What’s Your Favorite Heinlein Novel, David Hartwell?

Double Star by Robert A. HeinleinMy favorite Heinlein novel is Double Star (1956). It wins out over others in my life because it hit me as a teenager at just the right moment to be an object of contemplation for several years. And it plays off against another of my favorite novels, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr’s Mother Night (1961), published six years later (and about a man named Howard W. Campbell, Jr.). When I read the Vonnegut, I went back and re-read the Heinlein, and loved them both. They are both about “be careful who you pretend to be because that is who you turn out to be.” Both are examinations of people who act out roles that trap them, but the spin is opposite in the Vonnegut. In Heinlein, Smyth is triumphant, and in Vonnegut, Campbell is frighteningly trapped in his persona. Both books are in the tradition of Mark Twain, one the early Twain and the other the later. I like several other Heinlein books a lot, and perhaps most of all The Past Through Tomorrow, but Double Star helped contour my adult life.

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Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve (978-0-7653-1960-9 / $29.99) will be available from Tor Books on August 17th 2010.

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