- Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
- Publisher: Ace; Reprint edition (June 1 1988)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780441748600
- ISBN-13: 978-0441748600
- ASIN: 0441748600
- Product Dimensions: 10.7 x 3 x 17 cm
- Shipping Weight: 113 g
- Average Customer Review: 23 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #495,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
To Sail beyond the Sunset Mass Market Paperback – Jun 1 1988
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“Thought-provoking...considerable wit and energy!”—Newsday
“Admirably successful...The autobiographical material is consistently superb. The alternate universes are equally well done...The sexuality shows the lusty pleasure in smashing taboos familiar to readers of Stranger in a Strange Land.”—Chicago Sun-Times
“In To Sail Beyond the Sunset, Heinlein continues to asseble most, if not all, the characters he has ever created...He remains the master!”—Locus
“Exuberant and spirited...unquestionable one of the major, defining works of Robert A. Heinlein's long and successful career.”—San Jose Mercry News
About the Author
Robert Anson Heinlein was born in Missouri in 1907, and was raised there. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1929, but was forced by illness to retire from the Navy in 1934. He settled in California and over the next five years held a variety of jobs while doing post-graduate work in mathematics and physics at the University of California. In 1939 he sold his first science fiction story to Astounding magazine and soon devoted himself to the genre.
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 he 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.
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(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.
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.