Ron's Reviews > Variable Star

Variable Star by Robert A. Heinlein
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's review
Jan 25, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: science-fiction
Read from January 23 to 25, 2012

** spoiler alert ** Wow. Where has this book been?

At times reading it felt like reading the old Robert Heinlein--the RAH who stretched your mind and heart--before he got obsessed with sex in general and intergenerational incest in particular.

Great set up. Typical RAH not-quite-a-hero. Stumbling over modern technology was the occasional reminder that this was written decades after RAH's death. I've never read any Spider Robinson books, but I will now. (That was the whole idea, wasn't it?)

If I tell you anymore I'll spoil your fun. DO NOT READ any reviews or liners notes--not even the dust jacket! STOP READING this review NOW if you think you may read it.

So, why only four stars? Because Spider is no RAH. I'm sure his research on saxophones and Zen Buddhism was relevant to the story, but his huge data dumps brought the narrative to a standstill. And, there are a few technical quibbles.

First and foremost, omnidirectional radiated energy diminishes with the cube of distance (multiplied by Pi) since it's a sphere. Therefore, if a G2 star explodes, whatever the local damage, at 90 light years (you do remember that light year is a unit a distance, not time?) the density of nastiness will be .0000004 whatever it was at one light year (already six trillion miles). Not to mention the countervailing waves and energies in interstellar space. Therefore, persons in space might still be in trouble, but colonists on earth-type planets with magnetospheres should have lower risk. (Of course, all the other colonies where less than 90 light years from the explosion.)

Second, those on the ground might not need to burrow thousands of feet down for protection. Had this book been written by RAH, he would have noted that the same result could be achieved burrowing sideways. He often mentioned Colorado Springs, where he lived for many of his most productive years (1948-1965), and where NORAD's Cheyenne Mountain Complex was dug under a mile of solid granite in just three years (1961-1964).

Third, considering the distortions/heat/whatever a large object like the Sheffield traveling at .97 c would make, finding it when you know it's route would be less like the proverbial needle in haystack (or grain in the stack of needles) and more like finding a banana on a pool table.

And the climax is silly, out of character.

Still, it's an excellent read. Highly recommended to fans of RAH.
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message 1: by Ron (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ron Error: "Inverse Square Law" Energy is inversely proportional to the square of the distance.

What was I thinking?

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