on May 18, 2004
This is the first book I've ever read by Heinlein, and I suspect that this will not be the last. Any book/author that encourages youngsters to learn more about science and the applications of math, enhances the imagination about the far reaches of space and what it holds, and makes it fun and entertaining will, of course, be highly recommended by me.
This is the story of Kip Russell who's biggest desire is to make it to the moon. This story not only takes us to the moon but also to the edge of our solar system and beyond.
There were two things that I really liked about this story. The first was the desire by Kip's father that Kip obtain a REAL education, not just the simplistic and spoon-fed "education" of our public high schools. I was also very impressed that this book shows the applications of math in science, though now-a-days a computer or a good calculator would be used instead of a slide-ruler.
There were some things that bothered me about this book, though. First, the dialog was a little bit surreal and watered down. The two "geniuses" seemed to be spending WAY too much time explaining to each other what was going on. The other was the trial of the human species at the end of the book. Actually, it was a trial of two different home worlds and it struck me that while there was very little difference between the two races, they received two very different sentences. Those who stood up to support the human race did nothing to support the "worm faces," and the result of the trial didn't amount to very much anyways.
However, I would highly recommend this book to anybody who enjoys science fiction and I'm looking forward to picking up more works by this author.
on April 25, 2004
Have Space Suit - Will Travel, is an excellent example of Heinlein's juvenile works in his early career. The plot is deceptively simple. Clifford 'Kip' Russel is an average (but fairly bright) teenager who wins a second hand space suit in a contest. Through the influences of his father, and his own desire to visit the moon he educates himself and brings his dump-ready space suit up to operational readiness. Of course he becomes enmeshed in an interstellar plot filled with exotic life forms and intergalactic politics.
Like so many of Heinlein's novels this one draws you in with its adventure and accessible characters. As always, the plot is built upon a foundation of solid science and technology. It is a wonderful way to press knowledge on young people in a palatable format. I know it worked on me as a youngster.
One of the things I love about this book is its datedness. While it is nominally science fiction it provides a fascinating view of the life and culture of the 1950's. As is so often the case with science fiction they make drastically unrealistic leaps with their visions of the future, while society and its moral and political structures remain fixed as they were when the novel was written.
Despite its having been aimed for a pubescent audience, I find myself digging this one out to read at least once a year. I would highly recommend it to you as well.
on January 9, 2004
Capsule Summary: Kip wants to go to the moon, but tickets are far too expensive. He enters a contest, and ALMOST wins the trip... but, instead, gets a spacesuit. His decision to keep the spacesuit and refurbish it is the catalyst that sends him on a literally Galaxy-spanning series of adventures, starting with an alien invasion and ending with the fate of the entire Earth resting in the balance!
Review: This, like Citizen of the Galaxy, is one of RAH's best "juvenile" novels. Unlike the latter, however, Have Spacesuit... retains the flavor of the era in which it was written; overall, Heinlein did not extrapolate much on the civilization of Kip's time and it is -- especially where Kip lives -- still a mirror of the 1950s, right down to the way in which television programs were promoted. This isn't really a failing of the book, as it's a useful sort of mirror to look at the past in, and other than that it isn't dated much. The prose reads smoothly, the characters are fun, and like so many other RAH juvenile heroes Kip has to THINK his way out of his problems.
This book also emphasizes one of Heinlein's favorite themes, which was that it was important for a man to get a broad AND deep education. Kip starts the book out drifting along through school -- bright as hell, but the schools he goes to aren't interested in pushing him. When he becomes obsessed with space, however, his father points out just how much he's going to have to know in order to get into any college that might possibly get him a spacegoing job, and Kip starts learning on his own. As it turns out, the wide-ranging subjects he learns -- ranging from pharmacy to Latin to orbital mechanics -- have essential application in his adventures across the Galaxy.
on June 29, 2003
Have Spacesuit Will Travel is a fun book about a high school senior getting caught up in an adventure accidentally. His desire to go to the moon leads him to enter an advertising contest in hopes he will win his way(this after his dad says 'ok, sure, you can go to the moon son' and then Kip discovers it's just up to him to figure out how).
The storyline has been covered in several other reviews here, so I'll not cover that. Instead, what I gleaned from this book was that this is something excellent for jr high/high school students to read (well, anyone really, but it would be most benificial to this age group), and I'll make sure my kids do so when they're at that age(along with a stack of Heinlein's other 'juvies') as it really makes mathmatics and science sound like fun. I was even inspired to pull out my husbands ancient sliderule and figure out how to use it(ok, that part will take some more work). This also demonstrates the virtues of courage, self-reliance, honor and perserverance.
