Friday, May 22, 2009

Time Enough For Love - Robert Heinlein.

I finished reading Time Enough For Love the other day, but simply didn't have the time to get the review written up until today.

Time Enough For Love
Robert Heinlein
Berkley Books
Copyright: 1974
0425070506

From the cover of Time Enough For Love:
Lazarus Long
1916-4272
Time Enough For Love
The capstone and crowning achievement of Heinlein's famous Future History, TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE follows Lazarus Long through a vast and magnificent timescape of centuries and worlds. Heinlein's longest and most ambitious work, it is the story of a man so in love with life that he refused to stop living it; and so in love with Time that he became his own ancestor.

Robert Heinlein really is a writer of classic science fiction that just keeps on going. For all that this book came out in 1974, there is nothing dated about it.It'll probably still be a readable classic in another fifty years or a century. Perhaps even longer, so long as real technology doesn't outpace the stuff Heinlein dreamed up. I first read Time Enough For Love a couple of years ago, and have enjoyed rereading it at least twice since.

I'll honestly admit that I don't think the book is for everyone, as the author is quite frank about sex and the relationships of the characters are rather unorthodox. I find that it simply helps to make clear a different society and set of morals. There's certainly nothing 'dirty' about it the way Heinlein writes it. On the other hand, Time Enough For Love and its sequels are definitely not for all ages the way Starship Troopers and some of his other books are.

Lazarus Long is a fascinating character given the length of time he's lived. It seems that he's seen and done everything by the beginning of the book, but clearly that's not so. Part of the book is filled with recording his numerous adventures through the centuries, but the later half has caught up to the time the book starts and charts some of his adventures after that in present time rather than his relating them to the audience.

By no means is the book boring. Instead, there's the adventures, but also there are two chapters of extracted wisdom from his life in the form of sayings. A bit like Plutarch's Sayings of the Spartans in format, but generally absolutely hillarious, and very true to life today as well.

A selection of the sayings includes:
Always listen to the experts. They'll tell you what can't be done, and why. Then do it.

A generation which ignores history has no past - and no future.

Cheops' Law: Nothing ever gets built on schedule or within budget.

It may be better to be a live jackal than a dead lion, but it is better still to be a live lion. And usually easier.

An elephant: A mouse built to government specifications.

In a mature society, "civil servant" is semantically equal to "civil master".

Never try to outstubborn a cat.

A committee is a life form with six or more legs and no brain.

Time Enough For Love is a book that had me bursting out laughing at various points even on multiple rereads where all the surprise is gone. Be it from the various sayings, or from Dora the computer, or even the antics of Lorelei Long and her sister Lazuli. Heinlein really has created a cast of characters which works in the context of the story.

Other Robert Heinlein related reviews and posts:
Starship Troopers
References To Other Books: The Number Of The Beast
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