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Double Star [Mass Market Paperback]

Robert A. Heinlein
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 12 1986
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.

Suddenly he found himself agreeing to the most difficult role of his career: impersonating an important politician who had been kidnapped. Peace with the Martians was at stake -- failure to pull off the act could result in interplanetary war. And Smythe's own life was on the line -- for if he wasn't assassinated, there was always the possibility that he might be trapped in his new role forever!

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From the Publisher

Like many people, I go way, way back with Heinlein. My very favorite book (and one that stands out in my mind--and with much affection--to this day) is Tunnel in the Sky. I really, really wanted to go off to explore new worlds with a covered wagon and horses, like the hero does at the very end of the book. But one of the nice things about Robert Heinlein is that he's got something for everyone. One of my best friends has a different favorite: Podkayne of Mars. Go figure.
                        --Shelly Shapiro, Executive Editor

From AudioFile

Lloyd James, a veteran narrator, surpasses himself in his dramatization of this classic science fiction novel. Reading in a clipped, expository style, he presents the story of Lorenzo Smythe, an out-of-work actor impersonating a high-ranking world leader, first on a short-term basis and then perhaps forever. Heinlein's characters are well drawn, and James uses accents, pacing, and diction to present each one as an identifiable individual. Addressing white-black prejudice in the U.S. in the '50s through Lorenzo's aversion to Martians, Heinlein is at his best, and James makes us believe and nearly smell their appalling odor. Will Lorenzo save galactic peace, or will chaos reign? S.C.A. © AudioFile 2001, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine

Customer Reviews

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Starring Novel Feb. 24 2009
By Dave_42 TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Many of Heinlein's early novels are aimed at a younger audience, and those which aren't tend to be more light-hearted. "Double Star" falls into the latter category, with an unlikely premise and an unusual character as the narrator and hero of the story. Although, it is also difficult to call this an early novel considering he had 12 published prior to this one, and that is not counting his first novel which wasn't published until after his death. "Double Star" was published originally in "Astounding Science Fiction" from February to April of 1956, and then in book form later that year.

For me, this is one of his best early novels. He stays within the boundaries of the story, and doesn't rely on a "big surprise" to try to lengthen the plot. The hero is Lorenzo Smythe, an actor who has a rather high opinion of himself. He is engaged by Dak Broadback for a performance, but not a typical performance. Instead he is hired to be John Joseph Bonforte, the former Supreme Minister and leader of the opposition. Lorenzo will need to fool people who have known Bonforte for years, as well as many others, and worse yet he will need to be surrounded by Martians, whom he can't stand the sight or smell of.

