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5.0 out of 5 stars Heinlein sails beyond the sunset
Robert Heinlein spiked this one into the end zone as he dropped. What an ending to his career.
(The title is a reference to a line in Tennyson's 'Ulysses', having to do with accomplishments in old age, and it's undoubtedly intended to describe what Heinlein himself was up to here. He succeeded.)
A word of warning, though -- if you didn't like _Time Enough for...
Published on March 24 2004 by John S. Ryan

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3.0 out of 5 stars First love, last love, forbidden love
My first love in Science Fiction was, and still is Robert Heinlein. He created memorable characters, intriguing future societies and usually stunning plotlines.
I like nearly all his books enough to give each 5 stars. But a few leave me unsatisfied, and "To Sail Beyond the Sunset" is one of them. Not that I didn't buy it, devour it, and re-read it about twenty times...
Published on Jan. 18 2003 by Joanna Daneman


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5.0 out of 5 stars Heinlein sails beyond the sunset, March 24 2004
By 
John S. Ryan "Scott Ryan" (Cuyahoga Falls, OH) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: To Sail beyond the Sunset (Mass Market Paperback)
Robert Heinlein spiked this one into the end zone as he dropped. What an ending to his career.
(The title is a reference to a line in Tennyson's 'Ulysses', having to do with accomplishments in old age, and it's undoubtedly intended to describe what Heinlein himself was up to here. He succeeded.)
A word of warning, though -- if you didn't like _Time Enough for Love_, stay away from this one. Even (if possible) more than its predecessor, this one just oozes s-e-x, including wife-swapping, incest, and other stuff probably not in conformity to the mores of your tribe. In my view, it's all very tastefully and responsibly handled, but then my own opinions on such matters (including my devout antigrundyism) were in large measure informed by massive reading of RAH during my formative years. Just be aware that the usual suspects have dismissed this novel as pornographic trash.
At any rate, this novel was clearly a labor of love for Heinlein. In it, he gets to revisit the world of his childhood (or close to it; he actually has to start a bit earlier than his own birth).
You see, it's the story of one of Heinlein's most compelling heroines: Maureen Johnson Long, of the Howard Families, mother (and co-wife) of Woodrow Wilson Smith (a.k.a. Bill Smith a.k.a. Ernest Gibbons a.k.a. Lafe Hubert a.k.a. Aaron Sheffield a.k.a. Lazarus Long). And she lived just down the road a piece from Heinlein (and Sam Clemens, who makes a nice cameo appearance in her memoirs).
There's a thin shell of story around it, but most of the novel consists of Maureen narrating her life to herself (and us). We learn a lot about her unconventional childhood and her interesting relationship with her father (Lazarus's Gramp, Ira Johnson). We watch her grow up, get married (to fellow Howard Family member Brian Smith), make a home, bear children, and do all sorts of other things.
Of course since the stuff that happened in Heinlein's 'Future History' stories didn't actually come to pass in _our_ world (no rolling roads, for example, and our moon shot was a government affair), Lazarus and his kin must hail from an alternative timeline. And sure enough -- right around the beginning of the Second World War, we start to see events that diverge from our own history. But boy, it turns out Maureen was there behind the scenes for quite a bit of that 'Future History'; she knew Delos Harriman, was sleeping with George Strong, and provided some crucial assistance to what in her world was the first lunar landing.
Great stuff, filled with the wonderful narrative, dialogue, and characterization that Heinlein's longtime readers had learned to expect -- not to mention the Old Man's usual range of soapboxery and iconoclasm, in spades. And it's always good to see Lazarus again.
As I've said elsewhere, I credit Heinlein with three absolutely magisterial SF novels: _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress_, _Double Star_, and _The Door Into Summer_. This is one of his near-magisterial second-tier novels; it falls just ever so slightly short because I think there's a wee bit too much 'fitting Maureen into the cracks' of his previous novels.
Speaking of which: Be sure to read _Time Enough for Love_, _The Number of the Beast_, and _The Cat Who Walks Through Walls_ before you read this one; they form a series. At some point you'll also want to read _Methusaleh's Children_ and Heinlein's 'Future History' stories (collected in _The Past Through Tomorrow_; find a used copy). But though helpful, it's not absolutely necessary to have read them first.
