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Starman Jones Mass Market Paperback – September 25, 2012
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"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
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About the Author
Robert A Heinlein is considered one of the “Big Three” of classic science fiction (along with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke). Heinlein is a seven-time Hugo Award recipient and was given the first Grand Master Nebula Award for lifetime achievement. Heinlein’s juveniles alone have influenced generations of scientists, engineers and creators the world over (for instance, it was once estimated that everyone in the Apollo 11 mission control room had read and loved at least one Heinlein novel). His worldwide bestsellers include Have Space Suit—Will Travel, Stranger in a
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This reflective, thoughtful, wondering threads it's way throughout. Who hasn't pondered - 'Is morality adjustable? Who says what is right? How can I know for sure? Should I forgive myself or punish myself?'
Presented so skillfully, so warmly, I have returned to Max several times in over five decades. I still tear up each visit.
Max is disclosing his deception -
“I was always explaining—in my mind of course, why I did it, justifying myself, pointing out that the system was at fault, not me. Now I don’t want to justify myself. Not that I regret it, not when I think what I would have missed. But I don’t want to duck out of paying for it, either.”
Walther nodded. “That sounds like a healthy attitude. Captain, no code is perfect. A man must conform with judgment and commonsense, not with blind obedience. I’ve broken rules; some violations I paid for, some I didn’t. This mistake you made could have turned you into a moralistic prig, a ‘Regulation Charlie’ determined to walk the straight and narrow and to see that everyone else obeyed the letter of the law. Or it could have made you a permanent infant who thinks rules are for everyone but him. It doesn’t seem to have had either effect; I think it has matured you.”
Another theme is the proper use and abuse of authority. Government regulations -
''You don’t believe in anarchy, surely? Our whole society is founded on entrusting grave secrets only to those who are worthy.''
Government protects you -
When the idea soaked in, Max was shocked.
“But they put you in jail for that!”
“Where do you think you are now?”
“Well, I’m not in jail. And I don’t want to be.”
“This whole planet is one big jail, and a crowded one at that.''
Security vs Liberty, a question that all face and choose their answer.
And yet (this is what makes Heinlein fascinating) he is not defiant or disrespectful to authority. One explains why Max must agree to be Captain -
Mr. Samuels said quietly,
“I don’t agree with the Chief Engineer about the unimportance of legal aspects; most of these laws have wise reasons behind them. But I agree with what else he says. Mr. Jones, a ship is not just steel, it is a delicate political entity. Its laws and customs cannot be disregarded without inviting disaster. It will be far easier to maintain morale and discipline in this ship with a young captain—with all his officers behind him—than it would be to let passengers and crew suspect that the man who must make the crucial decisions, those life-and-death matters involving the handling of the ship, that this all-powerful man nevertheless can’t be trusted to command the ship. No, sir, such a situation would frighten me; that is how mutinies are born.”
This is deep trust in authority. However, this power is used to help others, not the captain. The respect is earned and willingly given. What a lesson!
Heinlein presents this growing and searching - to submit, defy, accept and use authority in this work. Wonderful!
Also vintage is chauvinism, primitive computer systems and nav methods. And the essayists rightly criticize for it. More importantly, it displays RAHs respect for dedication and hard work as a means of advancement into positions of responsibility. We all identify the continuing popularity of this old classic as another 'Horatio Alger' kind of guy, one out of vogue in this era of angst and tortured characters. 'And moral codes? That's so ancient!' Well, not here.
My only complaint is doing something dumb that nearly gets himself and someone in his charge killed. But, after a dramatic escape, it eventually resolves itself.
Buy this book for the Intro and Afterward: Patterson and Williamson have more good comments.