Thursday, September 20, 2007

Book Review - Starman Jones

Ok, I admit it, I am addicted to Heinlein's writing. He is the only one who can get me to read regularly no matter how many other things I am busy in. I tried to kick this addiction, did not buy or read any Heinlein books in August, but then I did not read much of anything else either. I started having withdrawal symptoms and even thought about re-reading the Heinlein books I already have. Finally, I gave in.

So I have recently finished Starman Jones and after you finish a great book you miss it, and talking about it is one way to deal with that.

To be honest, the title of the book sounded very boring to me, I bought it only because it's a Heinlein book. Still, the title is completely apt, the story revolves around a boy who, in the course of the story, becomes a man (get your mind out of the gutter!) and a star.

Like an expert storyteller RAH (Robert A. Heinlein, spelling his name is not very typing-friendly), plays with the details, hiding some, describing some. He doesn't mention the actual age of this boy anywhere, other than that he is a minor. So, oldest would be 17. The time is in the future when intersteller travel has been invented and there are spaceships that can travel to other universes. Again, enough technical details are provided to make the story plausible, without going into too much intricate, and boring, details.

There are guilds for all glamorous, profitable professions, where you have to be either born into the profession or enter by nomination by a member. Such is the case for astrogators. Our hero, Max Jones, had an uncle who was an astrogator and he himself is fascinated by it. His mother marries a man whom Max dislikes intensely, and they don't get along at all. So, like a teenager with more emotions and less planning, he leaves home in the middle of the night, to go to Earthport.

On the way, he meets a stranger Sam, who becomes his friend and stays in the role throughout. He is a character who is older, and very different from Max.

The story goes through many predictable and unpredictable twists, some of them are very unlikely but again, Heinlein's screenplay always sticks to common sense and makes the unlikely possible, plausible and almost inevitable. Max progresses up through the ranks as the story goes on and like a good book, the further it goes, the more interesting it becomes.

Of course, I can't say what happens in the end, but I do want to say that Heinlein has a knack for the perfect climax. Well, most of the time. This one is also perfect. Heinlein creates a good mix of dreams and reality in his climax which makes it both fantastic and yet believable.

Heinlein also has a very sound grip on human psychology including the mindset of kids. The way he describes or rather portrays the frustration of a teen who is faced by an adult that he cannot overrule, knowing you are right and not be able to shove it in the face of an adult, it reminds me of very real feelings from my own teenage.

There is a romantic angle in the story and again Heinlein keeps it real without making it dull like an art film.

The bonus in Heinlein's books is that you just don't read a story, you evaluate morals, you think about soceity, everything is connected to you and your world and that's what make it hard to put down his books or forget about them after you have finished them.

In Starman Jones, Heinlein has expertly brought up the issue of rules and customs. It is not always possible or human to stick by all rules, and yet, if you start breaking rules where do you stop? Through the hero's struggle Heinlein makes his standpoint clear.

A very readable book, not very thick, but very un-put-down-able!

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