Flannery's Reviews > Time for the Stars

Time for the Stars by Robert A. Heinlein
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Slowly but surely, my obsession with young adult space stories will knock every Heinlein juvenile book off my to-read list. A month or two ago, I read Podkayne of Mars and while I did enjoy the audio format and the underlying world-building, the characters grated on me. I'd read and heard from several sources that Heinlein's treatment of his female characters can be a huge turnoff and he's two for two on that note for me thus far. I'm not going to go over why I felt the way I did about Podkayne but in Time for the Stars, though it was far less frustrating, I was still not satisfied with the female presence in the book. But I'm getting ahead of myself, what's the book actually about? It's a futuristic Earth setting where families are allowed only a certain number of children before they get taxed. Identical twins Tom and Pat are asked to come in for some testing by a huge research organization, one whose mission is to fund the projects that have projected results so far into the future that no one else will fund them. Through the testing, Tom and Pat find out they are telepathically connected. The foundation intends to explore the galaxies to find potential colony planets and uses telepathic pairs to communicate between ships and between ships and Earth when radio transmissions no longer work. I don't want to spoil which twin goes to space and which stays behind because I enjoyed that aspect of the story. I cannot think of another instance of a book where identical twins do not really get along. Heinlein adds in a realistic amount of sibling manipulation that rang true to life. ("Do your chores, Dad will be home soon." "Why? If I don't, I know you'll just do them for me." - Me and my sister)

The science and philosophy are very much present in this novel and some of it went over my head. Faster than light, simultaneity, time, relativism, the science of aging, and various equations and theories are all present and accounted for but never in a severe infodump kind of way. The book is set up as a diary written by the twin in space. I am not sure if it is broken up as such in the traditional book as I listened to the audiobook but the scientific conversations were usually just that--conversations between the twin and someone else on the ship. However, there is very little action to keep the book going. The interest lies in the world Heinlein has created and the scientific offshoots. I was fascinated by the idea that as one twin was aging "regularly" on Earth, the other was aging at a far slower rate, so much so that the twin in space had to do the telepathic work with several generations down the line. What action there is is backloaded. His books, to me, feel like someone is writing about a fantastic futuristic world and then realizing halfway through that there's supposed to also be character building and plot movement.

On to the creep factor. There was just an episode of 30 Rock on television wherein Liz Lemon realizes that she is dating her third cousin. They say, "On the count of three, say how many cousins removed we'd have to be to try to make this work." He says fifth and she says never. I really think my answer is also never. There are several pubescent boy relationships in this book as well as adult relationships but there is one that relates to the 30 Rock episode I just spoke of. I won't ruin it for any potential readers but Heinlein basically glossed right over the relation aspect and it felt cut and dried in the most awkward way possible. I actually said, "Whaaaaaaat? Dude." to my car stereo. You're going to marry your relation, no matter how distant? Ew.

Back to Heinlein's treatment of women. Here's the gist: If you want to read any of his books, just think to yourself, "Am I okay reading a book where no female character will ever be completely rational? One where she will never be seen as anything other than a gender stereotype or achieve life goals beyond society's expectations during the forties and fifties when these books were written?" If the answer is yes, then read away. As I've said, Heinlein creates some interesting scientific worlds and stories. However, if you're answer is no then these books will be a nightmare for you. There are entire conversations about the best way to tell a mother that her son/s are joining a space program but also how to manipulate her irrational emotions. A grown woman wants to join a specific mission and another character tells her to check with her husband. (who also tells her later that they will be moving back to Earth to raise their family and she will not be working anymore) The mission finds a planet and fights in a battle but both times women are excluded from the teams--until one planet is deemed "safe enough that even the women could go!" Being a woman in Heinlein's world just seems like it would be so depressing. Who wants to achieve their dreams of being independent and going into space? Not so fast, vaginas!

I believe this is the first audiobook I've listened to that is narrated by Barrett Whitener, and I enjoyed his narration for the most part. Though they are not coming to me at the moment, there were a few words he pronounced in a weird way (maybe alternate pronunciations?) and several of the characters sounded the same. At one point, I wasn' t sure if the captain had an American, British, or Australian accent. He is a conversational narrator so his voice was/is well-suited to the diary-entry format of Time for the Stars.

As is the story with Podkayne of Mars, there is enough fun world-building present that I wish Heinlein would set more books in this world, perhaps even incorporate some of the same characters. I have a feeling my wish will come true with the rest of his young adult books. I anticipate each one will be a fun sciencey adventures/feminist's nightmare.

Also seen at The Readventurer.
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Reading Progress

18.0% "It's better than Podkayne of Mars so far. The male narrator's female voices leave something to be desired. One character like totally sounds like a valley girl, you know? ;-)" 2 comments
45.0% "I'm really enjoying this listen. Telepathic twins--one in space and one on Earth. So far, we really only know about the twins and Tom has just had one or two significant interactions with other characters. I'm really interested in where the story will go."
70.0% 4 comments

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by oliviasbooks (new)

oliviasbooks "liked-listening-prob-hate-reading" = very interesting tag.

Flannery I think I would've just rolled my eyes enough times to give up if I was reading. Also, science, science, science discussions. My eyes would glaze over. I'm reviewing this on the blog tomorrow so it'll be over here sometime during the weekend.

message 3: by Tanya (new)

Tanya It's been awhile since I've read a Heinlein book, but as I recall he seemed to be as obsessed with incest as V.C. Andrews. Squick. Well, at least he brought us the word "grok."

Flannery There seriously wasn't even a second thought given to it. It was like, hmmm, his grand-niece? But it was the granddaughter of his identical twin. That's still disgusting to me.

message 5: by Nick (new)

Nick Wait until you read The Puppet Masters. It turns even me into a Feminist Hulk.

Flannery That actually made me laugh out loud. Practice your relaxed breathing. I did sort of give him a little leeway for being from a different era but there have been respectful and feminist authors since before his time. There's really no excuse for some of the characters he wrote.

message 7: by Nick (new)

Nick I have been doing the same. I keep reminding myself The Puppet Masters was written in something like 1951, but sometimes he kills me when he writes something like "sorry, darling, I'm behaving like a weakling woman!"

message 8: by mark (new)

mark monday i love your obsession with YA space stories. it has lead me to several intriguing books TBR. keep it up!

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