The story is quite entertaining, and quaint in it's 50's style setting. A fun book which should be in any sci-fi fans collection, and an excellent gift for any young person you may know.
on January 30, 2003
Kip and Peewee were kidnapped by hostile extra-terrestrial invaders, only to find that after defeating them with the help of "the mother thing," a being from the Vega system, they have to defend the earth in a trial. The trial concerned nuclear weapons (this being that period of Heinlein's life when he tried to "save the world"). Intermixed in the story is a look at how a 1950's person saw the near (50 to 100 years or so) future, as well as the universe. A hyperspace hypothesis that included time travel was mentioned but glossed over, and the main character misunderstood the theory of relativity, probably on purpose. Most interesting was the growth and maturation of Kip, an 18 year old who nearly slept through most of his schooling, then all of a sudden took seriously math and science, and how to deal with life in general, because his father insisted. He used the new-found knowledge to survive in the universe. After having saved the world, getting into MIT with a full scholarship turned out to be comparatively simple.
It's the kind of story you would give your junior high child to read if you want her or him to grow up to be an engineer.
on November 20, 2002
Or does that honor go to CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY (1957)? The weary old man who looks back from more than four decades' distance finds the story of Thorby Baslim the more interesting, but the kid who came across HAVE SPACESUIT, WILL TRAVEL in the first real library he'd ever entered (with that black and yellow and red Scribner's dust jacket, illustrated by Clifford Geary) demands prior consideration. I fell instantly in love with the story of Kip Russell and gutsy little Patricia Wynant (Peewee) Reisfeld, who represented to me the essence of that unassuming courage and simple decency to which any honorable adolescent boy should aspire.
Other recent reviewers have summarized the novel well enough on this Web site, so I won't recapitulate. I *will*, however, remark on the fact that Robert A. Heinlein is the only writer of my experience to have tucked the proverbial "expositional lump" into a juvenile novel and successfully delighted the majority of his readers thereby, going on for ten pages -- *TEN* solid *PAGES* -- about the design, maintenance and repair of a vacuum suit, and not only kept the pace of his story but used every lick of that engineering tutorial to strengthen the suspense and enhance the reader's involvement in what happened later to the protagonist, his allies and his opponents. Hellacious writing, "juvenile" labeling be damned.
(Incidentally, youngsters reading this review might like to know that Heinlein was a graduate of the US Naval Academy at Annapolis, and was trained there as an engineer. Pulmonary tuberculosis resulted in his medical discharge from the Naval Service in the '30s, but he gave up a prosperous writing career at the beginning of World War II to join fellow SF writers Isaac Asimov and L. Sprague de Camp at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, where he did much work on high-altitude pressure suits -- what we would call space suits today. As such, Heinlein made a personal professional contribution to the technology that today allows shuttle and space station astronauts to spacewalk in safety and comfort, and his technical expertise is undeniable in the pages of HAVE SPACE SUIT, WILL TRAVEL.)
on October 2, 2002
I first read this book in 7th grade. Now I'm 41, and when I re-read it, the novel still leaves me with a sense of awe and deep pleasure akin to the special feeling I get from The Wind in the Willows or The Hobbit. The storyline flings the heroes further and further away from home, and the stakes rise steadily, making for a riveting read. This technique - the expanding sphere of influence of the action - means that the book must keep one-upping itself to deliver. Which it does, admirably.
The novel has some unforgettable prose: at one point the hero says of the villain/monster, 'I had a dirty hunch I knew Wormface's home address." Capturing perfectly the book's Boy Scout sense of morality and adventure, he asks his companion, who is tying a knot on their vital oxygen tank, "Is it a square knot?" Peewee answers, "It was a granny, but it's a square knot now." This coming of age novel has some thoughtful insights into young Kip's budding sense of ethics, like when he is given a chance to speak in defense of the mailicious race that planned to destroy humanity and he decides not to: he reasons that there are limits to mercy and that, "when you see a black widow, you step on it."
This book will forever be in my pantheon of cult classics, because it helped me fall head over heels in love with reading, and I have never lost that feeling.
on July 23, 2002
Kip Russell lives in average small town America with slightly eccentric father and loving mother, when he wins a space suit in a competition. He rehabilitates same and is suddenly kidnapped and finds himself in an alien spaceship headed to the moon. He teams up with a supergenius little girl and a friendly alien to defeat the aliens and save the world.
While this is a simple adventure story on its face, it has deeper levels. First of all, there are discussions of science which are interesting and educational--look at where Kip figures to himself that they are really going to Pluto, and how he schemes to fill the cell he is in with water so he can float out the top.
There are also social messages woven in. Kip learns to appreciate his parents a bit more--to him, they are just "his parents", but through hints dropped several times in the book, we come to appreciate his father far more than for just, rather oddly, bundling up a box of small change and shipping it off to the IRS every April 15. Even if we were not explicitly told about Mr. and Mrs. Russell towards the end (and, frankly, I wish we weren't, it is too unsubtle), we would come to appreciate them for the way they steered Kip to maximize his potential. However, they were less successful in making Kip a social individual, and that is what starts to change during the novel.
