It started out as a pretty good spacer yarn. It revolves around Lazarus Long, previously seen in Methuselah’s Children, which I read as part of The Past Through Tomorrow, as he gets “rejuvenated” 2000 years from now after he’s lived those 2000 years and has run out of things to do. As part of his therapy, he tells stories about his adventures. For about 200 pages, it was cool, but then it got to be a little tedious. There were allusions at a greater plot at work, but that was played out in dribs and drabs. Then, he gets rejuvenated and leads a group from the planet Secundus, the planet where he was rejuvenated and that is becoming a bit stale culturally and politically, to Tertius, where they build the Heinleinian free love commune.
Around that time, where the action switches to the free love commune, the book bogs way down. The first half of each chapter explains how awesome free love and polyamory are, and then we get a couple pages of plot development. Unfortunately, the plot develops that Long travels into the past and then falls in love with his own mother, so we then get about 50 pages of them trying to couple in 1917, and when the attempts at coupling fails, we get 50 pages of them talking dirty to each other. Hey, I’m not a prude, but this stuff made me squicky given 1)It’s a science fiction novel, and 2)It’s his mother.
So, frankly, the book doesn’t hold together very well. It meanders a lot, of course, since it’s kind of a collection of short stories with an overarching plot, sort of. When I was reading this book, I was comparing it a bit to Atlas Shrugged as maybe a collected statement of the author’s philosophy, and I was comparing Heinlein’s plotting skills unfavorably to Rand’s, for crying out loud. Then there are the explicit details of the philosophy, which include a lot of sex, lots of women asking for Long to impregnate them, approval of sex with your own clones, and twisting the head of a fully born baby if it had Down’s syndrome.
Um, yeah. The philosophy expressed within has its good points, as the Instapundit quotes capture and as the Notebooks of Lazarus Long (two sections in the book with bullet points and no narrative, later published independently). However, there’s more to Heinlein’s view of life than that, and it makes this conservative say, “Ew.”
But the man can write some interesting science fiction amid the unclothed rubdowns.
Other Heinlein reviews:
I do so prefer his rocket jockey stuff to the adult books, for what it’s worth.