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Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve Hardcover – Bargain Price, August 17, 2010

4.5 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, August 17, 2010
$64.46 $16.31

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Editorial Reviews


“[Heinlein] made footsteps big enough for a whole country to follow. And it was our country that did it… We proceed down a path marked by his ideas. That's legacy enough for any man. He showed us where the future is.” ―Tom Clancy

“Like Carlos Baker's Hemingway, this is an essential and exhaustive life.” ―Joe Haldeman

“Patterson offers a meticulous life-portrait of America's most pivotal science fiction author. In following Robert Heinlein's journey, step-by-step, we come to understand the persistent themes of his work. Perseverance, compassion, courage, curiosity, and--above all--a drive to confront the future on its own terms, eye-to-eye.” ―David Brin

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

William Patterson lives in San Francisco, California.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (August 17, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765319608
  • ASIN: B0068EOIC8
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 2.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,857,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Patterson has been given unprecedented access to prepare a two-volume authorized biography of science fiction giant Robert A. Heinlein. The depth of detail that he offers here - backed up by nearly a hundred pages of footnotes--means that we have a definitive biography of a one of America's greatest authors.

One of the things that I most deeply appreciate is that this isn't a hagiography. Patterson has deep affection for his subject, but Heinlein is shown as a flawed human being who makes many mistakes and who had many shortcomings. Many mysteries about his life are finally resolved (who was his first wife - the one before Leslyn?) thanks to extensive detective work.

For fans of Heinlein's fiction, this book (and I trust, the subsequent volume) will help to answer the tired question that ever author dreads, "Where do you get your ideas?" Heinlein's life is, naturally, the chief source for his fictional characters and plot lines. Sometimes Patterson is explicit in drawing these connections. In other places, readers versed in Heinlein's work will catch these linkages on their own.

The book must also be praised as a fascinating lesson in American history. Heinlein came from humble Missouri roots and lived through the bulk of the 20th century. His Navy career prior to WWII is fascinating in its own right, as is his involvement in California politics during the Depression.

Fans of Heinlein: READ THIS BOOK. Fans of science fiction: READ THIS BOOK. As for those interested in American History, especially U.S. Naval history...I strongly commend this biography to you.
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Format: Hardcover
Having read every one of Heinlein's novels, short stories, and non-fiction articles that I could get hold of, I was keen to learn more about the great man and so snapped up this first of two volumes in William Patterson's authorized biography. My expectations were fairly low. Biographies of SF writers tend to be amateurish, enthusiastic, or condemnatory; in any case, they don't often measure up to the highest standards. Patterson, however, has done a scrupulously thorough job - as witness the 453 fact-packed pages he devotes to the first 41 years of Heinlein's life (1907-1948). Not only is this an authorized biography; Mr Patterson was actually invited to write it by Mrs Virginia Heinlein (Heinlein's third wife and widow), who gave him complete access to all the surviving documents as well as introducing him to many invaluable sources. While it is possible to argue that Heinlein is given an easy ride, in the sense that Patterson does not overtly condemn any of his behavior, I think it is fair to say that the biographer stands back and lets the facts speak for themselves. Whether you end up idolizing Heinlein, finding him flawed but admirable, or detesting him, is a matter for you and depends on how you choose the interpret the facts. The book is very well written, in fluent prose that never gets in the way of the story, and is full of interesting quotations from letters, conversations, and the like.

Even if you already knew, it is a shock to realize that Heinlein was born in the age of the horse and buggy, when motor cars, the telephone, and electricity were still quite recent inventions, and when Mark Twain still had a couple of years to live (and H.G. Wells another 39!) Indeed, Heinlein was 7 years old when the First World War began - and 10 when the USA became a combatant.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This Heinlein biography is both well researched and brilliant. The author does his best to understand Heinlein and his work in the context of his work, his interest in science, and most of all, his patriotism and military service. As a former military member myself, it's hard to explain to those who have never been in exactly what a life-changing experience this can be. I had never heard over half of the personal detail before (the book's fair and in many ways, loving description of Leslyn Heinlein makes reading FARNHAM'S FREEHOLD a much more interesting experience). It was also great to see the descriptions of fans and other SF writers (some of whom I have been lucky enough to meet) in this book as well. I'm about three-quarters of the way through, and I can already tell that I'm going to be really ticked the second volume isn't out yet.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Full disclosure at the outset: I'm a Heinlein fan, and have been for fifty-five or so years. I have a great admiration for the man as a writer, an officer, and yes, as a preacher. Much of what he says is simply that which needs saying... and, all too often, isn't. And he does say it well.

There are precious few biographies extant that I have had the patience to read. Too often, sad to relate, they are unabashed hagiography, or reconctructionist excrement designed to tear down the subject. Neither serves the reader at all well. The first volume of "Heinlein: In Dialog with His Century," William H. Patterson, Jr.'s massive new biography falls into neither pit, revealing a serious, complex man -- a good man, an intelligent man, subject to the stresses and shocks that bedevil all of us. If for no other reason -- revealing Robert A, Heinlein's very basic humanity -- this work deserves praise. Quite truthfully, I've been in utter awe of Heinlein for most of my life; now, I discover, he's a real human being, and someone I'd rather like to meet.

As praiseworthy as this work is, I can't help but feel that I've been presented with a pretty-good second draft. Why should this be so? Heinlein's been gone for twenty-two years, and this project was launched over ten -- almost eleven -- years ago. Surely there has been sufficient time for some copy-editing? For example, George VII did not succeed Edward VII on the British throne, George VI did. For example, The German V-1 flying bomb was not a rocket, it was pulse-jet powered. (This mistake is made in a book about Robert A. Heinlein, God Save the Mark!) For example, the (non-military) service is not "merchant marines," it is the Merchant Marine.
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