Jim Jim's Comments


Jim's comments from the SciFi and Fantasy Book Club group.

Note: Jim is no longer a member of this group.

(showing 321-340 of 346)

1865 I'm glad I read the originally published, cut version. The preaching is part of what turned me off about his later books.

I also found the book took a turn for the worse once Mike & Jill left, although I think it picks back up once Mike understands humor, it never regains the momentum I felt in the first half.

A lot of what made this book so powerful was the way it beat up the current, Victorian ideas about sex & sexuality. Remember that 'Leave It to Beaver', 'Father Knows Best' & 'I Love Lucy' were among the favorite shows of that time. 'Free Love' & Woodstock were years away. Hugh Hefner was shocking the world (Playboy was 9) & Larry Flint would have been hung.

I liked the way Jubal's house is introduced as the 'playboy mansion' & then the preconceptions are turned on their head. Instead of 'bimbos' that he keeps around to bed (the prevailing conception as Ben points out), these women finish his stories, run the house & are more coworkers. Their beauty is a plus, not their main attribute. They apparently sleep with whomever they want - like a man - without any stigma being attached, but don't sleep with Jubal. Especially when put in the proper context of the early 60's, this is quite an achievement. It's also shown, not preached about.

An example of the loss of momentum is, when Ben visits Mike & Jill, we only get partially shown & find out the 'meat' of his visit through a preachy conversation with Jubal. I would rather have just have 'lived' the entire visit with Ben & had it touched up just a bit by a few comments from others. It would have been much better if it was Ann or Dorcas that had that discussion with Ben, possibly with all 3 of them in the pool or something. The sexual double standards could have been shown much better.

The post WWII decade had a lot of shakeups, some that RAH approved of, others he obviously didn't. Religion was another obvious target of his. Billy Graham & the Evangelical movement got started about the same time Playboy did.

The early Space Race & Nuclear Arms Race were just getting going. The unified, world government was his way of keeping the, then current, tensions of nuclear war out of the mix, I think. He had strong feelings about that, obvious from his other novels & nonfiction writing.

Does the uncut version tear down any of the color barriers? That was something he liked to do, in an offhanded way. I don't recall him doing much of that in SISL. MLK & Malcolm X were still a few years from prime time.

I've always thought of this book as a classic, but my definition of a true classic is a book that is timeless. From the comments I'm seeing, I guess this is more of a 'period classic'. It's impact is heavily dependent on the mores of the time. Being raised as a conservative country boy, I felt its impact more over a decade after it was published than I do today when many of the points it batters are no longer in contention.
Heinlein or Not. (58 new)
Sep 30, 2008 03:40AM

1865 It would be interesting to see others ratings of Heinlein's books in order & possibly by group; YA, shorts, regular novels & non fiction. I think I like his short stories the best, followed by the YA books generally. Some novels sure stand well above the rest, though. "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" & SISL both do, for me.

There's a good list of Heinlein's books at Fantastic Fiction
http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/h/r...
Actually, it's a great place to get a quick update on a lot of authors, if you haven't tried it.
Heinlein or Not. (58 new)
Sep 29, 2008 09:57AM

1865 Heinlein was definitely for equality among the sexes. If anything, he tended to idolize women. He says they have more range than men; the good ones are better, the bad ones are worse. Didn't he say something about them getting the short end of the stick when they settled for mere equality?

He wrote about strong women before it was PC & made them sexually equal to men - in other words, his women could sleep around just like men could without being denigrated for it. He was constantly giving his women jobs typically held by men & having them do 'manly' things. Many of them shot as well or better than men. He kept it in reasonable. His women weren't stronger than men unless enhanced, but they could kick butt through better technique.

Podkayne's mother was an engineer, obviously one of the best since she built the Phobos space station while her dad was a linguist & historian. Other authors of the time likely would have swapped their jobs. He even made up a 'birth system' that would equalize the sexes - babies on ice, thawed out as time & money permitted.

I think Hazel Meade was as strong a woman as I want to encounter & not very forgettable. I liked her character in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" & loved her in "The Rolling Stones". There she out talked a used rocket salesman. He wrote this in an age when women weren't supposed to know anything about cars & spaceships were the 'car'.