Anyway -- this one's a keeper. I can't tell you how many times I've reread it (along with _TEFL_ and the rest). These are some of the _realest_ characters to be found in SF, or for that matter in any fiction. I won't speak for you, cobber, but my own life is much better for having met these people.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A truely magnificint wrap up, Jan. 14 2004
In R.A.Heinlein's final book, he magages to tell the story of the mother of his most famous charachter with style. Maureen Johnson Smith, who raised children, kept house, lived through some tumultous times both political and personal.
As a homemaker myself, I found her story of her early life rasing children and keeping house to be inspiring, how she could find satisfaction and keep her head up while she, at times, had to serve "fried mush" for supper for her husband and many children when finances were tight. Maureen is the image of the perfect housewife and mother in her early childbearing years according to the standards of that puritanical era, while still able to have her freedom in areas she needs.
Of course, as all later Heinlein books, there is a more than average ammount of copulation going on, and in this work espically, incest takes front seat. While personally the idea of incest is not one I find appealing in the least, I feel that it didn't detract too much from this incredible story.
And of course, as in all Heinlein books, both early and late you'll find political and social commentary in plenty, in this more than many of his works I belive. I'm sure conservatives would find a strange dichotomy between the seemingly endless orgies, incest, and sex of other varieties, and at the same time the stress on family values, sticking around for the kids, and what the horrible consequences can be of broken families for the children. The faults of Democracy are expounded upon, and I have to agree that much of what he wrote is becoming nowadays. The citizens are voting themselves "bread and circuses" and bleeding the nation to death in endless social programs.
Heinlein maganged in this book to both tell the story of a remarkable woman living through harsh and crazy times, and to weave together the loose ends of many of his other stories...but still, I belive that even more could have been written after this book tying up a few loose ends started in this book. Alas, the grand master died too soon.
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3.0 out of 5 stars First love, last love, forbidden love, Jan. 18 2003
This review is from: To Sail beyond the Sunset (Mass Market Paperback)
My first love in Science Fiction was, and still is Robert Heinlein. He created memorable characters, intriguing future societies and usually stunning plotlines.
I like nearly all his books enough to give each 5 stars. But a few leave me unsatisfied, and "To Sail Beyond the Sunset" is one of them. Not that I didn't buy it, devour it, and re-read it about twenty times. (It IS written by the Master, after all.) But this is, forgive me O Great One, not his best work.
It's been said Heinlein was maundering in his dodder years. Well, he was seriously ill for two or so years before he wrote this novel. But I think RAH on a bad day was sharper than most of us on a good one. No, I think this novel suffers from "wrap-up complex." This is my term for a thing authors do when they want closure on a character or subject, but have EITHER written themselves out or have NOT yet finished. Hence, the "closure" doesn't work. If you want other examples of failed closure, Arthur Conan Doyle comes to mind, trying to kill off Sherlock at the Reichenbach Falls, and I bet you can think of lots of these yourself.
Maureen Johnson, the mother of Woodrow Wilson Johnson a.k.a. Lazarus Long, is the center of this novel that harks back to Maureen's first marriage to Brian ("Time Enough for Love") through the Future History novels ("The Past Through Tomorrow", "Methuselah's Children") up and past the end of "Time Enough." That's great--we want Maureen's story after the shocking yet seductive story of Ted "Bronson" aka Lazarus and his affair with Maureen when he travels back in time in "Time Enough for Love." Maureen is HOT, and I am not just referring to her flame-red hair.
But Heinlein goes way out, with Maureen more than hinting that she had the hots for her own father Ira. There is a lot more free-sex blather at the end of the book that, though I am hardly a prude, did not particularly appeal to me. The whole plot seemed, as wrap-up novels will, contrived and stupid. And excesses of incest are eventually nauseating. It's ok to push the envelope on societal taboo for speculative fiction's purposes, but ultimately, a taboo IS a taboo and thus not something the average reader (like me) want ENORMOUS gobs of in their reading. At that point, it gets sickening and should be relinquished to the slash fiction realm. In my opinion.....
