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Read August 2nd.

When I was growing up, my father had a large collection of Golden Age science fiction and fantasy, starting circa E.E. Smith and cutting off, very short, at Dangerous Visions, which was where he decided the field had gotten too post-modern and depressing for him. (Not for me.) So we had in the house Heinlein-Asimov-Clarke-Anderson-etc., and when I got to the point in life where I started looking for lists of Writers In This Genre I Should Know About, we had all of them-- before 1970.

What it took me longer to learn was that my father is not a completist. When you've had the work of an author sitting on shelves in your house for eighteen years, and there are a whole bunch of books by said author on those shelves to boot, it does not, necessarily, occur to you that maybe you should go the library and make sure there isn't more.

So I have some weird holes. And despite having been handed Have Space Suit, Will Travel at six, I had never read this particular Heinlein juvenile.

It's not bad. It feels scraped to the bone, edited to the point where some of what should be actual story is elided, but I think this is because of the limits of YA publishing at the time.

The protagonist is attending school on Earth when a war seems likely to break out between Earth and Venus (which has a Terran colony, but is also the home of its own intelligent species). He has dual citizenship, having been born in a spaceship near the Moon, and his parents are on Mars, so they send for him to get him out of the combat zone. Unfortunately, the fighting blocks all transport to Mars, the government of Earth is very interested in something his parents wanted him to bring them, and he winds up a hundred million miles out of his way washing dishes in a Chinese restaurant near the Venerian pole.

The parts of this story that are most interesting to me are the ones you can't get into a juvenile in the fifties: the mode-switch between frightened and displaced refugee kid to a man with a job and a livelihood is covered reasonably well, but he doesn't fall as far as he would, and bounces a lot more quickly than most people might on discovering that they're on the wrong planet and the currency all their funds are in is illegal. And the further mode-switch between man with a job and a livelihood to guerilla soldier in a nasty jungle war is really, really elided, because the narrative is not going to tell you what he did to gain his combat reflexes. This is a book that would be a lot different if it had been written in the last few years.

But it does have things I like in it, specifically the Venerian dragons, who are wonderful, and there isn't enough of them; and the way it becomes slowly obvious to the protagonist that war is real and he is in it; and the way that there are few women, but they are as competent or more than the men, and it's his mother who's the more important scientist/spy.

This feels like a bridge between the juvenilia and the later stuff, to me, and has the flaws I'd expect of that, but I'm glad to have read it, because it fills a hole in Heinlein's work I'd theorized might be have something in it but not been certain about. And it brings back the nostalgia of being very small and reading all these books for the first time, the same now, but different.
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I'm back from my funeral-going (happily, earlier than I expected) and hope to catch up on these reviews within the next couple of days. The books I read for this review were read on September ninth, tenth, and eleventh.

As part of my travel, I found myself in my father's basement, which is full of books. He is a Golden Age SF fan and something of a collector in a small way, and I wanted some of the books of my childhood as comfort reading for the rest of the trip. I looked over the Andre Norton and discovered something I had not expected. Half of them I'd read about seventy-three times each-- all my old favorites were there, the ones I didn't steal when I moved out-- and the other half I had never read at all and had no memory of my father even owning. I know they must have been there when I was growing up because the last time my dad bought anything in genre was 1972, and also these are all paperback original first-run from the fifties and sixties with my father's Very First Address Labels from when he was in high school carefully glued into some of them. (I wonder whether a first of Witch World in very fine is worth anything, now?)

Then I went and looked over the Heinlein, and there was one I hadn't read there, also. Over the next three days I read Sargasso in Space, by Andre Norton; Rocket Ship Galileo, by Robert Heinlein; and Star Gate, by Norton again. It was a very good run of books surrounding a funeral, because they took about half an hour each when I was very tired, and had that known-author nature where one pretty much knows what to expect. Then I spent some while pondering the mystery of why I'd never read any of them previously, because I was a voracious reader then as now and it seemed odd.

I can only conclude that it must be the titles. )


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