One of my favorite Heinlein adult SFs, it nevertheless shows signs of it's age.
One minute, down and out actor Lorenzo Smythe was — as usual — in a bar, drinking away his troubles as he watched his career go down the tubes. Then a space pilot bought him a drink, and the next thing Smythe knew, he was shanghaied to Mars.
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Note: The Audible version I purchased (and am reviewing here) is no longer available from them. It can still be borrowed via OverDrive or purchased as a physical copy. But the cover above is from (and links to) the current version.
Double Star by Robert Heinlein, read by Lloyd James, published by Blackstone Audio (2000) / Length: 6 hrs 5 min (again, these are for the version I am reviewing)
SERIES INFO: This is a standalone.
I want to start by stating that this book was originally published in 1956. The representations of women are typically pathetic. And although it is generally understood that man has moved beyond racism (to xenophobia) there are only two persons of color mentioned (assuming that Patil is one). The government of the solar system is not in the hands of the Americans, but it does appear to be mostly run by white Westerners.
As someone who loves character though, this book is a treat. And this version of the audiobook makes it even more so. To go on a journey with someone and both see & hear them change from one kind of person to another is a joy.
Lawrence Smith / Lorenzo Smythe (The Great): A vain & self-centered actor down on his luck. I don't want to say too much since, although there is an exciting story here, the book itself is really about him.
The other people is this book all fall firmly into the category of "supporting characters." They are there to assist Lawrence in succeeding.
Earth and it's colonies throughout the Solar system are united under a single government based on the Moon. Venus & Mars both have native alien populations who are not currently represented in that government. We are given plenty of details about Martian language & customs (too many, sometimes; but that is typical of Heinlein).
As an older book, some of the tech seems ancient already, especially those for taking and storing notes & files (reusable notepads & caverns filled with microfiche style records storage). And the fashions sound pretty ridiculous (tuxedos aside).
For those of you who are interested in acting, there are a few hints of how "makeup" has advanced.
The beginning is very well done, with important character introductions, as much worldbuilding as you need, and some quick action to show the situation is serious. It kind of reminds me of the first scene in a Star Trek episode, complete with Red Shirt.
The epilogue is perfect for this book. It tells you what you need to know about how things turn out, but is really about how Lawrence turned out.
HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:
- The humor:
"My vocal cords lived their own life, wild and free."
- The subtle exploration of how personality influences vocabulary, and then Lawrence calling that out in speaking about a badly written speech.
- His meeting with Deirdre & later the reporters (both times when he was caught off guard and had to improvise).
I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: A scene where they dispose of some bodies / some swearing / the weirdly clinical details when a man died (Cheyne-Stokes breathing, really? I don't need to know that, and it interrupts the emotion. Plus it is spoken by an actor, what does he know of such things?)
OTHER CAUTIONS: There is a comment that you don't meet someone of the same sex and invite them back to your hotel room / Smuggling and other illegal actions are promoted as an acceptable response to laws you don't agree with (by members of the governing body no less) / There are throw away comments that he didn't know a girl was underage and promises by politicians of "two women in every bed." / There may be other things that are now considered offensive.
Character voices differentiated = Yes / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes (only 3 of them in all) / Accents = There are a variety of different English accents, the French one seemed adequate, and the Martian one was strange but not annoying / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good, he did trip over a word at one point / Emoting = Excellent / Speed = listened on 1.25, my usual
The way in which Mr. James distinguishes between Lawrence at the beginning, Lawrence as Mr. Bonfort, Bonfort himself, and Lawrence at the end is truly masterful. You can practically hear the changes taking place. This skill is highlighted when he goes from Lawrence to Bonfort in the length of a single sentence.
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