Scott's Reviews > Podkayne of Mars

Podkayne of Mars by Robert A. Heinlein
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's review
Jul 17, 12

So much to rant about here, so little time. When I finished the first chapter of Podkayne my grin was so wide I damn near cut my own face off. Heinlein had an indisuptable gift for killer openings (see for example "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag") and this one promised absolute glory to come. The trouble is, the glory never comes. The magnificent possibilities of the first chapter and its coda are set aside. The plot meanders, and then in classically half-assed fashion picks up without warning a scant few pages from the end... the incredibly condescending, problematic, throw-the-book-across-the-room end.

The only net positive I can find in Podkayne is that it's a fine example of Heinlein in exploratory rather than prescriptive mode. The cast visits several different societies and interacts with their laws and customs, always wondering and speculating rather than lecturing or insisting. This is such a stark relief from what I call Heinlein's "LOOK, YOU!" mode, where a mouthpiece struts across the page shouting "Look, you! This is how things are and the only way they oughta be, see!" In reference to the all-pervading corporatism of Venus, for example, one major character "...can't make up his mind whether it is the grimmest tyranny the human race has ever known... or the most perfect democracy." The evidence is presented and the reader is invited to do their own pondering. Heinlein the Philosopher could certainly offer up some tasty thought experiments when Heinlein the Authoritarian was out of the room.

It's a crying shame that this book, which had the velocity of a home run ball as it left the plate, somehow managed to plop softly into the dirt somewhere short of second base.
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