Dominick's Reviews > Tunnel in the Sky

Tunnel in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein
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Feb 13, 12

bookshelves: children-s-lit, science-fiction
Read from February 06 to 12, 2012

I'd like to give this book a higher rating, because it does do some things very well, but I just can't. Things it does well include excellent world-building, a very good record for coming up with interesting or surprising (or both) takes on the situation, at least acknowledging alternat epoints of view (rare for Heinlein), and a relatively unpredictable plot--in a juvenile, this is especially noteworthy.

Unfortunately, Heinlein's virtues often go for naught, and that's largely true here, though perhaps less so than in some of his other books. There's far less hectoring of the reader than you get in some of his books, for instance; Heinlein can be very reluctant to just tell you the story without also telling you what you should think about everything under the sun. However, whatever credit he deserves for arguing that "girls" can be just as capable as boys at conventionally masculine tasks, for instance, is esadicated by the fact that he is nevertheless amazingly condescending about it, given that inevitably for these girls, doing so is basically just a stopgap until the right man comes along, and that despite the theoretical equal competence of the girls, they are nevertheless still treated as weaker vessels that need protecting when things get tough. And then there's the sexual creepiness. The more Heinlein I read, the more I have to think this guy had serious issues. It's pretty much subtextual here, but incest once again lurks in the shadows.

Even worse, though, is Heinlein's "man is the greatest thing ever" ideology (with the gender-specific pronoun apropos, I'd argue). I love manly action stories and stories about conventional testosterone-factory guys, but Heinlein just manages to go way too far with the whole thing. When a key point in the book involves our protagonist insisting on facing what ought to be virtually certain destruction (it isn't, of course) because, hey, we're MEN, and MEN will never let any lesser creature drive them out, well, the temptation just to throw the book away in disgust is hard to resist. . . . And when you consider that this book was intended for adolescents, that's simply a reprehensible message.
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02/10/2012 page 120
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