Variable Star

For much of his writing career, Robert Heinlein wrote one
juvenile a year, timed to be published for the Christmas
shopping season. Some of them (e.g. Citizen
of the Galaxy
) are among his best work.
would have been one of them, except that he wrote a
couple of chapters and put it in a drawer and never finished
it. After his death, his widow gave it to Spider Robinson, a
young writer in Heinlein’s tradition, to finish, and this is the result.

It reads a great deal like the other Heinlein juveniles, with
some of the really out-of-date descriptions of computers on
spaceships brought up to date. (Remember in Time for the
when the spaceship might not have been able to get
home because someone had destroyed the logarithm tables?)

The beginning, when the protagonist is 18, could have been
marketed as a juvenile even in the 50’s. He does some growing
up in the next 5 years on the spaceship, but even so, there
isn’t so much “adult” content that it couldn’t be a juvenile by
current standards. However, it got long enough, and the market
for Heinlein juveniles is old enough, that Tor
probably didn’t really consider marketing it as a Juvenile.

A lot of the themes Heinlein used — stand up to powerful, rich
people; space travel is necessary because Earth might not last,
a spaceship with a few hundred poeple on it develops its own
culture and social life
— are still there. An addition I enjoyed is that the main
character is a musician, and his psychological ups and downs
affect his playing.

So if you’ve liked the Heinlein Juveniles, you’ll enjoy this
one. If you like Spider Robinson’s other books, you’ll enjoy
this one. If you haven’t read either, but like books about
humans colonizing space, you’ll like it.

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