100 sf

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

#27: Have Space Suit--Will Travel (1958) by Robert Heinlein

“I’ve heard all the usual Sweetness and Light that kids get pushed at them—how they should always forgive, how there’s some good in the worst of us, etc. But when I see a black widow, I step on it; I don’t plead with it to be a good little spider and please stop poisoning people. A black widow spider can’t help it—but that’s the point.”

Kip is a good boy; he works hard. And he really, really wants to go to the moon. His dad is fair, but strict. He tells the teen that if he really wants to go to the moon, he’ll find a way. It’ll take effort and desire. And if those two things are there, and a person sets his mind to it, anything is possible. Sounds like the Heinlein we know, doesn’t it?

Robert A. Heinlein wrote about a dozen “juvenile” novels in his career. Have Space Suit--Will Travel is the last of them, and it’s an engrossing read. Heinlein’s themes of individualism and self-determination seem easier to swallow here. Who wouldn’t want to root for a bright young man with a goal of achieving his dreams? And Kip is a swell kid, right out of the 50s--he even works the soda fountain at the local pharmacy.

Quickly he comes up with a plan, he’ll enter a jingle contest for Skyway Soap. Grand prize--a trip to the moon. Skyway doesn’t set a limit on entries, so Kip sends one, then two, then fifty, then hundreds. By a technicality, Kip loses out on the first prize, but he does take home the consolation: one *used* space suit. While taking the suit out for a spin, Kip’s life forever changes. A distress signal brings him into contact with “Peewee,” a brilliant young girl being held by “Wormface” and his henchmen, and “the Mother Thing,” a big-cat-like space cop. Kip, Peewee, and the Mother Thing battle Wormface, travel to the moon, and become involved in a trial to decide humanity’s future. Heinlein just can’t leave the big themes alone, which is one of the reasons he’s such a fun writer to read. The book would be more than entertaining if it just contained the space exploits of Kip, Peewee, and the Mother Thing. But humanity on trial! Yikes!

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