4. Time Enough For Love by Robert Heinlein (1974) 607 p.

you could break a rat's spine with this motherfucker

I had high hopes for this book. I’ve read a few of Heinlein’s juveniles, and he’s by far my favourite of the Big Three sci-fi authors. This was my first exposure to his more serious work, and his politics.

Frankly, I didn’t care for it. The book focuses on the life of Lazarus Long, a two-thousand year old man (born in 1912; there’s that optimism about the technology curve again) who relates stories from all over his life, throwing in his “wisdom” along the way. Some of these stories are interesting, such as Lazarus’ experience in freeing two slaves and then teaching them to live in the real world. Others are not, such as Lazarus’ time-travelling escapades to 1917 where he does little more than tell his mother how much he wants to fuck her.

Sex features quite heavily in this book. Heinlein tells us that love is much more than sex, and then proceeds to have his characters involved in constant orgies – in the bad, socially conservative, tell-don’t-show kind of way. The main character alone has sex with several of his descendants, his mother, his adopted daughter and even himself cloned into a woman. The general idea seems to be that everyone should have sex with everyone all the time (even family members!) because sex is great fun! Don’t worry about the emotions that would get in the way of such a complicated network of sexual relations, like jealous! It’s all about being free!

The messages the book promotes are so weird and conflicting that they overshadow the (bland) story entirely. Despite Heinlein’s attitude towards SEX ALL DAY EVERY DAY, other aspects of the book are firmly entrenched in the social mores of the mid-20th century, particularly regarding women. I counted at least four female characters who insisted that Lazarus simply must leave a child in them, and many other female characters seem to be idiots who fluster around, getting in the way, reliant on a big strong man to show them how to do things properly. Observe:

Dora wanted to stop drinking when her husband did. He said to her: “Listen to me, you stupid little tart, you’re pregnant. Understand me? Or will it take a fat lip to convince you? I held out four litres when we served the mules; you saw me.”
“I don’t need four litres, Woodrow.”
“Shut up. That’s for you, the nanny goat, and the chickens. And the cats – cats don’t take much. Dorable, that much water means nothing split among sixteen mules, but it will go a long way among you small fry.”
“Yes, sir.”

Reading that out of context, it seems as though you’re supposed to disagree with the husband. If only.

And this is to say nothing of Heinlein’s politics. Besides the somewhat disagreeable notion of space colonists living the ideal libertarian life by raping and pillaging the unspoiled planets of the galaxy, Heinlein has curious ideas about independence. This is a man who claims that “those who refuse to support and defend a state have no right to protection by that state” (p. 363, New English Library edition) yet also believes that “TAXES ARE EVIL YOU FUCKING NARCS” (not a direct quote, but that’s the gist of it), a clear contradiction.

On the whole, I think I’ll stick with his more light-hearted juveniles from now on.

Books: 4/50
Pages: 1521