Monday, 27 April 2015

The Door Into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein

What happens when you combine one-way time travel with suspended animation? In this case, an old-fashioned Heinlein novel, which would not have been old-fashioned while he was writing it. From the vantage point of his entire oeuvre, it fits in nicely in the middle, not quite one of his juveniles, but not yet the wilder flights of science fiction he would drift toward.

Because he's pretty much incapable of writing something boring, this was enjoyable. I've written before about how I enjoy Heinlein's books while often feeling just a little weird about it. But I'm not about to let differences in politics keep me from reading him - a message that (ahem!) certain other jackasses in science fiction could learn today, with the recent hijacking of the Hugo nominations to make sure that those damn progressive, female, or non-white authors don't get recognized.

In The Door Into Summer, Dan is an engineer who cares less about making all the money than he does about being his own boss and making just the things he wants to make, with no one hanging over his shoulder or cost-cutting. Unfortunately, his best friend and business partner, combined with his secretary/fiance, do not agree. Together (and the secretary/fiancee is by far painted as the more responsible of the two, in the classic but slightly irritating "man duped by a dame" scenario) they rip Dan off for his entire company and try to hire him back, firmly under their thumb.

Dan and his cat are not about to take this. (And the cat is probably the best part of the book.) He signs up for cold sleep, waking up in 30 years, and tries to get back on top of engineering. Except, oddly, some of the new gadgets look like, well, they look like he'd designed them himself.

If there's a dirty dame, you know there's got to be a lily-white virgin, in this case Dan's best friend's stepdaughter, only 12 when he knows her, but due to other juggling, will be about 23 in 30 years. For a while, I was kind of hoping that she'd designed the new gadgets - I know Heinlein has written about female engineers - inspired by Dan's designs. But no. It's twistier than that.

The twistier comes about when Dan discovers a professor who knows how to send someone 30 years in time - in one direction or another, no guarantee as to which. And no way to return. Dan's made some discoveries that make him determined to go back and do some certain things that I won't give away.

He ends up on a nudist colony, and is taken under the wing of an entirely trustworthy nudist lawyer (no, I'm serious.) It's that and the plot with the young lady and the conniving dame that take this out of juvenile territory. He's only got a limited amount of time to get certain things done, and maybe I won't spoil it anymore.

There's not a lot deep here - if the later Heinleins are weirder, they've also got more to chew on. Neither are the paradoxes particularly mind-bending. Interesting, but not complicated. Still, the writing was entertaining, as it almost always is.

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