HOWEVER, having ranted about all that, other than the plot flaws and ramblings, it's nice to have Maureen's book, even if flawed, and I am glad Heinlein had time before he left us to pen the story for us. I just wish it had been done with more finesse.
RECOMMENDED WITH THE ABOVE RESERVATIONS
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2.0 out of 5 stars To Bugger Beyond Absurdity, July 11 2002
By 
J. Sondergeld (Sumner, WA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: To Sail beyond the Sunset (Mass Market Paperback)
I just took another look at the review of "Time Enough for Love" that I wrote three years ago, and I've got to say that I was too kind. So, "To Sail Beyond the Sunset" will pay the price.
First, though, let me swerve my readers and say a few positive things.
1) You can't not like the spunk and spirit and strength of Maureen Johnson Smith. Heinlein makes it very clear where Lazarus Long inherited his positive character traits.
2) Instead of purporting to biographize a life 24 centuries long and then cynically and blatantly cheating the reader out of all but a handful of reminiscences covering a couple of centuries at most, MJS's life, being "only" about a century in length, is more manageable and thus is successfully and comprehensively sketched to the reader's satisfaction.
3) I was pleasantly surprised that MJS didn't react glibly to the end of her first marriage. Given the skewed values of the Howard Families, even at that early stage of their history, I was expecting Maureen to treat her "Briney" like a returned item at a department store.
Now, the peroration.
In "Time Enough for Love," Lazarus travels back in time and does the nasty with his own mother, though she, of course, isn't made aware of the incest factor beyond "Ted Bronson" being her "remote descendent." But to the degree that you can set aside that taboo, it wasn't distastefully depicted.
But here we get the rest of the story, which is that the love affair was actually a full-blown incestuous orgy that would have made Larry Flynt cringe. And it's clear that this is not an isolated insanity, either. Thank goodness Heinlein wasn't pedofile.
That carnal imagery cuts a broad swath back to "Time Enough" and throughout the rest of "Sunset," whose "climax" not only closes the loop with Maureen confessing her lust for her own father, Ira Johnson, but offers up a coda to the entire Future History saga - "The world as myth" - that is the most self-indulgent plot contrivance I've ever seen in science fiction.
After that finish, I don't know that I could recommend any installment of Heinlein's "Future History" - but I unquestionably urge unsuspecting Heinlein fans to spare their money and the insult to their intelligence that "Sunset" has in store for them.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Heinlein at his best and worst., Feb. 21 2002
By 
Cervus Green (Milwaukiee, WI United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: To Sail beyond the Sunset (Mass Market Paperback)
This book embraces all of the best aspects of Heinlein's writing: plausible science fiction, an epic narrative, keen insights on modern society, and interesting (albeit two demensional) characters. In this book, Heinlein attempts to bring all of his adult fiction, from his future history, through "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress," to "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls," together in one epic masterpiece.
He succeeds in this goal through an autobigraphy of Maureen Johnson, the mother of Lazerous Long. Like her son, Maureen is an adventurous person who bucks society and popular culture and truly manages to catch a readers imagination. In a somewhat cynical narrative, Maureen tells the events of her life, from her birth in the late eighteen hundreds to slightly beyond the events portrayed in "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls." Woven throughout
are refrences to Heinlein's future history, and the idea of the world (worlds?) as myth.
Interspersed sporadically through the novel are places where Heinlein, through the guise of Maureen, delivers a speech on his morals, ethics and worldview. Even if you do not agree with his conclusions, it is very interesting reading. However, it does interupt the story and may be distracting to the casual reader.
The reason that the book recieved only four stars is that, like many of Heinlein's later books, the novel has enough sex in it that it could easily be considered erotica instead of science fiction. I can understand an author using sex to advance a plot but Heinlein goes to the extreem. Incest and adultury are almost treated as the main focus of the book which is something that I find personally distasteful.
