Thursday, June 2, 2016

Review: Double Star

Double Star Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’ve been thinking lately about the ways that some classic science fiction prefers to cast “humanity” as its protagonist to depending on real human beings. That is, things like Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama (check out my review if you’d like to see the longer discussion) aren’t about developing characters; instead, they’re about invoking a generic sense of the human to stand in contrast to something distant and unknown.

If Clarke more or less pulls it off (and that’s the surprising joy of that novel for me), Heinlein – who’s’ guilty of it himself at least sometimes – shoots for the opposite effect here. Double Star is all about a single individual making his way in a broad and futuristic universe. He’s an out-of-work actor shanghaied to perform as the kidnapped leader of a political party dedicated to treating the bizarrely different Martians as full members of the growing human space empire.

I’d greenlight the premise if I were an editor – and I guess I did the equivalent as a reader by buying and reading the whole thing – but the novel is undercooked and derivative. If the novels with humanity as the protagonist make me miss real human characters, this one makes me miss humanity.

Our protagonist is a self-important, clichéd actor who, half through a consummate skill that’s so striking it makes no sense that he could be out of work, and half through bumbling good fortune that makes the whole book feel unnecessarily contrived, succeeds against all odds. If that sounds like a spoiler, don’t worry; you’ll know what’s coming after the first 15-20 pages.

This has the virtue of being short and the campy fun of an old Vincent Price movie (giving it a kind of historical curiosity and amusement) but it’s largely hack work. I’d stay away from it unless you’re a sci-fi completist, and I think I’m done with my personal foray into Heinlein’s work.

View all my reviews

No comments:

Post a Comment