Sunday, February 1, 2009

What I’m Reading – Guest Review by Sandy Polen

For Us, the Living: A Comedy of Customs, by Robert A. Heinlein (pub.2003)

First let me start by saying that I am a die-hard Sci-Fi fan. It makes up virtually ALL of my pleasure reading. Also, Robert Heinlein is my favorite Sci-Fi author. I read my first book by Heinlein when I was 12 (I’m 58 now) and didn’t stop reading his books until his death in 1988. 

I’ve read everything he published. So this review is not written by someone unfamiliar with his work.


According to the book jacket, For Us, the Living is a lost novel which appears to be his first, never published, work. Apparently Heinlein wrote it and put it away… and for good reason. For Us, the Living is a 75 page short story squeezed into a 239 page novel. Seriously, I can’t believe the people who got this book published did not read it and realize that Heinlein didn’t publish it for a reason. That reason is simple, it is over written.


Anyone familiar with Heinlein knows he has a tendency to insert the occasional rambling description and sex into his novels, but this one reaches the abyss and takes several steps too many. There are a hundred pages of description which have no bearing on the actual plot of the book. Reading the first 50 pages, about 20 pages in the middle of the book and the last 50 pages is sufficient to enjoy this without getting bogged down in the rambling.


The book is the story of Perry Nelson who while driving in 1939 loses control of his auto and goes over a cliff only to wake up in someone else’s body in 2086. In attempting to adjust to the very new culture of the time he breaks the somewhat obscure traditions/law of the day and is sentenced to be rehabilitated, which is really acclimated, to this new time. In the end he finds his niche in society and presumably lives happily ever after. An interesting plot ruined by the need to tell the reader every single piece of information about the new society in minute detail.

My suggestion is you skim the detail of the “modern society” and read the basics. You’ll enjoy the book much more.


If you really want to read some good books by Robert Heinlein, I would suggest the following: Starship Trooper (nothing like the movie); The Moon is a Harsh Mistress; Tunnel in the Sky; Have Spacesuit, Will Travel; Methuselah’s Children; Puppet Masters (again, nothing like the movie); and my favorite, Sixth Column.

--Sandy Polen is president of the Board of Trustees of the Boyertown Community Library

No comments: