Robert Heinlein’s masterpieces

His work had from the beginning the virtues of the finest pulp: a swift narrative line, an easy conversational manner and a strong uncluttered prose style. But there is also a quality almost unheard of in pulp writing and pretty rare in literature generally: conviction. Heinlein’s worlds aren’t built out of genre cardboard or adolescent fantasies: They feel like real places, weathered and inhabited. He achieved this effect through a careful accumulation of details. As characters are talking, Heinlein would just drop in an unobtrusive line: “They stepped on a glideway which picked up speed until walls were whizzing past.” He didn’t explain what a glideway is any more than Raymond Chandler would stop to explain an elevator, but by the end, Heinlein’s imaginary worlds seem as beautifully realized and substantial as Philip Marlowe’s Los Angeles.

This is what made the juveniles such extraordinary experiences for their first readers. Heinlein’s brief was to explain the basics of space travel at a time—pre-NASA, pre-Sputnik—when everything about outer space was still an unknown quantity. His descriptions were so visceral that a whole generation of teenage boys (and a surprising number of girls, as Heinlein’s fan mail proved) grew up knowing exactly what spacesuits and weightlessness and the surface of other worlds would feel like long before anybody had experienced them for real. Nor did Heinlein sugarcoat the dangers. No young reader would ever think of space as a cozy or safe environment after Heinlein’s harrowing account of a colony on one of Jupiter’s moons devastated by the failure of its life-support system in “Farmer in the Sky” (1950) or the spaceship doomed by a trivial navigation error in “Starman Jones” (1953).

But this isn’t why the juveniles are still being read now, 60 years later, when the realities and dangers of space exploration can be taken for granted. They have another quality behind their scrupulously naturalistic surface: an intensely persuasive optimism. With each book, the dramas grow more serious, the moral lessons more adult and the sense of space exhilaratingly larger.

The novels for adults that followed were just as emotionally compelling. And that’s exactly the problem. “Starship Troopers” is about a future society facing a total war against an implacably hostile alien species: Heinlein does not just describe the war with his typical vividness; he conjures up a high-tech military culture, with a worldview and ruling ideology to fit (among other things, only veterans have the right to vote), and hurls the reader into its midst with such imaginative force that its rationale seems not only inevitable but somehow desirable. Many readers have been deeply moved (I know of more than one enlistment in the real-world military inspired by it); others have felt that they’re being bullied by a brilliant piece of fascist propaganda. Five decades on, it remains the most bitterly divisive book in the history of sci-fi.

Heinlein himself was greatly upset by the controversy. He wrote that he had no idea whether the militaristic society in the book would really work; he went on to make his 1963 novel “Glory Road” a virtual mirror-inversion of “Starship Troopers,” where the combat-veteran hero is an irresponsible goofball (it’s rather scary to imagine him voting). And when, in 1974, the young Vietnam veteran Joe Haldeman published a direct attack on the politics of “Starship Troopers” in his own sci-fi novel “The Forever War,” Heinlein repeatedly went out of his way to praise it.

Heinlein grew to be just as ambivalent about his other masterworks. “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” is a visionary epic of a lunar colony breaking free from earth’s government and establishing an anarchist-libertarian utopia. But even as it was being enshrined by the libertarian movement as a foundational text (it was endorsed by Milton Friedman ), Heinlein turned cagey and evasive about whether he was advocating its revolutionary agenda. Once again, it was as though his own persuasiveness was making him uncomfortable. This discomfort escalated exponentially into nightmare with “Stranger in a Strange Land.” Heinlein always insisted that he meant it as nothing more than a satirical and ironic fantasy à la “Candide” (the working title was “The Man From Mars”); he was both amused and appalled when the hippies took it up, enchanted by his luxuriantly sybaritic portrait of a Martian free-love commune.

Lee Sandlin writing in the Wall Street Journal.

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73 Responses to Robert Heinlein’s masterpieces

  1. thefrollickingmole

    Ive read the forever war, one of the worst “green left weekly” pieces of agit-prop Ive ever encountered. Definitely a book of its time really just “Vietnam in space” with a thin coat of sci-fi over the top.

  2. Bruce of Newcastle

    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is perhaps my most favourite book, although The Day of the Triffids is neck and neck.

    Starship Troopers is very misunderstood, and is a lot deeper that people usually think, especially lefties. Although I have a soft spot for Paul Verhoven’s effort, which was very subversive in a gloriously opposite way from Heinlein.

    Two of the ‘juveniles’ which are a lot deeper than they superficially seem are Tunnel in the Sky, and Time for the Stars. And who, if they won a second hand spacesuit in a raffle, wouldn’t want to fix it up.

    He was a master craftsman.

    And credit to Mr Haldeman too. Forever War must be read with Starship Troopers and vice versa, but Forever Peace is a very fine golden age style SF.

  3. Have you read “By his bootstraps”? That’s awesome. And only takes an hour or two.

  4. blogstrop

    I enjoyed Forever War just for itself. Stranger In a Strange Land was always going to be taken up by the free-love mobs (libertarians?), or some whacko Waco-style cult.

  5. Bruce of Newcastle

    OHH – I did long ago but I don’t have it at home & I can’t remember much of it. Great excuse (now where’s my Kindle, aha, there it is). But you’ve reminded me of Double Star which is another of the political series. Superb and actually quite scary in all sorts of ways.

    Incidentally I like to use the Igli method on trolls.

  6. Mk50 of Brisbane, Henchman to the VRWC

    I think ‘Starship Troopers’ and ‘A Canticle for Leibowitz’ are the acme of that era’s sci-fi. I read both annually and I am still startled by the depth in both.

    A modern one I think just might attain a similar status over time is Stirling’s ‘The Peshawar Lancers’. Of course, Ian M Banks is in a class of his own these days…

  7. Bruce of Newcastle

    Thanks Mk50, I’ll get The Peshawar Lancers too. I never liked the Draka series, but I’ve worn out Stirling & Drake’s The General Series. I always thought Mr Stirling did his best when co-writing, but TPL is a fine idea for a story. Sadly of course Iain Banks passed away last year.

  8. Mk50 of Brisbane, Henchman to the VRWC

    Bruce, I am simply not a fan of the entire ‘fantasy sword and sorcery’ sci-fan genre. It’s just so derivative. Oh, I get why they write it, it’s a hell of a money-spinner.

    Stirling’s ‘Island in the Sea of Time’ trilogy is fun (don’t bother with Birmongham’s WW2.1/2.2/2.3 series – its a rip-off of Stirlings idea and shoddily researched to boot).

    I have found some of John Ringo’s stuff OK, the ‘Live Free or Die’ series is alright. Jack McDevitt is producing some very good stuff (have you read ‘The Engines of God’? Very good.).

    For rollicking entertainment, Weber’s ‘Harrington’ series is good summertime holiday reading but nothing more, as is most of Hamilton’s work. His ‘Mindstar’ series is a cut above his usual stuff and reminds me of Heinlein in some ways, probably the richness of detail. ‘Mindstar Rising’ and ‘The Nano Flower’ is his best work IMHO – he writes about the place he lives in which explans the detail. yeah, he set it in a glowbally warmed world, yet it works. His tropical UK is neatly imagined, his descriptions of the overthrown socialist tyranny by a sort of libertarian capitalist revolt subvert the hell out of that meme in a really clever way.

  9. Bruce of Newcastle

    I am simply not a fan of the entire ‘fantasy sword and sorcery’ sci-fan genre.

    Mk50 – The General series isn’t fantasy (yep, I’m with you on that genre), its a future history based on the campaigns of Belisarius. I read a couple of Hamilton’s some time ago, and I’ve got Mindstar around somewhere but haven’t read it yet. Thanks for the reminder.

    I’ve been hunting up TPL without success. It looks to be another one caught in the folds of parallel import restrictions lunacy. No legit kindle edition. Dead tree edition from Galaxy is all that seems to be even half convenient. Grr.

  10. Tim

    I really liked “The Engines of God”. Other books in the series were a bit hit and miss, some good ideas, but the characterisation is poor and wooden, and the 6th in the series was good till they got to the resolution of the whole mystery. Big let-down.

  11. notafan

    I would love it if someone would make Citizen of the Galaxy into a movie. Better than Star Wars, I reckon.

  12. Or Tiger Tiger by Alfred Bester, what a movie that will be one day!

  13. Arnost

    I loved Heinlein. I guess the genesis of my anarcho-libertarian leanings is in the quotes of Lazarus Long. When asked what was my fave book in my teens – to the horror of my then coterie of friends I would not say The Lord of the Rings or such – I would say “time enough for love”.

    Yield to Temptation … it may not pass your way again.
    – Lazarus Long, “Time Enough for Love”

    Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors and miss.
    – Lazarus Long, “Time Enough for Love”

    Never appeal to a man’s “better nature.” He may not have one.
    Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage.
    – Lazarus Long

    It may be better to be a live jackal than a dead lion, but it is better
    still to be a live lion. And usually easier.
    – Lazarus Long

    Oh yes… Beware of the stobor.

  14. Clam Chowdah

    I love that the Doomlord is an SF devotee. Two thumbs up for this blog!

  15. cohenite

    Heinlein was the personification of the Golden age of SF which was defined by optimism and a ‘can-do’ attitude. Heinlein was an engineer and brought considerable technological insight to his writing.

    That optimism probably reached its zenith with Niven’s Ringworld the most dazzling of technological achievements.

    Heinlein was fierce individualist and loathed socialism as indicated in Methuselah’s Children and Time Enough for Love. Lazarus was his literary avatar and his loss of the love of his life to a hive mind as an alternative to personal immortality was an indication of how Heinlein felt about growing old.

    Heinlein’s Future History was a description of what humanity could do in the playground of space and is a poignant reminder of what humanity has lost as the navel-gazers and third-raters have taken over and inflicted on humanity such things as AGW as an alternative to space exploration.

  16. Arnost

    That optimism probably reached its zenith with Niven’s Ringworld the most dazzling of technological achievements.

    You gotta mention Pournelle if you are talking technology and fierce individualism. Again – one of the greats who has a blog well worthwhile checking out now and then.

    http://www.jerrypournelle.com/

  17. cohenite

    True, Pournelle was more than a sidebar to Niven and their shared novels, The Mote in God’s Eye and Oath of Fealty were fierce attacks on leftwing values. Pournelle apparently supplied the plots while Niven, a much better writer IMO, provided the detail.

    I love this type of SF!

  18. Craig Mc

    I never got through “The Number Of The Beast”, but I should try again. It dripped Libertarianism. The ultimate Going Galt – leaving the dimension.

  19. Clam Chowdah

    I think ‘Starship Troopers’ and ‘A Canticle for Leibowitz’ are the acme of that era’s sci-fi. I read both annually and I am still startled by the depth in both.

    I’d add Alfred Bester’s “Tiger, Tiger”.

  20. Arnost

    There are lots of Liberty quotes in Heinlein’s work. Though with the number of the beast and the cat that walks through walls – i think he was struggling and lost a bit of direction.

    But Pournelle also has a lot of liberty quotes. And laws!

    Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people”:

    First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

    Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

    The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

  21. slackster

    Still one of my favourite authors

    Time Enough Fir Love is a personal favorite after Moon is a harsh Mistress and its sort of sequel The Cat who walks through walls

    Oh if anyone wants to know the cats name it is in the printing markings in the binding of the book

    Its name is Berk

  22. The Hunted Mind

    I never got through “The Number Of The Beast”, but I should try again.

    The Number of the Beast is a truly awful book. I had enjoyed every Heinlein book I had come across until that one. It put me off reading him for months. The whole lovey dovey stuff going on with the main couples in the story is excruciating.

  23. Clam Chowdah

    His later, bloated novels are piles of steaming shit.

