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For Us, the Living: A Comedy of Customs | [Robert A. Heinlein]

For Us, the Living: A Comedy of Customs

July 12, 1939: Perry Nelson is driving along the palisades when another vehicle swerves into his lane, a tire blows out, and his car careens off the road and over a bluff. The last thing he sees before his head connects with the boulders below is a girl in a green bathing suit, prancing along the shore.
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Publisher's Summary

July 12, 1939: Perry Nelson is driving along the palisades when another vehicle swerves into his lane, a tire blows out, and his car careens off the road and over a bluff. The last thing he sees before his head connects with the boulders below is a girl in a green bathing suit, prancing along the shore.

When he wakes, the girl in green is a woman dressed in furs, and the sun-drenched shore has been replaced by snowcapped mountains. The woman, Diana, rescues Perry from the bitter cold and takes him to her home to rest and recuperate. Later they debate the cause of the accident, for Diana is unfamiliar with the concept of a tire blowout and Perry cannot comprehend snowfall in mid-July. Then Diana shares with him a vital piece of information: the date is now January 7, the year 2086.

When his shock subsides, Perry begins an exhaustive study of global evolution over the past 150 years. He learns, among other things, that a United Europe was formed; the military draft was completely reconceived; banks became publicly owned and operated; and in the year 2003, two helicopters destroyed Manhattan in a galvanizing act of war.

But education brings with it inescapable truths—the economic and legal systems, the government, and even the dynamic between men and women remain alien to Perry, the customs of the new day continually testing his mental and emotional resolve. Yet it is precisely his knowledge of a bygone era that will serve Perry best, as the man from 1939 seems destined to lead his newfound peers even further into the future than they could have imagined.

A classic example of the future history that Robert Heinlein popularized during his career, For Us, the Living marks both the beginning and the end of an extraordinary arc comprising the political, social, and literary crusading that is his legacy.

©2004 Robert A. and Virginia Heinlein Trust (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“A major contribution to the history of the genre.” (New York Times Book Review)

“There’s something eerie about this novel…Never mind science fiction; this is prescience fiction.” (Kansas City Star)

“A neat discovery for Heinlein and utopia fans.” (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (68 )
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 (24)
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3.7 (50 )
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4.2 (50 )
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  •  
    Jeffrey C. Coyne Chapel Hill 12-07-11
    Jeffrey C. Coyne Chapel Hill 12-07-11 Member Since 2005

    Jeff Coyne

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Should have stayed in the shoe box"

    I have been a Heinlein fan for a long time. It is for this reason that I find this work so disappointing. Heinlein was prone to a certain amount of preaching but this book contains little else. I fear the author would have been terribly embarrassed by release of this work. It is clear that the writing was preliminary to several other stories but was not complete in itself. It contains lengthy expositions that are simply wrong and always have been. The work is poorly conceived, having little plot, scant character development and amazingly wrong guesses as to the future. I winced at the descriptions of the futuristic space program. I suppose Heinlein's inclusion of the future use of cigarettes and asbestos is understandable but the entire work seems to contain little besides these archaic bits of guesswork. Of course there are the truly mind numbing lectures on religion, politics, economics, law and sociology. These run for hours as you wait for a story. If you are a fan, skip this one and reread The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress or Stranger In a Strange Land.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    joe Sterling Heights, mi, United States 01-27-11
    joe Sterling Heights, mi, United States 01-27-11 Member Since 2003
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    "A view in the the grand masters mind"

    This title was written in 1939, but found and released in 2003 after the authors death. It presents an alternative future based on the events that took place just prior to the outbreak of World War 2. In classic Robert Anson Heinlein style, the characters are very detailed and you can identify with them easily; however, this book is a "dialog" of all the events that have taken place since the main characters reentry to the world. In this book, most likely his first work, the plot is nowhere near the caliber he will show in his later works. This is not a good example to see his craftsmanship, but is a wonderful insight to see his transition from former life to the master of a genre.

    It is fascinating to read a Utopian description of a world that never came to be. This is not a crystal ball of things that will come, but more a parallel alternative to those events that could have been. The author uses his characters to describe events in long discussions. I can see why many publishers might not have wanted to bring this book out to the public for a new writer; however, for long time fans, this book is fabulous. It gives a look into the mind of our old master of things yet to come. The roots of many of the topics that Heinlein will use in later works to present non-mainstream views are all here, finding these gems in his earliest work is quite a thrill.

