - no hyperbole intended.


The first short story, novella, novel of a different length, or work of fiction stuffs us into the mind of a high-functioning officer of the law whose abilities at serving and protecting earn him a higher calling of questionable morality.

Speculative fiction to make you feel like there is a subconscious that works the way the story says it does. A group of students and a philosopher make th
Jul 26, 2013 Emma rated it it was ok
Not sure if I'll read this book again. Since I didn't read the first book properly this put me off. I'm glad I endured these story and found the good ones.

Gulf (1 star) I been read this on and off for many reasons. This make the story hard to follow. In the end I didn't enjoy. The ending I felt over dramatic and rushed.

Elsewhen (4 stars) I liked this book. Its nice to read a time travel book with many characters and paths. The none believe was a great way to discuss things in the book.

Lost Le
Sean Randall
May 12, 2011 Sean Randall rated it really liked it
Gulf is an absolutely fabulous story, one I can read time and time again; and if I'm reading with synthetic speech I always, always stop to spell out the card messages, even though I could probably quote them by heart long since. It has that gritty, action feel of Philip k. Dick's Paycheck or James P. Hogan's Assassin and, whilst not a heinlein staple, resonates brilliantly for me.

My second favourite is Lost Legacy, and you can see why, I suppose. The other two stories round out the volume well.
Feb 22, 2015 Aries rated it really liked it
Shelves: ebooks-queue

1 Gulf - Joe Greene steals doomsday weapon plans, caught by bad Mrs Keithley with Kettle-Belly Baldwin, learns superman skills.
2 Elsewhen - Prof Arthur Frost and 5 students vanish - to other planets?
3 Lost Legacy aka Lost Legion by Lyle Monroe - Prof Phillip Huxley teaches student Joan and Dr Ben Coburn telepathy tricks, meets Ambrose Pierce.
4 Jerry Was a Man - Rich Martha Van Vogel indulges husband 'Brownie' Bronson with gene-created Pegasus, until he wants rescued ape slave Jerry s

« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Madison Mega-Mara...: Assignment in Eternity 1 3 Aug 16, 2012 05:43PM  
  • Nine Tomorrows
  • By Any Other Name
  • Destination: Universe!
  • Beowulf's Children (Heorot, #2)
  • Starburst
  • Gladiator-at-Law
  • Tales from the White Hart
  • Rod Serling's Twilight Zone
  • The Worlds of Frank Herbert
  • Keith Laumer: The Lighter Side
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...

Share This Book

“Or maybe he was seeing double. Bad stuff, gin. Should ‘ave switched to rum a long time ago. Good stuff, rum. You could drink it, or take a bath in it. No, that was gin — he meant Joe.” 5 likes
“Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal.” 1 likes
More quotes…