  24. Bruce of Newcastle

    Visionary in every way. He was the first author to catch the disease which a writer in my family calls word processor syndrome. Typically he did it before word processors were invented. Fantasy authors get it worst, usually.

    Tiger, tiger burns bright for me too. And Extro.

  25. vlad

    TIME FOR THE STARS is a great novel.

    And I keep waiting for the 100mph slidewalks to arrive; the mobile phone that goes off in the opening line of one of the juveniles certainly has. It would be very hard to read that now as the sf opening that it was.

  26. Nato

    Love the book, love the movie. 2 very different stories where the book is superior, but Denise Richards.

  27. cohenite

    Ok, time for nominations for best ever SF novel which can include series. I nominate Jack Vance’s Demon Princes series. My reasons are:

    1 They show Vance at his most wry and witty; the language is to be savoured with a running commentary which grounds the stellar action in the mundane aspects of the future which are often overlooked in SF.

    2 His hero is inventive, resourceful and most fully realised of all Vance’s characters

    3 Vance is first and foremost individualistic; he hates bureaucracies and the stifling effect of religion. he also hates green ideology. In the last of the series vegans have regressed to the intellect of cattle and in fact are commercially treated as a commodity.

    4 The villains are splendid.

  28. vlad

    Well, if you’re talking best-ever sf novel, I’d say A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ by the length of the straight.

    Not to make a comparison with that work, but when I read A MIRROR FOR OBSERVERS by Edgar Pangborn a few years ago, it struck me as the best-written sf novel I’d ever read.

  29. OzGrandPooba

    “Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as “bad luck.”

    The summation of the RGR Govt explanation for the economy…

  30. hzhousewife

    Wow. So much more reading to do. I loved “The Black Cloud” (Hoyle), it encouraged my scientific bent, way back when.

  31. cohenite

    Canticle is a great novel; a one off by a maverick author. Miller was profoundly religious. The anti-technological theme in SF took at least 2 forms. Miller’s was one which dwelt on the spiritual side of humanity. The other was the forebear of the pollutant themes and green ideology and gaia concept which began in the work of authors like John Brunner and The Sheep Look Up.

    I find Canticle too pessimistic and even deterministic; my preference are the technological authors who create and describe a Universe open and occupied by humanity and life.

  32. Clam Chowdah

    It disturbs me that Cohenite is as big a fan of Jack Vance as I am.

  33. Ive read the forever war, one of the worst “green left weekly” pieces of agit-prop Ive ever encountered. Definitely a book of its time really just “Vietnam in space” with a thin coat of sci-fi over the top.

    You complete dill, the Forever War is not by Heinlein, it’s by Haldermann. Yes, it’s a left wing anti-Vietnam piece.
    It’s not Heinlein.

  34. Heinlein and Vance are the two most under-rated 20th century authors, period.

  35. Sinclair Davidson

    I started reading Hamilton with the Night’s Dawn trilogy (his best work that I’ve read). I also really enjoyed his Great North Road novel.

    I’ve downloaded his Greg Mandel trilogy to take with me to the US.

    I wanted to re-read the Ringworld series, but can’t get it on kindle. Very annoying. I also got the Frank Herbert and Bill Ransom Pandora trilogy on kindle to re-read but didn’t get to it when I last went to Europe. (also got the Destination Void prequel).

  36. cohenite

    It disturbs me that Cohenite is as big a fan of Jack Vance as I am.

    Suck it up sweetheart; and name your best; there’s hope for some disagreement yet.

  37. Craig Mc

    If we’re going to push random SF books, I’ll give Hyperion/Fall Of Hyperion, and Ender’s Game/Speaker For The Dead nudges.

  38. cohenite

    Hyperion and Dan Simmons; now you’re talking. The literary framework is immense in it and its sequels, especially Endymion not only Keats and Chaucer but the best of SF movies, The Forbidden Planet and The Time Machine are referenced.

    Simmons other series, Ilium/Olympos has at its heart the wrecked machine of Jihadists carrying dark matter to destroy the world.