    I am going to rate this a solid 4 stars, but with explanation, The method used by the author is not very enjoyable to read; the dialogs are LOOOONG and can dwell laboriously in some points. The plot is thin and leaves many unanswered questions. Had it not been for the uniqueness of the ideas, the rich characters, and quite frankly, the fact that we get to see that one of the greatest authors of all time needed to mature some before he was able to produce his masterpieces, makes this book worth your time.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Craig Zellner Cleveland Heights, OH United States 03-18-12
    Craig Zellner Cleveland Heights, OH United States 03-18-12 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "This Novel is an Economics Lesson."
    Where does For Us, the Living rank among all the audiobooks you???ve listened to so far?

    This novel was not what I expected, even after reading the reviews. The story is typical Heinlein but, the way the characters interact turn it into a sociology and economic lesson.

    The economic ideas are interesting and the reasons for them are sound. It is to bad he could not come up with some ways to actually get them implemented in the real world.


    Would you be willing to try another book from Robert A. Heinlein? Why or why not?

    Yes. I have listened to most of Heinleins books.


    What about Malcolm Hillgartner???s performance did you like?

    He was good.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    This would not be a film unless it was part of a college course.


    Any additional comments?

    Interesting Economic and sociological ideas presented. The system used to study economic systems is simple and smart.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    K. Lange Las Vegas, NV United States 01-31-12
    K. Lange Las Vegas, NV United States 01-31-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "No Story Here."
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    An actual plot would be nice. There didn't seem to be a story here, just a sequence of events.


    Would you recommend For Us, the Living to your friends? Why or why not?

    no.


    What about Malcolm Hillgartner’s performance did you like?

    o.k.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    no.


    Any additional comments?

    no.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Randall Roseville, CA, United States 07-07-11
    Randall Roseville, CA, United States 07-07-11 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The only Heinlein I didn't enjoy"

    This is the only of the Heinlein books that I have listened to that I didn't enjoy. About a third of the way through the story, there is a 30 minute diatribe, in which we hear Heinlein's views on the failure of capatalism in the western world. We also get to hear some of his views on morals. I think this added nothing to this book. Then the book gets back to the storyline for a couple hours , but then Heinlein feels the need to further bore us with another 30 - 40 minutes of the exact same stuff. Then at the end of the book we are offered more pap under " authors notes" repeating some of the same junk. I finish every book I start, but when it came to these "authors notes" I turned it off

    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David Beal California 04-10-14
    David Beal California 04-10-14 Member Since 2013

    Davey B

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    "His first work"
    Any additional comments?

    As I understand it, despite it's release date, this is the first of Heinlein's novels. Very obviously so. Heinlein had a great deal of learning to do when he wrote this though what was to be his style is still very evident.
    I don't think I agree with the many comments that say there is no plot. It is there, a bit thin that's true, but it is there.
    The one thing I enjoyed was getting a chance to look at a young Heinlein and see where he came from.The book is loaded with miss-conceptions and fanciful idea's that just would never work. I enjoyed the book just the same, it's just a long way from the best of his work.
    In short if you're looking for another great book by Heinlein, this isn't it. If you're looking to get to know a little more about who Heinlein was, it's worth a listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Christopher
    Nelson, Lancashire, United Kingdom
    2/9/11
    Overall
    "Fascinating and a riveting listen!!"

    This book appears to be one not published in the author's lifetime but I am very glad to have the opportunity to listen to it, it is thought provoking and fits in with many things in his other novels.

    There's no point in repeating the story, in many ways the plot is secondary. A man appears to die yet lands in the future, it it heaven? Perhaps. Its not really explained how, nor does it matter particularly how he got there.

    It gives the author the opportunity to express views of politics, economics and relationships. His recurring theme of being able to love more than one person is vivid and comes across naturally in this setting. It is interesting to examine a world from the view of a stranger but one who has sufficient intellect to appreciate it, that there is continuity in it and can contribute to it from his own knowledge and abilities rather than being obsolete.

    Although we are a long way from the 2080s it is disturbing how little the present society has advanced in terms of human relationships, general wisdom, etc. We do not seem on course to meet the vision in this book of greater freedom and an environment run more in line with people's needs.

    I found most fascinating the description of economic theory based on equivalent production and purchasing power. There are some tremendously long conversations between characters here, probably making it less saleable as a title at time of production but actually much more interesting.

    Finally, Heinlein describes women very well. He shows grace, manners and the feelings they create in others and does not need to describe how they look in detail to show their beauty.

    Much more to this than just a Sci-fi story, highly recommended. Perhaps an antidote to George Orwell in some regards. Enjoy!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
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