Tag Archives: Heinlein

Six Other-Worldly Books

Today I’m going to talk about other-worldly books, six that stuck in my head. This group of books is not clearly Science Fiction, or clearly Speculative Fiction. One is a Fantasy more than anything else. I’ve put them together because they are all set somewhere Other. Plus they all stick in my head. Books that make you think, that you remember for a long time, these are the ones that are good, not your every-day run-of-the-mill stuff. I won’t argue that these books are great, but I will say they are all worth reading. These are in no particular order.

  1. Children of Men by P.D. James. This is not a mystery novel, it is speculative fiction. I’ve just finished listening to the audio book version for a different spin on it. I want to assign this book for a children’s ministry course in seminary. This evening, I began comparing it in my head with The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. James and Atwood are onto some similar themes I think, but they work them out quite differently. Things that make you go hmmm.
  2. Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. So good. Kay’s best in my humble opinion. The Constant Reader thinks so too. This is the Fantasy book. Kay writes Historical Fantasy, in which his fantastic worlds bear some resemblance to some aspect of world history. This one is sort of Italian.
  3. A Scientific Romance by Ronald Wright. A twist on time travel, with apocalyptic overtones. It references The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, which I’ve not yet read. I should get on that. One thing I remember about Wright’s book is that Harry becomes king and we never find out what happened to William. (This was written before George was born.) Henry IX is a very remote and background figure in the book, but it was an interesting future what-if detail, part of a well-imagined world.
  4. The Moon is A Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein. Moon colonies and sentient machines, plus a lot of political manoeuvring, what else could you want in a SciFi book? I liked this one on audio quite a lot because the guy who read it performed the voices so well. (To be fair, others found the voices irritating.) The sentient computer is a key character in the book, which is part of what makes the whole thing interesting to me. Plus Heinlein managed to imagine a moon colony with its own evolving cultural mores.
  5. Red Thunder by John Varley. Part of the reason this one sticks in my head is the the giant engineering hack that is the centre of the plot. Home-built spaceship anyone? Oh yeah. Plus there’s a fake crocodile in a pool, and the space coast setting in Florida, what more could you want?
  6. Beggers in Spain by Nancy Kress. I read this one first a long time ago. It was recommended to me by a fellow physics teacher. This is speculative fiction that imagines what happens when people are genetically modified so they don’t need sleep. The Sleepless have 8 more hours every day than the rest of us. Think on that.

Any Other Worlds that stick in your head?


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More Nostalgic Reading

I’ve been reading the summer away, not blogging the summer away, thus I have not written about some of the Older Books I’ve read recently. I’ve been doing some genre older reading — pre-1970 Science Fiction! A lot of authors who wrote SciFi in the first two-thirds of the twentieth-century would be disappointed to know that in 2013 we do not have a moon colony, nor have we sent people to Mars. We barely have an occupied space station. But we DO have the internet. I’m not sure computers are quite sentient, but they can do lots of mind-reading sorts of things.

Back in the day, the grade school and high school day, Robert Heinlein was one of the SciFi authors I read. Starship Troopers was the one I particularly liked and revisited. I tried reading it again when the movie came out and found it not as I remembered it. Sigh. I have been reluctant to pick up Heinlein’s adult SciFi. I never got into it back in the day, only reading his books that were classified as Young Adult in the library. I think I might have glanced at The Moon is A Harsh Mistress and found it uninteresting, and didn’t really give it another chance until this summer. I listened to The Moon is A Harsh Mistress on a library audioebook. I quite enjoyed it. Stranger in a Strange Land was on the LOST list so I decided to hunt for that one as well. I found Stranger in a used bookshop and also enjoyed it.

Heinlein is a very political writer. I missed or blocked that about his books when I was in high school. Now I see it very clearly. I enjoyed the political games in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress very much. Stranger in a Strange Land also has some interesting politics. Stranger is, however, more religious than political. I’m still thinking about whether Heinlein was just mocking all religion, or whether he was proposing something new. I’m slightly inclined to the skewering/mocking side — I think that is what he’s doing. It is still a good book, weird theological things and all. Going back to Heinlein has been a pleasant experience. I’m glad I did.


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Three things for the Third of July

Three things for July 3:

  1. The Constant Reader sent me this link this morning. Oh the hilarity. Go have a look for your laugh for the first week of July. In other news I get to have dinner with The Constant Reader tonight. Oh frabjous day as she said earlier.
  2. I’ve just finished listening to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein. It is very political as is usual with RH, but it doesn’t have so many political monologues that feel completely preachy — all political monologues are key to the plot. The version I listened to was very well read/performed by Lloyd James. I got it from the public library. Check your local library.
  3. I feel a post coming on about adaptability and what we come to think is “normal” or “necessary” though it has been neither for very long. It was spurred by my own observations and reflections on seasonal fruit and an overheard conversation on cell phones. More on this coming soon.


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