I think I read something, maybe by Spider Robinson, about Heinlein wishing he could write better female characters. It's tough for a writer to get the opposite sex just right, even with help. He did well, as far as I'm concerned, but I'm gender biased & understand very little about the opposite sex, for all that my youngest girl is in college & I'm still happily married to the same woman.
Villains (4 new)
Sep 29, 2008 03:48AM

1865 Thanks for posting this. It was a lot of fun to read. Yes, a lot of great villains are missing, but it's a long list. History & fiction are full of them.
Heinlein or Not. (58 new)
Sep 26, 2008 06:32AM

1865 Jeanne, I ended the first sentence with 'IMO' which stands for 'In My Opinion'. I know a few people who disagree with me - they like everything Heinlein wrote, some like none. Please re-read my post after reading the following & maybe you'll see it in a different light.

I started reading Heinlein in about 1969 (I was about 10) & read his YA books & short stories over the next decade. He made me think about things I hadn't thought of before & want to learn about science, math & lots of other things. Cliff rebuilding an old space suit or the twins working on a space ship like I was working on an old pickup truck was just too cool. It may have influenced me to join the paratroopers - probably did. He inspired me & I guess I idolized him.

Sometime around the early 80's, I started reading his books from 1970 on. I was slowly crushed. To me, he turned into a windy pervert.

I didn't find "I Will Fear No Evil" to be one of his better or worse works. Just the beginning of the end of my love for his writing. The signs of his decay were in it - again - my opinion.
Sep 25, 2008 03:14AM

1865 Can we get a list of the versions? I read the originally published one, I believe. I looked up the unabridged one & found it had 30,000 more words. I didn't see Kait's one with double that, though. Typo or more than 2 versions? The book's been republished enough that anything is possible.
Sep 24, 2008 03:27AM

1865 I don't know how anyone but a Marketing Exec would have the gall to make such a claim, so I'd take it with a large dose of salt. I agree it's an imprecise claim, too. Heinlein did win a Hugo for it & holds the current record for the number of Hugos won by a single author, I think. 4, I believe.

I can't imagine that 'Stranger' is better known that 'Frankenstein', 'War of the Worlds', 'The Invisible Man', '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' or - well, list several other novels by Verne & Wells. Of course, all these may be best known by their movie counterparts, too. In title recognition, I'm sure 'Stranger' wouldn't come in first.

'Stranger' could well have sold more copies in a shorter period of time than any other back then. SF was just getting recognized as 'real literature' & this book was quite a hit with the younger crowd. There were a lot more of them with the money to buy the book than in previous times, too. Overall, I'd still doubt it out sold the classics mentioned above.
Heinlein or Not. (58 new)
Sep 24, 2008 03:15AM

1865 Heinlein wrote some great books, but "Fear No Evil" was the beginning of his bad books, IMO. First published in 1970 & I didn't like it. A few years later he came out with his last readable book, "Time Enough For Love" & I had issues with it too. I liked parts, but over all it was a bit of a chore. He used it as a soap box, more than usual, & started in on his crusade to revolutionize our ideas on incest. (Yuck!) After that, it was definitely downhill & if you haven't read them, please stay away from them. Remember him for the great writer he was.

His books originally published prior to 1970 are great. Lots of fun & they gave me something to aspire to as a young man. His short stories are also excellent & worth reading. While a few are dated, most hold up very well over the years.
Book lights (11 new)
Sep 23, 2008 12:08PM

1865 Try googling 'reading light'. There's a good review by Tom Bartlett at the top of the hits. Barnes & Nobel has a good selection, too - better than Amazon.

Does it have to be cordless? Batteries really aren't 'there' yet. Too bulky, heavy & short lived. If you could plug it in, that solves a lot of problems. Son't forget that Radio Shack has one-fits-all transformers, they'll even do USB now. There are also a lot of wall mounted flex lamps that might work.

One of my kids got a broken fluorescent lamp with a folding, articulating arm & a clamp mount. He put his own smaller, more directional light on it. He used it for years. It plugged in, but for a while he had a flashlight on it. Duct tape solved any incompatibilities in mounting. Not pretty, but handy.
1865 Thank you, Bunny.

Michael, you're probably right. I recall the story was 2.5 pages & I was so glad I had to flip to the third page because the last line was the kicker ending with something like 'from the President of the Soviet States' or something like that. If my eye had strayed, the story wouldn't have had the impact it did.

