Friday, February 08, 2008

Not quite book review: For Us, The Living

I read a lot of Heinlein as a teen, like many SF/F nerdlings. He was entertaining, but the creepy sexual stereotypes eventually got to me and I moved on to better things. I was, however, curious about the "lost Heinlein novel" that was published a couple of years ago and checked it out of the library* and gave it a go.

First things: the foreword. It's by Spider Robinson, and is one of the most fawning pieces of hagiography I've ever read. We are told that the ideas within are "profound" and that the piece has a romantic air of saudade. Robert A. Heinlein is referred to as "RAH," which isn't new but never fails to weird me out; "-rah" is Lapine for "Lord," and seeing RAH on the page comes off as a particularly nerdy form of "YHWH." I was cringing by the end of the foreword. Nothing, not least a first novel by a genre author, could live up to that sell.

And, of course, it doesn't. Did you find Ayn Rand insufficiently didactic? Do you enjoy reading completely illiterate economic theories spouted from the mouths of cardboard cutouts? Does the idea of reading alternate history by someone with no sense of history appeal? Then this book is for you. As a novel, it fails on every level: it has no real characters, almost no plot, and a completely unconvincing setting. The writing is pedestrian and consists mostly of monologues. The future society described is completely implausible to anyone with the least knowledge of economics, physics, or psychology.

I can't count this for the 50 Book Challenge because I didn't finish it. I do, however, wish to warn others.

* Because I suspected it might not be very good, being an unpublished SF manuscript by someone who published a lot of stuff, some of it dreck. Not shelfworthy!
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