However, in spite of it's faults, this book is truly a wonderfull narrative of not just Maureen Johnson's life, but the entirety of Heinlein's work. Like many of Heinlein's other works, you will either love it or hate it. Personally, I loved it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Heinlein is the epitome of great writing.., Jan. 14 2002
By 
Michael Rosenfeld (Waldwick, NJ United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: To Sail beyond the Sunset (Mass Market Paperback)
Like most Heinlein books I found this one fantastic.. This is the last Novel that Heinlein wrote before he passed away in 1988.. This book is an account of the early life of Maureen Johnson Growing up in Missouri... Here we learn many things about Maureen and her family that was not known otherwise until this novel came out... On the outside Maureen is a respectful and gracious woman... She has a great husband and children who she adores, very close friends that are like family and a father who is her mentor and role model that also lives in Maureen's home.. Sounds like I am describing the Walton's...But Unlike the Walton's Maureen only appears this way as to not arouse suspicion and gossip among the local denizens... She is a woman displaced in the early 20th century where she puts up a facade for her neighbors as she loves sex too much (which is improper for a young woman of her time) and involves herself with the act of infidelity... So while this book has many taboos, we explore the reasons of their occurrences, such as infidelity... We discover that these taboos originated as Maureen is a long lifer.. She is the mother of Lazarus long ("Time enough for love") who is the oldest person in human history.. Long lifers first originated through an organization called the Howard Foundation.. This is a group of individuals that consisted of offspring/desendants from families that had all ancestors who lived to be 100 years or more getting together with other families who filled the same criteria and producing offspring.. This was an early form of selective breeding as not too many people in the early 20th century lived to be more than 100 years old..Threrfor the members of the Howard foundation had a strong propensity towards being prolific and as such the group was small and required multiple partners who's primary goal was progeny which is the basis for why infidelity was favored... Other than the taboos this book entails, which would cause much upset among many folks it still makes for a great read... It also ties in together some missing gaps from other Heinlein books such as "Time Enough for love" "The Number of the Beast" and "The cat who walks through walls." In these books we know of Maureen but not in much detail as this book entails...If you found Lazarus Long an interesting character than you will no doubt find that the same could be said for Lazaurs Long's mother Maureen...
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5.0 out of 5 stars The captstone of Heinlein's career, Sept. 9 2001
By 
Bill R. Moore (New York, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: To Sail beyond the Sunset (Mass Market Paperback)
To Sail Beyond The Sunset was the last book Robert Heinlein wrote during his life, and it is a fitting capstone to his career. It is the autobiography of a fictional character, Maureen Johnson, mother of Lazarus Long. It is a bit like Time Enough For Love in the sense that it is about one central character, however, unlike that book, this one is actually written in an autobiographical format-it reads like a serious, real autobiography-and is (mostly) chronological to boot (unlike Time Enough For Love.) Throughout the long book, Heinlein ties together many of the characters and storylines from his major works and even some of his lesser-known early pulp stories, and thus places a definitive capstone on one of the richest universes in all of science fiction. It is nothing short of amazing how he draws together literally dozens of characters from a multitude of books (some over 40 years old), and manages to make their storylines fit logically into this book. There are many interesting things about To Sail Beyond The Sunset. It is literally the great tie-together; it seeks to unite Heinlein's future history, his early pulp stories, and some of his other novels, and it succeeds. This must have been an astonishingly complex book to write. (There is a large appendix in the back of the book that lists some of the dozens of characters included, as well as a list of related books and other information, but even it is not complete.) It ties up a lot of loose threads that a lot of other books left dangling. It is also interesting to see, in this book, events that took place in Time Enough For Love or The Number of The Beast, say, from Maureen's point of view.
This is a consumate Heinlein work. If you are at all into books like Time Enough For Love, The Number of the Beast, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, etc., then this is a must-read. Also if you'd like to see how the Futurer History series finally ends up. Also, if you are a woman, I reccommend that you read this book. You'll either love it ("That's the kind of woman I'd like to be!"), or hate it ("That why women have such a bad image!"), but I guarantee that it will provoke a reaction. That's why Heinlein continues to matter. He was one of the few mainstream writers who dared to challenge public mores, to smash conventions, and write the kinds of books that he really wanted to write, unafraid of public opinion or reaction. His books (his later ones, anyway) are heavily idealistic. You won't always agree with him, but he will at least get you thinking. This is one reason why "To Sail" is such a great book. A fitting end to the career of what many consider to be the greatest science fiction writer of them all.
