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For Us, the Living: A Comedy of Customs

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  3,188 ratings  ·  270 reviews
Hardcover, 263 pages
Published December 9th 2003 by Scribner
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Average rating 3.37  · 
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 ·  3,188 ratings  ·  270 reviews

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Sep 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Enjoyed this, but I may need to say that it is best for Heinlein fans, not one of his great works, but appreciable for true followers.

Begun in 1938, (though not published until 2003) this could be one of, if not actually, his earliest work. The discerning reader can find glimpses of his later vision and brilliance amid a fairly minimalistic setting and storyline. At times I had to remind myself that this visionary narrative was written in 1938, other times it was painfully obvious that this was
Feb 15, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Heinlein fans only
Heinlein's unpublished first novel has been rescued from the dustbin, and we easily see why it was never published. There is almost no action in the story, and instead we get pages and pages of lecturing about politics and economics. Of course, as Heinlein fans, we've enjoyed his unorthodox illuminations on politics and economics for decades, but thank goodness he learned to give us more actual STORY than he does in For Us, the Living.

Bump on the head. Mr. Regular Guy wakes up in the future, spe
Dec 27, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Talk, talk, talk...
Blah, blah, blah...
More Talk
Michelle Pfingston
Jan 25, 2014 rated it did not like it
Ah - future worlds; where there is no poverty or hunger, no sexual jealousy or difficult unions, everyone in every relationship to able to hook up and leave any way they want to, and everything is free and easy! Let us all skip through the perfectly blooming tulips . . . smoking and naked.

The other reviews here really do a great job of describing this book, I don't want to expand on them. So speaking for myself, in spite of the reviews, I struggled through this book a bit obsessively because I l
Nov 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi
I'll start off by saying this may not be a 'five' for everyone. The style is stilted at times compared to Heinlein's later efforts. There's a reason for this: For Us, the Living is not so much a novel as a Dialogue or series of Dialogues in the Platonic mode (in fact, to me, a veteran of Timaeus & Critias, it reads similarly). So those looking for a 'full' fictional experience will be disappointed. But what is here are two things: Heinlein's penchant for anticipating future events, which is in f ...more
Feb 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that every politician should be required to read. The story is very simple, a man from 1939 (when the book was published) wakes up in 2086. Little explanation is given to how this happened, instead the man starts to look at reasons this future Utopia is superior to his own time. What results is a series of discussions withe experts of 2086 about how the country has turned itself around since 1939, in areas like politics, religion, commerce, sexuality, etc. The story does date itse ...more
Jay Bobzin
Jul 16, 2009 rated it liked it
An intriguing set of essays wrapped in a story. Great if you like Heinlein, probably dull if you don't.

Start with The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Then maybe Stranger in a Strange land. If you've read those, and generally dig Bob's take on life, this is a good quick read densely packed with insight, but light on story.
Norm Davis
Jul 01, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Biographiles of R.A. Heinlein
Recommended to Norm by: Me, sadly

For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs. Robert A. Heinlein 1939

I'm rounding up from one star, this is a disaster, to two stars, it was OK. Reluctantly. Well, it is embarrassing to insult a legend who you came close to worshiping.

Perry, the protagonist tragically dies in an automobile accident in or around 1939 and then wakes up fine in 2038 in someone else's body. Thank Odin Mr. H. didn't write a doctoral thesis on how or why that happened. In good taste, he just didn't explain it. Good for
Apr 28, 2013 rated it did not like it
We listened to this book on a long road trip.
This book was found and published long after Heinlein's death, and probably for good reason.
It reads like a lecture in economics(with boobs). There are several books of his that read more like lectures than novels. It's not the political or economic or social philosophies of Heinlein that I object to, not at all. It's chapters and chapters of philosophy and economic theory, that do nothing to serve the plot. In the "Moon is a Harsh Mistress" there a
Apr 12, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2009
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: hardcover
When this was first published, I had just started on my journey down the long long road of scifi literature. I had discovered but a handfull of golden age authors by then, by had already focused on Heinlein, having read most of his work. This popped into my world right then and there as if it had been tossed through the very fabric of time. It was like the discovery of a long lost relic. Such a great period in my life, that was.

