09 December 2019

Hugos 1956: Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein

Trade paperback, 208 pages
Published 2013 (originally 1956)
Acquired and read August 2019
Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein

I was surprised how much I liked this book. It's a relatively simple and predictable plot: Lorenzo Smythe is an actor hired to impersonate a politician at a key political moment. Only thing is, the politician is pro-Martian, and Smythe is racist against Martians. Plus, things kind of spiral out of control, and the impersonation keeps going on longer and longer...

I was rarely surprised by what happened, but often surprised by how much I felt it regardless. This is a story of a man coming to understand what it means to be a good person, to stand for something bigger than the self. It's actually quite moving in parts, and dreadfully earnest, but earnest in the sense that you want people like this to be out there. But it's also not naïve (there are no Pollyannas here), and even if the set-up is contrived, Heinlein imbues it with enough procedural and character detail to make it work. For example, I liked the idea of the Farleyfile, but also the way in which it ultimately let Lorenzo down made sense.

I've read Heinlein before, of course, but everything I've read previously came from his imperial phase (Stranger in a Strange Land, Starship Troopers) or from his twilight era (Friday). I've never read anything from his early career before, when he was making his name as a solid, successful writer, but Double Star makes me want to read more of his early stuff. This is solidly successful sf; I zipped through the whole book in about an evening, and I enjoyed every word of it.

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