    Thanks for reminding me. Simmons has been quiet of late. At least in SF which I hope he returns to.

  39. If we’re going to push random SF books

    We’re not pushing “random” SF books, we’re pushing books by one of the 20th century’s great libertarian thinkers, who expressed most of his ideas in his science fiction novels.

  40. Pedro the Ignorant

    John Ringo is off my reading list, much as I like military themed sci-fi.

    He has a very dark and disturbing streak of misogyny running through all his novels. Real misogyny, not the confected crap espoused by TLS and her Emily’s List frightbats.

    Lots of physical violence against women and lots of psychological “put downs” of his female characters.

    I think he is deeply disturbed and very possibly a serious psychopath.

    I won’t bother sending him the invoice for my long range and deeply insightful diagnosis of his mental condition, I just won’t ever read another of his books.

  41. Zatara

    “Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.”

    “How you behave toward cats here below determines your status in Heaven.”

    “Cats have no sense of humor, they have terribly inflated egos, and they are very touchy.”

    Heinlein, blogging before blogging was cool.

  42. Sinclair Davidson

    Ilium/Olympos were very good, but struck me as being incomplete.

  43. For fans of Heinlein, John Scalzi writes novels that are something of an homage…

    http://www.amazon.com/Old-Mans-War-John-Scalzi/dp/0765348276

  44. Heinlein and Vance are the two most under-rated 20th century authors, period.

    Vance always started strongly but lacked staying power. His Planet of Adventure series is good fun, and contains the worst title in SF history; Servants of the Wankh. His fantasy is excellent but again, staying power is a problem. So Lyonesse is a great fantasy novel but the sequels weren’t so hot. His “The Dying Earth” is one of the greatest fantasy novels of the century, with a superbly realized clueless anti-hero. That book is so great that Michael Shea wrote an authorized sequel, after which Vance wrote a sequel. Shea went on to write some stellar fantasy novels that were in the Vance/Leiber vein but perhaps with a bigger dose of Clark Ashton Smith and HPL.

    My favorite SF authors are Bester, Delaney, Miller, Iain M. Banks and Alistair Reynolds, Bruce Sterling (Schismatrix) and William Gibson, and the bloke who wrote Snow Crash etc.

  45. Craig Mc

    I don’t mind Scalzi’s efforts at all. Although I did feel gypped by “Zoe’s Tale” after reading the other books in the series.

    I’ll add these Heinlein suggestions to my reading list.

  46. Craig Mc

    I really liked “The Engines of God”.

    Is that the Jack McDevitt one? I liked it.

  47. Sinclair Davidson

    Iain Banks was disappointing. Of his culture series only Use of weapons and Surface detail really stood out. Of those Use of weapons is magnificent.

  48. For fans of Heinlein, John Scalzi writes novels that are something of an homage…

    http://www.amazon.com/Old-Mans-War-John-Scalzi/dp/0765348276

    key phrase being “something of”….
    Scalzi is no libertarian, by any stretch.

  49. Clam Chowdah

    I appear to have derived far more satisfaction from Banks’ novels.

  50. thefrollickingmole

    Aussiepundit
    I know the forever war wasnt Heinlein, but it was mentioned in the same breath in the original post, I was disagreeing as to its worthyness to be lumped with Heinlein.

    And not just because it was the anti-starship troopers, just because it was so blatantly “Vietnam with bugs’.

  51. south

    key phrase being “something of”….
    Scalzi is no libertarian, by any stretch.

    Indeed, I’m sure I’ve heard Scalzi say in multiple interviews that Old Man’s War is meant as a tribute to Haldeman and The Forever War.

    Me, I spent most of my SF life reading Philip K. Dick. People rave about him (mainly for the films that were – very loosely – based on his work). His short stories and earlier novels were often rather excellent, mind-bending explorations of existence itself, but he & his writing descended into mystical nonsense later in his life.

  52. Eyrie

    No mention of the late, great Poul Anderson?
    From Norse mythology to fantasy to hard SF. The Broken Sword, Three Hearts and Three Lions, to Nick van Rijn. Throughout, exploration of what it means to be free.
    Also the unfortunately all too prophetic ” Murphy’s Hall” . We won’t get as far as the characters in that story though.

