FOR US, THE LIVING: A Comedy of Customs
Robert A. Heinlein, . . Scribner, $25 (263pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-5998-9
Heinlein fans can rejoice—the SF master's lost first novel, composed between 1938 and 1939, has been found! In 1939, Perry Nelson suffers a bad car accident, but when he wakes up, it's 2086. A beautiful girl, Diana, takes the confused man under her wing, and naturally, they fall in love, but when Diana's ex shows up and flirts with her, Perry hauls off and hits him. Next thing Perry knows, he's being deprogrammed to get rid of his irrational sexual possession and jealousy. As Perry learns about the new world around him, he receives lectures about economic systems, aircars, rockets, U.S. history, religion and more—and these, of course, are the point of the story. Heinlein creates a utopian world of unparalleled prosperity and personal freedom and sketches out, through Perry's teachers, exactly why it all works. Since Heinlein mined ideas from this novel for all his other works, much is familiar, from the frankly free sexual mores to the active role of women to the rolling roads. Although this book can't stand alone on its own merits as a novel, it's a harbinger of later themes, best read critically and in conjunction with Heinlein's more mature fiction.
Reviewed on: 11/17/2003