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Variable Star Hardcover – September 19, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st edition (September 19, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076531312X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765313126
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,257,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Like a good Ganymedean farmer in the sky, Robinson (Callahan's Key) plants both feet firmly in Heinlein territory with this mostly credible pastiche of a Heinlein young adult novel circa 1955. Working from an unfinished outline and notes, Robinson tells the coming-of-age tale of Joel Johnston, who flees a broken romance to the new colony planet Brasil Novo 85 light-years away. Joel and his companions demonstrate the odd mixture of innocence and sexual experimentation that Heinlein employed, as Robinson captures the naïve yet advanced tone of Heinlein's future history. But the strain of a contemporary author trying to fit his sensibility about the future (in which nonaggression is a way of life, for example) into Heinlein's more notably militaristic mindset leaves its traces on the characters and plot, with some unexplained role reversals. Nostalgia for Heinlein's early work may pique interest in this posthumous collaboration, but old Heinlein hands may be disappointed that the book is incomplete, being all journey and no arrival. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

A mere glimpse at the legendary byline and Heinleinesque astronomical title may make at least older sf fans salivate. Alas, the source material is neither a lost or unfinished masterpiece but only a fifties-era outline made whole by journeyman sf scribe Robinson. No slouch at space opera himself, Robinson weaves Heinlein's guidelines into a serviceably entertaining tale of a young space explorer colonizing a new world. After discovering his fiancee and supposed fellow orphan is really a wealthy mogul's granddaughter, struggling musician Joel Johnston gets cold feet and grabs the next outbound starship. With his formative agricultural training on Ganymede, Joel has skills that come in handy tending goats and crops in preparation for landfall on Brasil Novo. Yet his vow to abandon love in favor of farming meets some surprising--and romantically intriguing--challenges. The trademark Heinlein quips, space-travel motifs, and obligatory schmaltzy romance are all here in a faithful, if technologically updated, pastiche of the late master's style and storytelling genius. Carl Hays
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Nothing really bad about that.
J. Rodden
This is not necessarily a bad thing - I've enjoyed many of Spider's other books, and his style normally complements his story material very well.
Patrick Shepherd
It's absolutely not Heinlein, it's Spider Robinson writing in Spider Robinson style.
M. Toney

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

73 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Shepherd VINE VOICE on October 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book, like many posthumous `collaborations' that are attempts to complete an unfinished work, has both good and bad things about it.

First, yes, Heinlein's touch is definitely evident, mainly in the basic story setting and its main characters. Clearly the outline and notes that Spider worked from defined these elements unambiguously, and anyone familiar with Heinlein's work will find much here that will evoke that feeling that so many of his YA books from the fifties had. The story is very definitely set in the `Future History' line, with references to Red Planet, If This Goes On, Coventry, Time for the Stars, Starman Jones, Space Cadet, and multiple other stories. Its protagonist is, at least at the start of this book, a rather typical Heinlein older teen, a young man who starts with no clear idea of what he wants from life, and while quite intelligent has a tendency to leap without fully considering all the consequences.

But it is also true that this is Spider writing, and as such it's told in Spider's voice, with his own very distinctive style, which includes his penchant for punning, and to some extent, mysticism, neither of which Heinlein would normally touch. This is not necessarily a bad thing - I've enjoyed many of Spider's other books, and his style normally complements his story material very well. But here I found some of this a little jarring, as it simply didn't match my expectation of how Heinlein's voice would have told this story. Not that Spider either should or could have really matched Heinlein's voice - any attempt to do so would have probably been a disaster.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Larry Smith on September 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover
First the bad news. According to the afterword, all Spider started with was 7 pages of notes (there were more, but any additional pages have been lost) and 14 3x5 cards with more notes. So the plot in broad terms is recognizably Heinleinesque, but he didn't have much to go on. But the real disappointment is that Spider's agent told him not to write the novel in a Heinlein style, but in his own. Understandable, sure. But it just doesn't feel like a Heinlein book (much less a Heinlein Juvenile, which the Publisher's Weekly semi-compares it to in their review). It has a fair amount of profanity, multiple drug references (soft, hard and alcohol) and sentences like "Damned souls condemned to yearn forever, and destroy all they touched, knowing it was pointless." As a Spider Robinson book it's OK, but he's really pushing it to include RAH's name on it (no matter how lovingly he tried to do him justice).

OK, now onto the good parts. Throughout the first, oh, half of the book (but then it peters out), Spider peppers the story liberally with RAH allusions. For example: The story starts with Joel (the hero) and Jinny (as in Mrs. Ginny Heinlein?) dancing. Afterwards, she says, "After dancing like that ... a couple really ought to get married". Sound familiar? It should. The Number of the Beast (with its own ton of allusions) starts the same way -- "After a tango like that the couple ought to get married." In both books they go to (Jinny's home) which "isn't anywhere" and (Deety's/Jake's cabin) "It's ... a nowhere place." And there are many, many more. If you're like me and have read and re-read Heinlein's works so often you've practically got them memorized, you'll have fun picking out the references. Trivia question: In Variable Star, on several occasions people use the phrase "Crave pardon.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey R. Ball on January 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anyone buying this book in the hope that even a Heinlein outline must result in a half decent novel, as I did, will be deeply dissapointed.

While I have always enjoyed Robinsons' Callahans stories, and I am eternally in his debt for his eloquent defending of Heinlein; this novel simply does not feel nor read like any form of Heinlein. Now I know that Robinson has stated clearly that he didn't try to write in the style of Heinlein,(a wise decision!), and as a Robinson novel this is sort of OK, if a bit self consciously hip for my taste, but Heinleins' name should not be on the cover.

-and the rather convenient ending seems a direct pinch from Time For The Stars. Maybe it was meant as homage, but it left a bad taste in my mouth.

I would like there to be more new Heinlein as much as the next person, but if there truly isn't any, then please,let his work stand as it is.

He gave us so very much. Let it be enough.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By R. S. Geiger II on April 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Variable Star was not written by Robert Heinlein. Its plot, characters, and setting may have been devised and drawn out by the late Science Fiction master, but the gaps most certainly show whenever Robinson attempts to fill them in. I'll admit that I'm quite a Heinlein fan, and I loved the first half of this book more than any another Heinlen I've read. It has a catchy premise that reels you into a fantastic world, with a main character that is perfect in his quirkiness and authenticity.

Most good works of fiction make the reader grip the page during the climax, putting all other responsibilities aside until the plot is resolved. Variable Star is the first book I've read in recent memory that made me feel this way during the exposition and the initial chapters. The setting, the characters, and other elements in the novel are fascinating, especially because it deals heavily with one man's internal struggle to make sense of his own world, instead of the bloody (and predictable) conflict-based plots that are all-too-common in SciFi today.

However, halfway through the book, this came screeching to a halt. The trademark Heinlein references (including everyone's favorite, line marriages) still kept flowing, but the writing seemed rushed, the plot seemed forced, and the characters simply became less believable. I won't ruin it, but the climax of the novel was brought on by one of the worst plot devices I've ever read in published fiction and solved by a deus ex machina that was only slightly better. I finished the book with my jaw agape, trying to piece together the sheer ridiculousness of the events I had just read.
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