I have since read this three times over the years since it was publi
Mary JL
Nov 26, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: die hard Heinlein fans
Recommended to Mary JL by: Found by self
Shelves: main-sf-fantasy
I would recommend this only for the Henilein completist or diehard Heinlein fan. It was an early effort and never published and it is easy to see why!

When I first heard about it I said "Wow! A new Heinlein I've never read!" After I read it I was disssappointed. The only reason this got published was it had Heinlein's name on it so the publishers porbably felt many Heinlein fans would grab it, as I indeed did.

I did give it 2 stars because I found a few ideas interesting.
Feb 17, 2011 rated it did not like it
I've tried to read this once & listen to it on audio book since I'm a real fan of Heinlein's earlier works. Unfortunately, this reads like one of his later books - preachy & boring. If you had a problem with most of his books after 1970, then this isn't for you. ...more
Sep 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
2020 Re-read:

This was Heinlein’s prescription for what certainly looks like utopia in comparison to the present day - written in 1939. There is no doubt that Heinlein was a once-in-a-generation mind… but having just re-read this, I am also considering the possibility that he was a prophet.

It checks out with me - but it's not my field, so I’m giving it to a poli sci prof friend to see what he thinks of the policy proposals

My mind was repeatedly blown that this was written in 1939 (though I wonder
Jan 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf, fiction
This was fascinating. If you're looking for a novel, though, you're probably going to be disappointed. There's not much plot here. This, Heinlein's first novel, released only recently as a posthumous publication, is basically a political treatise disguised in a very loose plot. That very loose plot is as follows: Perry, an engineer and pilot in the US Navy, gets into a car crash in 1938 and wakes up in 2086... possibly in a different body? (This wasn't clear to me but also isn't that relevant). ...more
Oct 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
This is my first Heinlein book, and although the writing is not the finest but the amount of economic, social and political theory which the author tries to explain us is simply mind bending and astounding.

Some say that Heinlein is living in a fantasy by creating such a book, but that I think is exactly what books are suppose to do, they should be capable enough to make us think, and transport us into some fantastic version of future which makes us more hopeful for the future generations of hum
John Majerle
May 31, 2018 rated it liked it
This was Heinlein's first novel, written in 1939. The publishers rejected it and for good reason: it was not very well written. Fortunately for all us Heinlein fans he didn't give up and so we now have many subsequent well written novels of his to enjoy.

So why was is published decades later and why should you read it? If you are a first time author yourself you will have a good example of of what not to do. The book is technically OK, but it needed considerable editing to make it professional qu
Aug 05, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: idiot-plot
To be fair, I am not nearly so full of vitriol with regard to this book compared to some of the other bad books I've read, such as Scalzi's Old Man's War or Atwood's Handmaid's Tale.