At the start of the novel, Kip displays really good relations with adults, but limited, and not so good, relations with his peer group. Kip starts out a bit of a loner--he has friends, but none seem really important to him (certainly no one helps him in Oscar's renovation). At the end, he's more assertive and, having identified himself with humanity in the climactic scene, may have found himself quite a bit more. I suspect there's a lesson for Heinlein's juvenile readers there, many of whose spiritual home was in the stacks of the library. Nothing wrong with that, but . . . Heinlein manages this better than he does in Glory Road, where Scar comes home, wins the lottery, kicks sand on the bully, etc., etc.
A good read, but then go back and read it again.
Have Space Suit--Will Travel represents Heinlein at his storytelling best. Free of the esoteric themes that would appear in his later writings, this book is pure science fiction seemingly written solely for the enjoyment of the reader. Originally published in 1958, the story stands up well even today and will surely be read and enjoyed by untold generations to come. I am sure that many a young person read this book and yearned to reach the moon in the decade before the Eagle finally landed.
This is generally classified as one of Heinlein's juvenile books, but Heinlein's writing is for all ages. I am sure the book appeals to many young people because its protagonists are themselves young people: Kip is a high school senior, and Peewee is a girl of about twelve. Kip develops an overpowering urge to go to the moon, and he is lucky enough to win a real space suit in a contest. Heinlein's description of the many different features of the suit is fascinating. Resigning himself to selling the suit for college tuition money, Kip goes for one last walk; somewhat playfully calling out on the radio, he is surprised to hear an answer to his call. He is amazed when a space ship soon lands in his backyard and a decidedly alien creature comes out and collapses. A second ship lands, an entity gets out and conks Kip on the head, and the next thing Kip knows he is trapped inside a space ship on his way to the moon, suddenly in the company of a little girl. His captors are "Wormfaces," a species of alien that has been in hiding on the moon, looking at the earth with evil intentions. Peewee introduces Kip to the "Mother thing," a Vegan entity (and interstellar policeman) who radiates love and warmth, effectively communicates with the pair in a bird song type of speech, and inspires undying love and devotion. The book revolves around the youngsters' attempt to rescue the Mother Thing from the Wormfaces and eventually return to earth. Along the way, they endure captivity on Pluto, stare death in the face a few times, and ultimately find themselves representing Earth in an interstellar courtroom, the very future of earth shakily balanced in their own young hands.
There are juvenile elements here, such as Kip's tendency to hold back-and-forth conversations with his space suit (whom he dubs "Oscar"), but Robert Heinlein does throw in several sections full of mathematical formulas, high-level theorizing, and advanced scientific concepts. I dare say that these areas of tecnospeak will turn off some young readers and may well stymie a good number of adults. Aside from the mathematics of the thing, Heinlein can make any kind of scientific notion sound feasible and believable, and that is part of his magic and effectiveness. Most of all, though, Heinlein presents vividly real characters doing exceedingly interesting, heroic things. Heinlein's couple of technical forays may be literary speedbumps, but young readers will revel in and be inspired by this book. Adults who have not yet lost all of their imagination will also relate to the main characters well and delight in a good story line which takes the reader from the earth to the moon to Pluto to another galaxy and back again.
on January 27, 2002
Robert A. Heinlein (author of "Starship Troopers," etc.) wrote this sci-fi novel that can be best be described as, well, well-balanced. Under its hood, the tale is basically a space opera, though it wears a hood of strong scientific reasoning. It does keep the reader hooked with its innocence and a strange sense of humor I've come to respect.
The main character is a high-school student named Clifford 'Kip' Russell, whose whimsical (read the first two pages, probably the most humorous in the book, and you'll see what I mean) and quite odd father has pushed him through his awkward education. (Footnote: The time period is strange, including obvious 50's elements -- Kip works as a soda jerk in a drug store -- but with technologically advanced portions, like moon tours and an evolved UN.) Ready to go to college, Kip instead yearns to see the moon. Entering in a soap contest, he devotes a large portion of his life to advertising Skyway Soap and receives a spacesuit. This suit leads to his kidnapping by an insidious space pirate. And so the adventure begins..
Accompanied by a bratty girl genius and a motherly Vegan (see "Barlowe's Guide to the Extraterrestrials"), the unlikely hero trudges 40 miles across the moon, gets drugged, spends a week in a dungeon, almost freezes to death and sees Vega and the place where the region's life began. I found a great deal of the story fascinating, from the lifestyle of the Vegans to the 1958 description of the moon and Pluto. The adventure comes to a close with a page-turning trial in which Kip must determine the fate of mankind and the ending is extremely weird.
The story may sound like a space fairy-tale, but plenty of science is packed in here (cosmology, mathematics, Roman history, and more about spacesuits than I'm sure you'll ever care to know -- during the Moon trek) but the way it's written (there is an unusual proliferance of the phrase, "I shut up," for example) will compel you back most of the time. One bad flaw: some pieces of the plot are never explained. How did the pirates take Tombaugh Station? Or, what exactly were the pirates' motives? Overall, though, you'll probably like this novel.