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5.0 out of 5 stars His Best, Sept. 17 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: To Sail beyond the Sunset (Mass Market Paperback)
To Sail Beyond the Sunset is a powerful book with an incredible plot. A 160 year old lady who is the mother of Lazarus Long and looks like she is 18 goes on a Burroughs irrelevancy bus to New Manchster only to have it hijacked. The next thing she remembers is waking up in bed with a dead man and a cat. Taken into prison for the capital crime of sacrilege, she records this biography. This book is favorite for many reasons, the first of which is the characters. Heinlein uses my four favorite characters from the Heinlein universes, Deety, Zebadiah, Hilda, and the main character of the book, Maureen. I like these character because they have a very human point of view that I understand. My second reason is that there are no inconsistencies between 'Theodore Bronson's' encounter with Maureen in Time Enough for Love and Maureen's in this book. My last reason is the fact that there is a Committee for Aesthetic Deletions that sits around discussing and coming up with'Artistic' ways to kill people with petty crimes.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Robert, did you really go?, Dec 30 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: To Sail beyond the Sunset (Mass Market Paperback)
I guess I will have to be classified as a lover of both the young and old Buddy Boy. As I read about Mama Maurene, I got the essential feel of the old Kansas City that I grew up in. I know the people in Thebes Missouri, and I know the people that Maurene lived around. He was right on for the times and the place. And I would like to meet this lady anytime, anyplace, anywhen.
My favorite character, though, is Ira Johnson. RAH showed us just where Lazerus/Lafe/Woodrow/Corporal Bronson got all those pithy sayings. I really like that old man, and I hope that he lives somewhere in the World of Myth. You have to read Grumbles from the Grave to fully understand RAH. There you find out about Virginia, may she live forever, and why you should always enclose a stamped self addressed envelope.
It was my most fervent wish that RAH had completed the Gospels by writing of Ira. I was greatly disapointed when I found that it did not happen. I hope, in vain probably, that someone can take up the challange, and put the capstone on this series by properly treating Ira.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A fitting epitaph to a great man's work, Oct. 27 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: To Sail beyond the Sunset (Mass Market Paperback)
In reading this book, Heinlein's last, I was absolutely blown away. It is arguably the broadest work Heinlein produced, but in many ways it is also the quietest and most subtle.
Part sci-fi, part autobiography, part social history, _To Sail Beyond The Sunset_ offers in great detail what _Time Enough For Love_ and _"The Number of the Beast ..."_ only hinted at: Maureen.

We first met Maureen Johnson Smith when Lazarus Long, assuming the name "Theodore Bronson," visited his childhood home and subsequently fell in love with his mother. Our next visit with Mama Maureen came in _"The Number of the Beast..."_ when Hilda, Zebbie, Deety, and Jake all joined forces to rescue her from an oncoming 18-wheeler. It was almost too much, getting only this brief glimpse of her, because the next book she was featured in, _The Cat Who Walks Through Walls_, badly underused her character.

This is exactly what I had been waiting for. It was a chance for me not only to meet up with some of my favorite characters (including Lazarus Long, Pixel the cat, and the Boondock gang) but also to gain new perspective on one of Heinlein's most interesting, and most human, characters.

Much of the narrative here concerning Maureen's autobiography is reputed to be an autobiographical account of Heinlein's own childhood and life experiences. Whether based on actual events or not, Maureen's life seems almost frighteningly real. It is a strength, and not a weakness, that most of this book does not intend to be science fiction: the narrative is based mostly on the life of a very unusual woman.

A richly woven novel full of beautiful and poetic vignettes, _To Sail Beyond The Sunset_ is a novel to be read and cherished. Not only does it flesh out Maureen, but it also brings together his "Future History" short stories and other favorite characters.

_To Sail Beyond The Sunset_ is an absolute must read for all lovers of science fiction, and a special treat for Heinlein's fans. His last work is indeed a fitting epitaph for a long and distinguished career.
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To Sail beyond the Sunset
To Sail beyond the Sunset by Robert A. Heinlein (Mass Market Paperback - Jan. 29 2002)
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