The Heritage of Heinlein: A Critical Reading of the Fiction

Thomas Clareson and Joe Sanders. McFarland, $45 (232p) ISBN 978-0-7864-7498-1
Drafted partially by leading science fiction scholar Clareson (1926–1993) in the early 1990s and completed recently by the similarly credentialed Sanders, this perceptive and insightful monograph raises the bar for critical studies of Golden Age science fiction luminary Robert A. Heinlein. Proceeding in chronological order of publication, the writers explore the evolution of specific themes and approaches that unite virtually all of Heinlein's short stories and novels: the "struggle between entrenched power and the free individual" and the heroics of "highly competent men" in the tales that make up Heinlein's visionary Future History series; Heinlein's desire to shake the teenage readers of his 12 enormously influential juveniles "out of their simple trust of authority and their confidence that problems would work themselves out without serious changes in the readers' thinking"—an ambition that frequently set Heinlein at odds with his editor and that led to his withdrawal from the young adult market after controversy over his militaristic novel Starship Troopers; and the conflict between the individual and institutionalized authority in Stranger in a Strange Land and other works from Heinlein's classic period. The authors' analyses are cogent, and not uncritical, as they point out contradictions in some of Heinlein's tales and the decline of storytelling in his later novels. This informative book will please fans of Heinlein's fiction and steer those not as familiar with it to important primary texts. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 06/02/2014
Release date: 03/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
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