However, to describe it as a novel, a true novel, is incorrect, since its plot is flimsy at best and the characterization for characters is so incredibly weak, even compared to many stories dealing more with societies than a specific character. It's instead setup for the author preaching at the reader some ideas, bu
May 20, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm enough of a Heinlein fan to snatch this up when I saw it (it's been 10 years--how did I miss it?). I think Spider Robinson is correct in calling it a proto-novel, as it is truly a series of essays--some rather dense, especially the economic ones--set in a story framework. For me, the interest was the predictions of the future from a 1938/39 standpoint. I was amused (?) he has Edward of Windsor dying in 1970 when the man actually did die in 1972, but otherwise most of his predictions are bunk ...more
M.E. Kinkade
Oct 05, 2015 rated it liked it
As a novel, this book is pretty weak. But as a literary oddity (Heinlein's never-before-published first work) and as a font of ideas, it's incredible.
First, why it's a crummy novel: there's not much of a story; many of the characters are sketches; there are long stretches without any action; and characters are unrealistically accepting of bizarre things. I mean surely you'd ask some questions if the man you just met claimed he was from 150 years ago?
But if characters did bother with such fundame
This is Heinlein's earliest work (although unpublished until recently). It's interesting in that this was written around the start of WWII, so his alternate history reads very odd at times. So, the whole of WWII is different and man hasn't landed on the moon. You can see the seeds of later works in this one, most notably Nehemiah Scudder from Revolt in 2100 (although the dates are different from that book). He's basically the same character in both books (and as mentioned in other books of his a ...more
John Bruni
May 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is actually Heinlein's first novel, but it wasn't published until nearly two decades after his death. It's very interesting to see how his work has progressed, and this novel in particular has just about everything in it that would be his life's work as a writer. He's my favorite SF writer mostly because of his progressive views. Even by today's standards, he's pretty progressive. There is a great deal of love and truth in his books, and this is no exception. He was also very good at predic ...more
Jul 27, 2011 rated it liked it
What I like about this book is the economic theory. I've read a lot of science fiction, and I love it. This has some future speculation that is more or less brilliant, as far as predicting technology goes, though it feels a little antique because most of the stuff he was pie-in-the-sky fantasizing about came off in a slightly different direction. But as science fiction, well, eh. As fantasy, well, eh. I can't wait for my rocket-gyro-car, whatever that is! The author has a maybe-we-can-all-just-g ...more
Jeff Yoak
This is Heinlein's first stab at a novel. Though written in the late 30's, it was published posthumously. It is a fairly standard utopian novel though it is preachy and serves as a platform for Heinlein to offer his views on future, culture and people. Despite this, for a Heinlein fan, it provides a lot of insight into his early thought and foreshadows much of what we're to see in future work. It may not stand well on its own, but makes an excellent compliment to his other work for the truly mot ...more
Jan 18, 2014 rated it did not like it
It’s amazing how bad the predictions are. This is my favorite:
“How in the world did we stay out of [war in Europe]?”
“… mostly the genius and strength of character of … Franklin Roosevelt”
How could any semi-intelligent person in 1938/39 believe that FDR would keep us out of European war? Probably the most ironic and interesting prediction is that around Nehemiah Scudder, which perfectly foresees radical Islam.
The passages regarding those two predictions lead me to hazard a speculation: Heinlein’s
Sep 20, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: heinlein
great story...well worth a read. heinlein's first ovel is like looking at neil armstrong's first foot print on the moon
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For Us, the Living: A Comedy of Customs is about a naval airman Perry Nelson who's car went off a cliff in California in 1939. It was said that he could see the rocks coming at him as he fell. Next thing Perry knows he awakens in a mountain and is rescued by a woman. He soon finds out from the woman, Diana, that it is 2038 and as can be expected customs and our ways have changed. The book is about how Perry is coming accustomed to these new ways.

The thing that saved this novel for me was the aft
Morgan Dhu
Dec 22, 2017 rated it liked it
And now for my thoughts on a Heinlein book i’d never read before, For Us, the Living. I think I’ve read everything else he wrote, but this was released so late in the game that I hadn’t gotten around to it til now. I’m glad I read it, because it’s in some ways a sourcebook for some of his greatest works.

It’s not actually a novel, of course. It’s a utopian treatise, one in a long line of such works that goes all the way back to Plato’s Republic. The story is the same in every case - dump unsuspec
James Cain
Jan 17, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: my-library
"For Us, the Living" is a science fiction novel about a 1930's navy man who get a little bump on the head, and wakes up in a far future utopia. Forced to integrate with this new society, he has a series of dialogues about everything from politics and religion, to relationships and economics, to find out how they figured it all out, and by contrast, the absurdity of the time he comes from.

Most readers will tell you this is best read after you've familiarized yourself with Heinlein's body of work.
Dec 19, 2020 rated it liked it
[3 stars = I like, probably would read again]

This is a novel, but then again, it's not much of one, and I wouldn't read it again for the novel aspect. As far as that goes, it's in 2-star territory, maybe 1.5-star. This is Heinlein's pre-published novel, meaning it's a novel he wrote before he was a published author, and if you are familiar with Heinlein's other works, you'll know he has some distinctive points of view that come across clearly. In For Us, the Living, we see an exposition of a les
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Robert Anson Heinlein was an American novelist and science fiction writer. Often called "the dean of science fiction writers", he is one of the most popular, influential, and controversial authors of "hard science fiction".

He set a high standard for science and engineering plausibility and helped to raise the genre's standards of literary quality. He was the first SF writer to break into mainstre

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