It's hard to imagine now the impact that had. My youngest, now in college, was born the year the Berlin Wall came down. It's an entirely different era. The Cold War was so pervasive in our lives back when I was a kid. While we know the world could be destroyed at any time, there isn't the immediacy now that there used to be. Then, we almost expected it.

It's probably hard for anyone born after 1970 to understand. The Hippies, Black Power, MLK, the Kennedy's, Apollo, LBJ & Vietnam tend to get most of the historical press. It's also hard to convey the feeling of uncertainty & imminent destruction that pervaded our society. How many people remember the CD shelters & the plans to build them under every overpass on the highway system? Or the commercials/propaganda of the time? I don't think it is best forgotten, but most seem to - like a bad dream.
Fringe (53 new)
Sep 22, 2008 04:24AM

1865 I finally got to watch the first episode & will watch the second one. Like others here, the first one wasn't the greatest show I've seen, so I hope things get a little better. I'm not sure what it was that I didn't like, but it didn't grab me the way 'Eureka' or 'Firefly' did.

Things have certainly been setup to make a great show. We have great bad guys with lots of room for them to do most anything they want. The core of good guys is interesting & likable. I think it could be really good, so long as it stays consistent & with the latitude they've built into the story, that shouldn't be a problem.
Sep 22, 2008 04:15AM

1865 Did Paul really 'just happen to fit the bill'? I don't have the book in front of me, but didn't Jessica think to herself that the Bene Gesserit set up 'prophecies' on a lot of planets for just such emergencies & think about which one to use?

It was one of the coolest things about 'Dune', the way the characters were sucked into their destinies. More important, Herbert set them up so well.
1865 We are much more used to technological change now than we were. Read Toffler's 'Future Shock' which was written in 1970. He describes the major increase in change in our lives very well. Jump forward almost 40 years & see how much faster we're moving now than then. It's scary. My grandmother (1913 - 1997) went from no electric or indoor plumbing to the seeing pictures of her great grandkids on the Internet.

I think back in the early & middle of the 20th, there was a lot more emphasis on gadgetry. Now we're becoming blase about new gadgets. Back in the 50's you'd buy a fridge & plan on it lasting 25 years. Now every few years isn't unusual.

One of the few things that was disposable then were the pulps. Short stories used to be delivered to people in pulp magazines rather quickly up through most of the 60's before the publishing company that printed most of them was bought out & scrapped. Stories were sold as 'read once' & fewer were collected into books, I think. Space was very limited. Now, I tend to see the stories in books almost exclusively, which I keep & may read again. I wonder if that makes a difference to editors & writers? Actually, I'm sure it does, but I wonder how, exactly.

One of the coolest things about short stories is they can deliver a really shocking end with a twist, but it only works well the first time the story is read & can be dependent on the current society. In other words, they used the 'inadequate depth' to their advantage - then. It can work against the story in the future.

As an example, I can't remember if it was Asimov or Clarke that wrote a really short story about some troops in orbit. There is a short atomic war & their president addressed them through a recorded message (he's dead), telling them not to retaliate, but to help rebuild the world. The twist is at the end when you find out the message is coming from the president of the Soviet Union.

The story is a good one, but the effect is definitely lost on a second read & it wouldn't be nearly as shocking today as it was back in the days of the Cold War. The 'known background' is what makes it so shocking, but it's changed now. Back then, we had no idea there would ever be a Soviet president, Commies were evil & heartless, etc.. Our society wasn't nearly as PC, either.
1865 Robert, you certainly did a good job of hitting the high points. I read through your article saying, "Yes, yes, YES!" You should post it here.

I've heard my ladies discuss other women & their own issues often enough. Listen to mother & daughter discuss bras & underwear as the girl gets older. It gives a rather earthy perspective of them.

I think female writers should keep male jokes firmly in mind when writing about them. My wife played Brad Paisley's song "I'm still a guy" for me, telling me it was dead on the mark. She wasn't too wrong. The general rules that make jokes so funny are actually true.

While a caricature can also get old, I'd rather see that then to read, as I recently did, a macho barbarian describing something as being 'chartreuse' in color. I'll bet "kinda greeny-yellow" or "sorta yellow" is the best most men will come up with, if they even know or care. I wouldn't have known the color except there is a liqueur of that name & color. Women might think it's a joke, but 'sorta yellow' is a perfectly acceptable color to me.
Sep 19, 2008 04:38AM

1865 I thought the planetology was an interesting point, too. Officially, no one knew much about the planet, yet unofficially a lot of groups knew a lot of pieces, but few had put the puzzle together all the way. There were also a lot of other issues that he could have used to shape the novel.

