Maureen Johnson, the somewhat irregular mother of Lazarus Long, wakes up in bed with a man and a cat. The cat is Pixel, well-known to fans of the New York Times best seller The Cat Who Walks through Walls. The man is a stranger to her, and besides that, he is dead.
So begins Robert A. Heinlein’s To Sail Beyond the Sunset. Filled with the master’s most beloved characters, this compelling work broadens and enriches his epic vision of time and space, life and death, love and desire. It is also an autobiographical masterpiece—and a wondrous return to the alternate universes that all Heinlein fans have come to know and love.
©1987 Robert A. and Virginia Heinlein, trustees (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“Thoughtprovoking…. Considerable wit and energy!” (Newsday)
This book is the culmination of Heinlein's Future History series, unifying his earliest published works with his Lazarus Long novels. As the full title suggest, the book tells the story of Maureen Johnson, mother of Lazarus Long, from her youth in the late 19th century to her old age in one of the alternate future that Heinlein created for the stories he wrote in the 1940s.
Unfortunately, it's also one of his weakest. Heinlein is controversial for his depiction of what strong female characters should be, and in "To Sail Beyond the Sunset" he pulls out all the stops. There are sex-positive polyamorous women; I've met a few. But none of them are like how Maureen Johnson is depicted: not only accepting incest, but actively promoting it among her own children.
Frankly, there were points while I listened that I was embarrassed for the reader, Bernadette Dunne. She's the best female audiobook reader I've heard (I hope it isn't sexist to say so). However I cringed every time I heard her read Maureen Johnson's opinions of what it means to be a woman, on the character's desires for her father, and (what was probably worst of all) how raising 17 children was merely an exercise in household management. Dunne reads all of this in the tone of the character, but I couldn't help but think about Dunne's internal reaction as she did a professional job as an audiobook reader.
I also cringed at the few passages in which Heinlein indulges in some right-wing educational and political philosophy. But since I'm one of those bleeding-heart tax-the-rich liberals, you should take my reaction with a grain of salt.
Setting that aside (and it's a lot to set aside!) "To Sail Beyond the Sunset" still shows Heinlein near the peak of his skill with words. He paints his future and alternative worlds with an economy of phrase that many of his contemporaries never mastered.
If you'd like to listen to Heinlein's Future History, I strongly recommend other audiobooks: The Green Hills of Earth and The Menace From Earth; after that perhaps Time Enough Fro Love; all these books are prequels to this one. For the best Heinlein, try listening to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Job: A Comedy of Justice, or Stranger in a Strange Land.
I recommend you only come to this one after you listened to other works by Heinlein, so you can accept how some of his fantasies got ahead of reality near the end of his life.
This has always been one of my favorite Heinlein stories
All of the Lazarus Long stories are great
I feel it would have been better with a smokier voice
AKA King Caspian II of Veritasia. (507) 344-0981
I freely admit to being a Heinlein addict. This final masterwork does not disappoint,
The beginning...nothing like starting with a bang!
Bernadette Dunne allowed me to remember far more of the story than when I read it as a paperback.
Yes. Absolutely yes!
My only "complaint" is that as a cycle or series this did not feel "complete" without an audio version of the master's other novel, The Number of The Beast. I hope the people at New Frontiers will take note!
Less ick factor.
No specific character. Just the ick factor. Fathers talking enthusiastically to their daughters about sex, characters running around naked admiring each others' junk, characters banging their family members... oh, you know. It just gets to be a bit too much.
Too dirty. Too awkward. And obviously a woman's perspective written by a man.
Again and again and again as I do with all Heinlein books except one or two. I am a patent Heinlein. I have only ever read two of his books I did not like.
The most memorable was the ending. Loved it. However, there were many high points. Many of her discussions with her father were very stimulating and interesting with multiple themes. Her tale about breaking up with Brian Smith, her first husband, and how she handled his instinctive greediness toward his new family was wonderful. Dealing with her last two children and their incest was also great. As was her reintroduction to Woodrow.
There are many, many moments which are memorable in this book.
Maureen Johnson Smith herself.
When Brian left her for another woman. When Maureen was reintroduced to Woodrow.
I have always believed at least part of this book was polished and finished by his wife, Virginia Heinlein. Robert probably had written a draft of the book, but there is a feminine outlook in this book no other of his books has; and could not have because Robert was so patently MALE.
It has always been one of my favorite Heinlein books, along with Time Enough for Love, Stranger in a Strange Land and (I can't remember the title) the one where 'his' brain was transplanted into a female body. (Darn! I hate those brain farts!)
I wanted to love this novel. But, it's so disjointed with a nonsensical plot, I just couldn't. All the awesomeness in this book you've seen in other Heinlien works, The Howard Foundation especially, which it references heavily.
The main issue is there is no plot. It starts off interestingly enough, with a mystery in the present, but then is content to go back to the 19th century and meander there endlessly. This kind of lack of direction is par for many Heinlien novels, but it's especially pronounced here. I've rarely read a book this disjointed.
It's great, within the confines of the weak material.
If this was your first Heinlien novel, it might be better for you. His themes of sexuality, femininity and self-reliance are always a treat - they're just done so much more expertly in his other work.
My first hardback purchased as a child in the 50's was by RAH. I loved his books up to and including Glory Road (Audible, please produce it!!), and I fully grokked "grok." This piece of trash almost ruined all of them for me. There may be a plot somewhere in this mess, but the ick factor of the incestuous sexual themes and descriptions and the seemingly endless focus on repetitious, badly presented and poorly written sexual encounters, whether they advanced the story or not, thoroughly defeated any effort it made to surface.
I refuse to believe that RAH even contributed to this story, choosing to believe instead that his estate decided to milk one last story from old notes found in a set of "bad idea" story files. The uncoordinated attempts to tie in Hazel Meade, Jubal Harshaw, and even Mycroft Holmes only served to emphasize the the barrenness of the plot, story-line, and general theme of the story.
Even alone in my car as I drove to work or home, I was embarrassed to be listening to "To Sail Beyond Sunset." I truly felt more than once like I would need a good scrubbing if I listened one more second to the production. I never skip, but I used the Sector Advance button more than once in search of something to redeem this whatever it is. I never found it. Audible, a credit refund would be appropriate and very welcome.
I had read all of Heinlein's books over the years and noticed his growing pre-occupation w/sex. Forgot that this book was the culmination of them all w/incest, sex and little else going on in the book of note. There was a storyline but that is what it involved.
I like the narrator but was unable to give many points because couldn't listen to the story after a while
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