Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Thu Jan 25 13:00:37 EST 1990

Raymond's Reviews #1

%T Grumbles From The Grave
%A Robert A. Heinlein
%E Virginia Heinlein
%I Del Rey
%D Jan 1990
%O hardcover, $19.95
%P 283
%G 0-345-36246-2

I'll admit it up front -- I'm a Heinleinophile, and that's why this book is the subject of RR#1. By anyone's measure Robert Anson Heinlein was one of the giants of SF, exerting a formative influence on the field second only to that of his mentor John W. Campbell.

For any Heinlein fan, or anyone interested in the history of SF, this book is a must. Fans will perhaps find the most interest in the material cut from the originals of Red Planet and Podkayne Of Mars, reproduced here. Numerous letters shedding light on the development of Heinlein's novels (especially Stranger In A Strange Land and the later juveniles) are included. There are even pictures of Heinlein as a young child, graduating high school, and as a Navy cadet.

Historians may find equal interest in Heinlein's business correspondence. These letters add up to an interesting portrait of the life and working conditions of a leading professional writer in the period 1940-1960. It takes one aback to learn how thoroughly some of Heinlein's work was censored and messed over during his `juveniles' period -- we discover that one editor even considered the "flat cats" in The Rolling Stones to be luridly sexual and wanted them excised!

I must report, however, that some of what's included strikes me as filler. There's altogether too much on housebuilding and gardening that doesn't seem to have much relevance to Heinlein's works or personality. And the sidebars synopsizing Heinlein's novels are jarringly bad, apparently written by a non- fan at about the reading level of a dull 9-year-old.

The bottom line is that you will have to sift through a fair amount of pedestrian setting to find the pearls -- but pearls there are in plenty and they more than justify the price of the book. In one letter discussing cuts in Red Planet, for example, we find a stirring libertarian defense of personal weapon ownership that lays any lingering doubts about Heinlein's political philosophy to rest (and probably ought to be required reading for every U.S. legislator!).

Heinlein's legacy to the SF field has been immense, his impact on the lives of his readers more so. Grumbles From The Grave is dedicated to "Heinlein's Children". Some might find that puzzling, as he never had biological offspring -- but we know who we are. That cantankerous, profound old man from Missouri was a second father to hundreds of thousands of bright kids in this century. Perhaps the best news Grumbles has brought us is that that voice is not yet quite stilled.

Hints and references in the book suggest that there will be more to come from Heinlein's papers. Uncut versions of several novels are in preparation, including a 50%-longer version of Stranger and an edition of The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress with substantial additions. There could be no more fitting tribute to Heinlein's memory than to finally let his unexpurgated work speak for itself; and we can hope that Grumbles will be but the first piece of a truer portrait of Heinlein than existed in his lifetime.

Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Thu Jan 25 13:00:37 EST 1990

Eric S. Raymond <esr@snark.thyrsus.com>