Title – Time for the Stars
Author – Robert A Heinlein
Publisher – Tom Doherty Associates (New York New York), 1956
Robert Heinlein’s tenth juvenile novel. It was written with youth and young adults in mind. It however definitely stretches anyone who might read it and I love some of the concepts that it uses to tell the story. The story is once again told from a single point of view – Tom Bartlett’s who is telepathic with his twin brother Pat. The book is basically put in journal form and there are times when Tom has to catch us up with years so it offers an interesting perspective.
The science fiction issues involved are the theory of relativity, the massive time differential that would be created by near light speed travel back to earth and the extreme difficulty of communication over those distances by conventional means. Heinlein answers this problem with telepaths who communicate faster than light which ignites a whole new type of physics.
The plot is pretty basic as two twins first have to decide who will go and who will stay on an exploratory mission to the stars to find room to relieve the overcrowding of Earth by interstellar colonization. Tom is part of the crew of one of twelve ships dedicated to this task as a ‘special’ communicator. He is a young late teen boy when he leaves on this mission knowing that what he leaves behind will probably not be there when and if he returns. The plot then centers on the travel from star to star and the difficulties that are encountered as they surveyed each world they found. All the while Tom ages little and his twin back home ages greatly. I will leave the end of this for you to discover but as always Heinlein banks on the advancement of technology.
As always Heinlein is brilliant when it comes to the human psychology and interaction problems that space travel would create. Especially the issues of keeping a crew of 200 people on a single ship for a long period of time. Central to some of those interaction problems is the time difference between a ship traveling at near the speed of light and the Earth left behind. He was dead on for his time that 5 billion people would overcrowd the earth’s food resources but he hadn’t foreseen agriculture would advance as much as it has. He was also behind at this point with communication and computer technology because I don’t think he could foresee at that point the notion of miniaturization of transistors that would take place. Still a heck of a story because we still face the same problem of communication and star travel because star travel is something that involves something really BIG – Space.
I like this book more than most of his juvenile novels as it deal with some real adult thinking and he definitely tries to get some more adult themes like marriage and even a little bit of sex but more than that he deals with some of the social issues that star travel and telepathy would cause. This is particularly telling when Tom arrives home to find is brother an old man but he a young one. Good story and still a great book to get you to dream and think today.
Rating: 3.75 stars (that’s out of five for those that don’t know). I like this pretty well but it is not as enjoyable as some of his adult stuff. Although in this one you see Heinlein kind of playing with the edges of social convention. Good read.