Time Enough for Love is the capstone and crowning achievement of Heinlein’s famous Future History series.--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
He was a four-time winner of the Hugo Award for his novels Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), Starship Troopers (1959), Double Star (1956), and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966). His Future History series, incorporating both short stories and novels, was first mapped out in 1941. The series charts the social, political, and technological changes shaping human society from the present through several centuries into the future.
Robert A. Heinlein's books were among the first works of science fiction to reach bestseller status in both hardcover and paperback. he continued to work into his eighties, and his work never ceased to amaze, to entertain, and to generate controversy. By the time hed died, in 1988, it was evident that he was one of the formative talents of science fiction: a writer whose unique vision, unflagging energy, and persistence, over the course of five decades, made a great impact on the American mind.
I was born in 1963 and learned to read very early. Like Spider Robinson, I lost my literary virginity to Heinlein (in my case, to _Stranger in a Strange Land_ and _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress_). To this day I think that _Mistress_ is one of his three absolutely magisterial novels (the other two being _Double Star_ and _The Door into Summer_).
Heinlein also wrote a number of novels that were _very close_ to magisterial, and some of them have been (in my case, at least) more profoundly influential than his Three Greatest. _Stranger_ is one of these, and so is _Time Enough for Love_.
Heinlein published this one after bouncing back from major surgery (having been somewhat incapacitated while writing _I Will Fear No Evil_, which his wife Virginia helped to edit). The old master had his off days, but he's at the top of his form here.
As you're probably aware, this lengthy work is a future history of Lazarus Long (born Woodrow Wilson Smith), the Senior of the Howard Families and the oldest human being alive (well over two thousand years old at the time of this tale). Lazarus is one of Heinlein's best realized characters; I'd recognize his red hair, bulbous nose, disarming grin, and wild grey-green eyes if I passed him on the street.
And I'd immediately put my hand over my wallet. Lazarus is an unsavory character -- a raconteur, swindler, adventurer, sybarite, pragmatist . . . and, above all, _survivor_. He exemplifies everything Heinlein thought it would take for humanity to spread to the stars (besides the Libby-Sheffield Para-Drive, of course), and his amoral self-interested practicality is what's kept him from _getting_ killed even if (as is suggested in this book) he got an initial boost from a mutation in his twelfth chromosome pair.
But boy, you're going to want to haul off and whack him, because he's an ornery, slippery old scoundrel.
He's a helluva lot more colorful than Valentine Michael Smith (Heinlein's other attempt to create an character who could comment on human culture from the outside and let Heinlein indulge in some fictional iconoclasm). And he's a helluva lot more fun.
Plus you'll get to meet the rest of the Long family (including two or three -- depending how you count -- intelligent computers).
And Lazarus's reminiscences include several marvelous tales that could have stood as novels in their own right: the Tale of the Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail, the Tale of the Adopted Daughter (a glorious story that also features the Montgomerys, the most chillingly realistic 'bad guys' anywhere in Heinlein's entire oeuvre), and the Tale of the Twins who Weren't. (And there are two sets of Excerpts from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long -- collections of aphoristic musings that Heinlein readers liked so well that they've actually _been_ published separately.)
The result is a long (no pun intended) meditation on what it takes to survive -- and why anyone would want to.
I read this book when I was ten, and I'm afraid it wasn't altogether a 'good influence' on me. (If you want to know, ask me privately sometime -- and I don't promise to answer truthfully.) If you're tired of 'good influences', try reading it. I've got my issues with Heinlein, but he's one of the great iconoclasts of the twentieth century.
For that very reason, some readers should _avoid_ this book; it's guaranteed (and indeed designed) to offend you by rubbing your nose in the fact that your mores are _not_ 'natural laws'. But if you're the sort of person who will enjoy Heinlein, you'll dive right into this one and never come out.
Lazarus had previously appeared in _Methusaleh's Children_ and reappears in three further late-period Heinlein novels (_The Number of the Beast_, _The Cat Who Walked Through Walls_, and _To Sail Beyond the Sunset_). But if you want to meet him, I'd recommend starting here: the later ones won't make sense without this one, and I don't think _Methusaleh's Children_ represents Heinlein's best writing.
