Sunday, June 21, 2009

Space Cadet - Robert A. Heinlein

Space Cadet
Robert A. Heinlein
Ballantine Books
Copyright Date: 1948

According to the cover of Space Cadet:
Only the best and brightest--the strongest and the most courageous--ever manage to become Space Cadets, at the Space Academy. They are in training to be come part of the elite guard of the solar system, accepting missions others fear, taking risks no others dare, and upholding the peace of the solar system for the benefit of all.

But before Matt Dodson can earn his rightful place in the ranks, his mettle is to be tested in the most severe and extraordinary ways--ways that change him forever but would still not prepare him for the alien treacheries that awaited him on strange worlds far beyond his own.

Space Cadet is a good read for anyone from age 13 on up. Despite being written in 1948, this book is both dated and not. It's dated (literally) because of the dates mentioned in the story (one of the pieces of history mentioned is that a ship traveled between Earth and Mars in the 1970's, about a century before the book takes place). And yet, the dates don't get in the way of the story. I've read some science fiction set in the near future where specific dates have now passed us by, where the real world and the book conflict enough to jar the reader out of the story. Not the case here.

Although the technology in Space Cadet is rather basic at times, such as the subjects that Matt studied/skills he had on becoming a cadet (for example, using a slide rule and knowing shorthand), it doesn't get in the way of the story. One thing Heinlein's done that I haven't seen done in much other science fiction is an emphasis on exact mass/weight for space flight. The story is a bit more oriented that way than any others I can think of off hand.

Heinlein has also created some interesting traditions in his various space services as well, such as the mustering of the Four for the Patrol and the traditions of the Marines.

Where Heinlein excels in my mind is in the creation of his characters. They're all very 'real' in these books, with doubts, weak areas, problems, and yet confidence. When working in a group they can come together to overcome separate weaknesses as well. And yet, he's spare with the details and descriptions, making for a fairly short, fast-moving story which can be hard to put down (I ended up finishing the read far too late at night).

I liked Space Cadet a lot, but what I'm trying to figure out now, is if I've read it before. There was a time a couple of years ago where I was reading my way through Heinlein's books, when I'd first discovered them. Now I can't remember which ones I've read and which I haven't.

Space Cadet is a short, fun read. As I said earlier, it might now be classed as one of Robert Heinlein's juvenile stories, but it's really good for everyone of all ages. If you like classic science fiction, you should give this one a try. It's certainly held up to the past sixty years well, being re-printed yet again just a couple of years ago.
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