  53. I received my initial political education from Prof de la Paz. He set me on the right track.

  54. cohenite

    Ilium/Olympos were very good, but struck me as being incomplete.

    A movie was scheduled to be made of these 2 novels and was announced in 2004 but nothing seems to have come of it. It’s a pity because the idea of the God[s] with a scientific base is an interesting theme in SF. For instance many of the great Roger Zelazny’s novels are based on this idea especially his Amber series.

    Perhaps the most subtle expression of the merging of science and fantasy, or rather science being so distance that it is interpreted as magic or Godlike is Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth series. As chowdah notes the anti-hero Cugel is the most exasperating of characters. And while it is certainly true that the magnificent Lyonesse faded in its sequels, as did Araminta Station I’m sure Jack had his tongue firmly in cheek with Servants of the Wankh.

  55. Mk50 of Brisbane, Henchman to the VRWC

    Pedro:

    John Ringo is off my reading list, much as I like military themed sci-fi.

    He has a very dark and disturbing streak of misogyny running through all his novels.

    Well, I can’t say I have seen that in his works. I have read his Posleen war series and the Live Free or Die series. He’s quite free with his characters having a bad time, yet I have not read that in the books. Which book did you pick that up from?

    Poul Anderson and jerry Pournelle, yep, like both. Anderson’s very good with his use of English, there’s an undertone of wistful lyricism in his books. ‘Starfarers’ is particularly good. Niven, his ‘Destiny’s Road’ is brilliant, one of his best IMHO.

  56. boy on a bike

    The best bit of libertarian sci-fi that I have read recently is The Smelly Planet.

    It’s a great read – I kid you not. The planet is so awful, you have to smoke every day in order to survive. If you don’t have nicotine in your system, a virus will kill you. It’s gloriously non-PC.

  57. Ed Snack

    Heinlein’s writing in almost all of his books is, to me, badly flawed by his tendency to be didactic. Someone once described his style as “first he makes a point, then he tells you it again, then he tells you he told you…” and that strikes me as sometimes all to accurate.

    For me his best book is “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”, it’s not immune to his stylistic issues, but it is a rollicking good story with an off-beat touch. His other book I rather devoured at the time was “Stranger in a Strange Land” which has dated and it rather oozes didaction, I tried but simply couldn’t handle Methuselah and Lazarus.

    Starship Troopers, I had an immediate reaction to his premise at the start, I always hated the part where the recruits are welcomed by the old tough first sergeant who offers to fight anyone; so cliched and wrong. But it’s fiction and an exploration of a premise. To my mind, the “Forever War” is far superior as fiction though, I believe Haldemann is a better writer and his scenario is less jarring but equally fascistic in its own way.

    But in the end, taste is personal. I’d be happy to argue the merits (or otherwise) of Heinlein’s oeuvre, but taste is as taste does, there’s rarely anything wrong in liking or disliking someone’s way of writing. I like Heinlein’s range but find his style, personally, mostly tedious and believe there are many superior writers.

  58. notafan

    Snow Crash is Neal Stephenson btw

  59. Eyrie

    Bruce of Newcastle. The Peshawar Lancers is great. I don’t think you were meant to “like” the Draka series. The Draka are not nice people. However it is an exploration of freedom vs domestication, one of Anderson’s recurring themes It was some of Stirling’s earlier work and he was mentored by Poul Anderson at the time. I think it shows in the language and style at times. He pays very specific tribute to Poul Anderson at the end too. “Drakon” would make a great action movie.
    Pedro, if you like military SF and don’t like Ringo, try Tom Kratman. “Watch on the Rhine” is set in the Posleen universe. I never heard of Michael Wittmann before that.
    Here: http://www.badassoftheweek.com/wittman.html

  60. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    the old tough first sergeant who offers to fight anyone;so cliched and wrong

    Seen it happen – unfortunately for the N.C.O. concerned, the rookie who took up the challenge was a champion boxer, and the N.C.O. got his clock cleaned, properly. Practice ceased after that.