The civilization of Dune was a Class 2 civilization (yes?) & they are still ignorant of too many basic facts about the planet & especially about the Spice. It was a glaring enigma, but hardly a new one. Politically, ignorance worked best for the Powers-That-Be.

It does remind me in some ways of the current Global Warming issue & other ecological controversies. I wonder if Herbert had a similar issue(s) in mind when he wrote the book. About when he wrote "Dune", Rachel Carson was making lots of waves with 'Silent Spring' & there was a huge uproar about DDT then, I think - might have been later, though. I'm not sure if we were being warned about pollution causing an Ice Age yet. I think that was later, but I'm not sure. Some time back then, global cooling, not warming was the popular theory.

We were at the height of the Cold War, too. We lived knowing the entire earth could be wiped out at any time by 'Atomics'. I remember lots of drills at school, hiding under our desks or in the hallways. The 'Red Scare' wasn't too long past & as a native of the West Coast, I'd guess he lived the Japanese internment during WWII more personally than most.

Every time I read the book, I think I see different pieces of our own civilization, but they're probably colored a lot by my current perceptions. None of the issues are really new, though. He packaged them nicely, with some interesting twists. That's probably what makes the book so readable over so many years.

1865 Characterization of the sexes often ruins or hurts a book badly for me & my wife. Humans have 2 sexes & there are differences. When they get ignored, it can ruin an otherwise good story. In these PC days, that's happening more & more often.

I hate it when women are as physically strong as their male counterparts unless augmentation of some form is spelled out. There's a difference in the construction of the sexes. All my life, I've worked around the farm with women. Mom out-worked me for years (more endurance) but not in sheer strength since I was a young teen. So I just can't take it when a Playboy bunny type carries around the same armor as Conan or swings an ax like he does.

The other thing that bugs me is when women authors don't get male characters right & dig into their psyche. Their men often worry about things that would never cross my mind. The obverse is true as well, but doesn't irritate me as much. My wife & I have often noticed that. It bugs us when it is our sex that has the character wrong, doesn't when it isn't. Grates on the nerves until the book just isn't worth reading.

Fringe (53 new)
Sep 17, 2008 11:05AM

1865 Is Fringe easy enough to pick up on the next episode? It sounds like something I'd like. I found that 'Eureka' just didn't cut it for me until I got to watch the first episode - now I love it.
1865 A good cover draws me in. It was Frazetta's wonderful art on the Lancer editions of Conan that first interested me in my father's books. The crappy cover art on his SF novels was bright, but not so interesting.

It still helps today, although I often have favorite authors, recommended books & such. While an occasional cover will make me look twice at a book, it's not that frequent.

I have bought a book just for the cover though. I bought a book that had a Boris Vallejo cover. The book was OK, but I probably wouldn't have bought it otherwise.
Sep 05, 2008 08:28AM

1865 I can see the similarities between Dune & Star Wars, but they're shared by a lot of dramatic stories. The basic plot is one that has a lot of appeal. "Poor, but honest kid overcomes the corrupt current 'Powers That Be' with the help of his trusty side-kick." The same basic plot with similar window dressing - space going, sword wielding civilizations with extra-sensory powers.

I loved Campbellian novels as a kid. I liked Harry Harrison's spoof on them, "Star Smashers of the Galaxy Ranger's" too. He pokes fun at all Campbell's prejudices.
Sep 05, 2008 05:05AM

1865 Matt, your review is excellent & hard to add to - but I'm going to try a little.

I read a lot of SF as a kid & much of it was 'Campbellian' SF. I also like Spillane's 'kick butt' writing. Not great writing, but lots of action. Heinlein & Asimov were much better writers & I loved the futuristic settings, but not gory enough. I also liked Sword & Sorcery, such as Howard's Conan stories. I'd also read MacBeth & really liked it.

Then I read "Dune". It had the best of the elements of them all rolled into one great package. He also didn't spell out every detail & left a lot to the imagination. I think what Matt says about the illusion of superhuman intelligence is a great example. The technology is another.


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