The story is cleverly put together, obstacles arise as the result of politics and situations, but they are certainly believable within the context of the story being told. This had been a problem with his earlier novels, at least it was a problem for me. The story is a bit predictable, as Lorenzo is forced to continue the role longer and longer as new situations arise, but that didn't bother me as it was very enjoyable to read. This isn't going to rank as Heinlein's best, but it is a cut above most of his earlier novels.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of Heinlein's top three Sept. 15 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The other two are _The Door into Summer_ and _The moon is a Harsh Mistress_. Heinlein also wrote a handful of near-great novels as well as some third-tier stuff that I don't care about rereading. (And his nonfiction, unlike Asimov's, isn't worth the paper it's printed on.) But these three novels are magisterial, and as close to perfect as anything he ever wrote.
This time out, our "hero" is Lawrence Smith a.k.a. Lorenzo "Lorrie" Smythe a.k.a. "The Great Lorenzo", a self-important and out-of-work actor who, at least initially, isn't all that heroic. He's approached about a job, and it turns out to involve serving as a double for a famous statesman in a public appearance. The rest you'll have to read for yourself.
It's a fast-moving, well-paced, meaty story, and it raises all sorts of fascinating questions about personal identity, character, and such. And Heinlein handles it all very deftly. Smith (why _are_ so many of his characters named "Smith"?) contends at one point that in order for an actor to portray a character properly, s/he has to _become_ the character, and it's impossible to do so without coming to like the character somewhat. Well, that's just what Heinlein does here with Smith himself. (Another of Heinlein's Smiths would later describe this process as "grokking".)
Oh, there are a few soapboxy bits, but they don't interfere much with the story. For example, at one or two points we get a few pseudo-profound quotations from statesman John Joseph Bonforte that sound suspiciously like Heinlein himself at his tub-thumpingly silliest (or perhaps some lost excerpts from the notebooks of Lazarus Long, which may be another way of saying the same thing). But it's kept under control.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Richly deserved its Hugo award Aug. 3 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is a crisp story, with action and intrigue from start to finish. Lorenzo Smythe is one of Heinlein's most engaging characters, and a real departure from the typical Heinlein hero. He also goes through a lot of changes, as a good protagonist should.
Heinlein generally doesn't have a lot of good things to say about politicians, but John Joseph Bonforte (another critical character) is his exception that proves the rule. He's honest, capable, caring - in short a saint among politicians.
Another reviewer complained of too much politics, but that's rather silly in my opinion. The book is about the world of politics in the future, so it has to talk about it. But there is very little of Heinlein's trademark libertarian philosophizing. The book moves so fast, there isn't time for it.
This is Heinlein's only short work to win a Hugo award, and I consider it quite worthy of the honor. It's not one of Heinlein's series of juvenile novels, but it can be read by teens as well as adults. Get it - it beats 99% of the science fiction ever written, and practically 100% of the stuff being put out these days.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What Price, To Play the Boards? Dec 2 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The year is 1956. Eisenhower is in the White House, following a long line of military men to reach that post. And this slim book appears, presenting the wild idea of an actor, perhaps not even a very good actor, who manages to reach the position of head of state. Obviously an idea like this could only appear within the realm of science fiction! What a difference in perspective an additional twenty five years will make, as once more science fiction becomes fact.
The route Lorenzo Smythe takes to reach this post is, however, just a little different from that of the real-world actor. The Great Lorenzo, as he styles himself, is conceited, arrogant, out of work, and down to his last half-Imperial when he is offered the job of doubling for a well-known political figure. The job is so obviously beneath his dignity that he is ready to turn down the offer when the Martians take a hand, and Lorenzo finds himself involved in murder, kidnapping, and slicing both humans and Martians into small pieces to flush down the disposal.
Forced by these circumstances to take the job, Lorenzo is even more disturbed when he finds out the identity of the person he is supposed to double for, none other that the leader of the opposition party, Joseph Bonforte, whose politics, what little he knows of them, he despises. But his own inflated idea of his abilities allows him to steady down and start studying for the role, a role he will play for much longer than he could ever anticipate.
This book is a character study, carefully and artfully detailing how Lorenzo changes under the influence of having to pretend to be someone he is not, aided by the immediate staff of the man he impersonates.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Loving Lorenzo
Lorenzo Smythe has to be one of the best examples of a character you love to loathe in the beginning, and winding up loving by the middle. Read more
Published on July 9 2004 by Rocco Dormarunno
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Classic
Double Star is a classic science fiction novel. It is about an actor who "fills in" for a kidnapped statesman. Read more
Published on June 15 2004 by Charles J. Rector
5.0 out of 5 stars This is why good authors respected RAH
When the book starts you can smell the scuz on Smythe. When it ends, you'll want to give him a statue.
Published on April 12 2004 by Jim-bob Furlbottom
3.0 out of 5 stars good, but...
This is a well-written, well-plotted story, as you would expect from such a respected author.
Personally, I have a problem with the story. Read more
Published on Dec 11 2003 by JP
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite Heinlein
On the surface, one might think that Stranger in a Strange Land would be my favorite Heinlein novel. Okay, it was the most influential. Read more
Published on Dec 6 2002 by Noel Lynne Figart
4.0 out of 5 stars The actor becomes his charachter
This is a book which I took a while getting around to read. For some reason the subject matter, combined with the cheesy cover picture just didn't do anything for me. Read more
Published on Nov. 18 2002 by Rachel E. Watkins
4.0 out of 5 stars Heinlein's 1956 Hugo Award winning novel
While Double Star did win the Hugo Award for the best science fiction novel of 1956, I would not call it one of Heinlein's most important works, nor would I rate it as highly as a... Read more
Published on Nov. 16 2002 by Daniel Jolley
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine and thoughtful novel of future politics
This is one of Heinlein's four Hugo-winning novels. A rather lightweight actor is shanghaied away from Earth and more or less forced to impersonate a kidnapped politician. Read more
Published on July 2 2002 by Gary M. Greenbaum
4.0 out of 5 stars Amusing sitcom-ish story
Reading it from Smythe's point of view was the best part because he's relating his thoughts to the readers as he enters into a bizarre impersonation job. Read more
Published on Jan. 24 2002 by Retesh D. Shah
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