  61. john constantine

    sadly science fiction is now regarded by the swampies as a ‘throwback to the days of the great lie: that progress is good’.

    my family’s well educated leftie activist has been solidly indoctrinated that the only morally defensible position on space travel is to destroy it.

    mankind must die out on the earth we have raped and destroyed, and cannot be allowed to infest the solar system, let alone the universe.

    saving the planet by having the human race die out leads us to the faith that the universe can only be saved by the human race ‘die off’.

  62. cohenite

    sadly science fiction is now regarded by the swampies as a ‘throwback to the days of the great lie: that progress is good’.

    my family’s well educated leftie activist has been solidly indoctrinated that the only morally defensible position on space travel is to destroy it.

    mankind must die out on the earth we have raped and destroyed, and cannot be allowed to infest the solar system, let alone the universe.

    saving the planet by having the human race die out leads us to the faith that the universe can only be saved by the human race ‘die off’.

    Correct; yet the bastards will devour fantasy of the most puerile and vapid type till the Thrints [see Barlowe's Guide to Extra-terrestrials] come home.

    The left are navel-gazers and care for nothing beyond their egos; the greatness of the Golden age of SF has been consumed by exercises in moral condescension where pseudo-science like AGW dominates.

  63. Infidel Tiger

    I can’t even read and I’ve heard of how atrocious John Ringo is. He’s now an internet meme:

    http://fanlore.org/wiki/OH_JOHN_RINGO_NO

  64. .

    Seen it happen – unfortunately for the N.C.O. concerned, the rookie who took up the challenge was a champion boxer, and the N.C.O. got his clock cleaned, properly. Practice ceased after that.

    Sucked in. That NCO obviously wasn’t a leader, either.

  65. Sinclair Davidson

    Baen have republished Poul Anderson’s Technic Civilisation in a series of seven books in internal chronological order.

  66. vlad

    I’m going to put in a good word here for Charles Sheffield, who died too young and with at least one series in progress. He’s in the tradition of Arthur C Clarke; in fact his first novel, THE WEB BETWEEN THE WORLDS, was oddly similar to Clarke’s THE FOUNTAINS OF PARADISE, although they were published practically simultaneously. The similarities were pure coincidence.

  67. Tim

    I think I have most of Niven’s works on my Kindle, including all the Ringworld books. I don’t believe it is stealing when you own the paper version as well. (I don’t think it is stealing when you don’t, but they don’t put it up on Amazon, or don’t put it up at a reasonable price, but your mileage may differ.)

  68. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    That N.C.O. obviously wasn’t a leader, either

    Certainly right there, Dot.

  69. Clam Chowdah

    As chowdah notes the anti-hero Cugel is the most exasperating of characters.

    Au contraire. He’s wonderful. Totally venal and clueless about his abilities. A stupid person who thinks he’s cunning. Like an ALP voter.

  70. Clam Chowdah

    Snow Crash is Neal Stephenson btw

    He’s excellent.

  71. Bruce of Newcastle

    “Drakon” would make a great action movie. Pedro, if you like military SF and don’t like Ringo, try Tom Kratman. “Watch on the Rhine” is set in the Posleen universe.

    Eyrie – I don’t mind John Ringo, but he can be pretty uneven. My favourite of his is Hells Faire, in the Posleen series. A rollicking good story, and it would also be a wonderful action movie.

    If you like good mil SF, read the first few of Robert Frezza. Later he lost his edge trying to churn out better paying humour, but especially the first two are absolutely wonderful.

  72. Cold-Hands

    Haldeman’s “Forever War” and Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” both have interesting things to say on war and citizenship. Haldeman, having fought in Vietnam, is deeply suspicious of big government and the military-industrial complex. Heinlein, who only served in peacetime, is more idealistic and theoretical in “ST”. However, both recognize the thankless task the frontline troops have to deal with. To the everlasting glory of the infantry

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