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Double Star Paperback – October 15, 2015
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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Double Star was written when Virginia and Robert had moved to Colorado and Virginia had gotten the community theater bug. Without spoiling the rest of the story, Robert got interested as well as this was the push for this tight (only 100 pages or so), well written book when he was in his writing prime. His first Hugo winner. Many may have differing opinions about his other books but this one is universally loved and enjoyed. If you haven't read it in a while, read it again, it's worth it!
Heinlein spends little time on the Martian aliens except for their strange appearance and bizarre customs. Hypnosis along with extensive video assist in pulling off the deception. There is also a monarchy ruling over all of Earth with a political system similar to the United Kingdom. Heinlein also posits a sophisticated political apparatus that operates under the radar screen as well as a prominent fourth estate that is easily manipulated. While much of the sci-fi of this era was focused on space travel and aliens, Heinlein managed to create a story with political and societal relevance that remains timeless.
Worth reading, and a Kindle bargain.
Other reviewers have summarized the plot adequately, so I won't recap any of that here. If you're looking for amazing futuristic inventions, or for evil invading aliens, don't bother with this story. If you want to read about what it means to be human, in this century or the next, then you will love this book.
Spaceman Dak Broadbent hires Lornzo Smythe to impersonate a man. Although Lorenzo is a talented actor (just ask him!), he is more of a con artist than an accomplished thespian. Before Dak can explain the role, Dak and Lorenzo are fleeing, having killed a Martian and a human during a shootout. The individual Lorenzo is to impersonate turns out to an important politician -- important to Earth's relationship with Mars and to the Expansionist Party's future. As you would expect in politics, betrayal motivated by unrealized ambition threatens exposure of Dak's scheme. Can Lorenzo get away with it? That's the question that drives the plot and captivates the reader.
If we're confident today that there are no Martians on Mars, it's still fun to imagine the future as Heinlein saw it: a colonized moon and outer planets, space yachts, the strange customs of Martians and Venusians, and all the other trappings of 1950s science fiction that Heinlein helped create. It is a future that his characters, who are living in it, naturally take for granted -- unlike some current, ego-driven sf authors who can't resist bogging down their narratives with detailed descriptions of the technological advances they envision.
Heinlein, of course, loved to pontificate, and Lorenzo's crash course in politics gave Heinlein a chance to opine on a variety of topics, from philosophy to moral instruction, from economics to political equality. Not surprisingly, the freedom-heavy political model that Lorenzo adopts mirrors Heinlein's own: free trade, free travel, a minimalist approach to lawmaking, the primacy of the individual (balanced by the individual's understanding that functioning communities require self-sacrifice). Yet Heinlein's gift was his ability to put story first. His characters pontificate because, in the context of the story, it's the natural thing for them to do. Their opinions never get in the way of the story; in fact, they often advance it. Heinlein always managed to convey heavy opinions with a light touch, a technique that few authors have managed with such skill.
Politics, Lorenzo learns, is a game often suited to dirty players, but what if an election is based on a hoax? Yes, I know, conspiracy theorists and party hacks are always claiming elections are based on hoaxes, making Double Star a novel that will always be timely. But is it a great novel? Double Star is an entertaining send-up of politics, making the point in stark terms that great politicians are great actors, that the difference between performance and reality is often blurred to obscurity, but the novel lacks the depth of Heinlein's best work. The ending is a little too obvious, a little too easy. Even second-tier Heinlein, though, is a better read than most authors can manage. Double Star is an unpadded novel written in a breezy, fast-moving style. More than a half century after it was written, it is a novel that both sf fans and readers of political fiction can continue to enjoy.