This does. The whole thing is wonderfully staged; the narrative switches back and forth between voices, the dialogue just crackles, and the action (when there is any) will make you jump off your seat once in a while.
This is Heinlein in control of his craft. If that interests you, don't miss it.
But before reaching that final story, we are given a cornucopia of other stories, as Lazarus Long, now some 2300 years old, is induced to reminisce about his life as part of a complex deal to preserve the 'wisdom' of the oldest man alive. Each of the stories that Lazarus relates are fairly complete by themselves, and many authors would have chosen to publish each of them separately, but Heinlein chose to keep them all as one piece, as each story helps to illuminate his overriding theme, on just what is love in all of its myriad aspects and why it is so important to man's survival as a species.
The first of the tales, "The Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail", may be the weakest of any of the stories, but for those who know something about Heinlein's life, this story is very clearly autobiographical in nature, with some changes in names and places to protect the innocent. "The Tale of the Twins Who Weren't" brings to light the ease with which Heinlein could switch between first and third person along with some detailed commentary on genetics and the reasons incest is normally consider taboo, all neatly folded into a story of individual growth from illiterate slave to successful entrepreneur.
But the next tale, "The Tale of the Adopted Daughter", is worth the price of this book all by itself. A very quiet, simple tale of pioneering that would not be out of place sitting on the Westerns shelf, though it has a unique science fictional aspect - but by the end of the story tears are definitely in order. The excellence of this story can be judged by the fact that its emotional impact is not lessened even on second, third, and fourth readings, even when you know exactly how it ends. This story does much to illustrate that love is far more than just sex, although there is certainly a lively interest in that oldest sport displayed by all participants here.
The outer story in which these stories are embedded like sparkling diamonds evolves from a pretty standard plot device for presenting back stories to an intriguing story of its own, as we follow the attempts of various and sundry to give Lazarus a reason for living again, to find some new experiences that are not just a rehash of things he has done a thousand times before.
But it is also this 'present' time story that leads to the objections that many people have with this book: its apparent near-obsession with sex between close relatives. In one case it is more than close, it is narcissistic, dealing with Lazarus' relations with twin female clones of himself. It seems that many see only the sex, and don't look beyond it to the larger picture that Heinlein is presenting of all forms of love, including some essentially platonic forms, and that all of them can provide a means for 'growing closer' with another and enriching the lives of all involved.
In-between these stories are the 'Notebooks', a collection of aphorisms and other 'pearls of wisdom' that Lazarus has supposedly collected during his long life. Many are humorous; just about all of them have a spike of truth curling through them. My favorite of this group is probably "A committee is a life form with six or more legs and no brain" or possibly "An elephant: a mouse built to government specifications" but everyone will probably find something here that is appealing.
The Notebooks are some succinct examples of something that Heinlein scatters throughout this book, his opinions on government, slavery, marriage, politics, revolutions, prisons, family organizations, the value of money, 'consciousness' both organic and computer based, betting, Darwinian selection, true 'intelligence', conscription, advertising, religion, the purpose of war, and just about every other subject you can imagine. While you may not agree with many of these opinions, Heinlein presents his views in such a way that you will be forced to at least examine why you believe your own opinions are correct.
And finally we come to the last section of the book, where Lazarus time-travels back to meet his parents in the Kansas City of 1916. Heinlein manages to create a beautiful image of that time and place, its moral codes, its hypocrisies, its charms, of an entire way of life that has just about totally vanished from the American scene. Few fictional histories approach this section for being able to put the reader into their chosen time frame.
This book is the capstone to the Future History, apparently planned at least in part when the History was first conceived, a remarkable achievement in scope, theme, and sheer story telling. It was nominated for the 1974 Hugo Award, and fully deserved that honor.
The Whole Point Of My Review:
This is one of the stories that you just don't sit down and read through in a couple days. Read more