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Variable Star | [Robert A. Heinlein, Spider Robinson]

Variable Star

At his death in 1988, Robert A. Heinlein left a legacy that almost single-handedly defined modern science fiction. But one of Heinlein's masterpieces was never finished. In 1955, he began work on Variable Star, a powerful and passionate tale of two young lovers driven apart by pride, power, and the vastness of interstellar time and space. Now, the Heinlein estate has authorized award-winning author Spider Robinson to expand his outline into a full-length novel. And the result is vintage Heinlein.
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Publisher's Summary

At his death in 1988, Robert A. Heinlein left a legacy of novels and short stories that almost single-handedly defined modern science fiction. But one of Heinlein's masterpieces was never finished. In 1955, he began work on Variable Star, a powerful and passionate tale of two young lovers driven apart by pride, power, and the vastness of interstellar time and space. Then he set it aside to focus on other novellas.

The detailed outline and notes he created for this project lay forgotten for decades, only to be rediscovered almost a half century later. Now the Heinlein estate has authorized award-winning author Spider Robinson to expand that outline into a full-length novel. The result is vintage Heinlein, faithful in style and spirit to the Grand Master's original vision.

©2006 The Robert A. and Virginia Heinlein Prize Trust and Spider Robinson; (P)2007 Blackstone Audio Inc.

What the Critics Say

"I'd nominate Spider Robinson as the new Robert Heinlein." (New York Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (411 )
5 star
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4.3 (200 )
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Story
4.3 (195 )
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Michael East Peoria, IL, United States 07-01-07
    Michael East Peoria, IL, United States 07-01-07 Member Since 2005
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    "BRVO!"

    First things first. Robert Heinlein is not Spider Robinson or vice versa. That little blurb about "nomination" is the stupidest thing I've ever heard, and it doesn't pay apropriate tribute to either author.

    That being said,this book is just Heinleinesque enough to deserve his name in the title, but it is definitely written by Spider Robinson. Puns both bad and good abound. Marijuana and other chemicals are widely used by the characters, there are a few dirty words. The hero is a musician. In all of these regards the book is very Spider Robinsonesque.

    The Heinleinesque part of "Variable Star" is that in many ways this is a rewritten version of "Time for the Stars". Not that this is a bad thing. It is never bad to take on an original idea and either improve it or twist it.

    As for the book itself I really enjoyed it. I loved it. I thought Spider Robinson did a great job. This is a book true to its form, and I for one, want another; A sequel.

    The only problem that I have with "Variable Star" is that the ending left too many unanswered questions. Do the Colonists make it to Bravo? What colony worlds end up being destroyed by radiation storms? What ever becomes of Conrad of Conrad? What happens to the little monk? And most importantly, who are the mysterious alien enemies to mankind? I demand another book. Or two or three. However many books it takes to fill out the plot.

    As for the narration. The author did a good job except for his singing. Not so much a bad singing voice I suppose, nor even a bad song, but maybe the song goes better with the accompanyment of music. Accapella just didn't cut it. Besides the song, the narrarator does an excellent job. At least as well or better than his other two narrations. Except Spider Robinson should have given "Callahan an Irish brougue in Callahan's Legacy." I Haven't quite forgiven that one yet, but he did a fine job on "Rocket Ship Galileo", and he has done a fine job on this narration. BRAVO!

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mike Hart California 09-26-11
    Mike Hart California 09-26-11 Member Since 2003
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    "sad"

    I love Robert Heinlein and I have read and enjoyed Spider Robinson since Callahan's! I hate writing a negative review, but I just couldn't finish the book. Perhaps I have outgrown the style or something. There was just too much jocularity, exaggeration, over the top situations, I don't know... just too much grinning by the author/reader. I felt like they were winking and nudging me at every sentence until I finally just gave up. Sorry Spider, I really love your work!

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rodney El Cajon, CA, USA 10-16-08
    Rodney El Cajon, CA, USA 10-16-08 Member Since 2003
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    "Robinson is no Heinlein"

    Contrary to what the critics have said Spider Robinson is no Heinlein. By the time I was an hour or so into the book I knew what the final outcome would be, at least as pertained to our hero, and the rest was just minor details. I've never been able to anticipate a Heinlein book in the same way. Robinson is also more crass than Heinlein ever was, spelling out things that Heinlein only left to the imagination. If I had borrowed this from the library first I would never have bought it.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Seattle, WA, USA 09-03-07
    Karen Seattle, WA, USA 09-03-07
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    "Not a great effort...not awful either."

    I have two issues with this novel. Let's get the narration out of the way first. Spider Robinson is a fun writer most times. He is however quite lacking as a narrator. Perhaps it is simply I do not take to his habit of speaking with an odd and inconsistent cadence. to me his speaking lacks real rhythm. I simply find myself distracted because I am spending more time thinking "...this guy needs to have three less pots coffee's before reading and to SLOW DOWN..." So, basically the narration style is distracting...for me.

    Now, the second part is...the story is plodding and very predictable. It is not even to the level of a RAH junior novel. The basic story line is not much different than Citizen of the Galaxy. Maybe because it was likely the work Heinlein used to write Citizen. This story seemed to lack any real focus or, strangely enough, no character development. If anything Heinlein was a master at developing humanist SF. And, sure this is not RAH's work really. But for me it was simply Spider Robinson piggy backing the RAH name. A valiant effort for certain. It simply feel far short of a solid novel for me.

    And Spider, please slow down and enunciate...you know your works...give us that not some that feels, well, in a hurry to get back to the bar where you can cash the extra check for doing the narration.

    I just feel badly for writing such a negative review...but I was greatly disappointed in this audiobook and story. I do think it is worth a listen if you lower your expectations somewhat.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jim "The Impatient" Springfield, MO, United States 08-18-12
    Jim "The Impatient" Springfield, MO, United States 08-18-12 Member Since 2010

    I will listen to NO boring book. Old Fav's,Card, King , Hobb. New Fav's, Hill, Scalzi, Sawyer, Interested in Lansdale, Crouch, Konrath

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Anger is Fear in Disguise"

    The first six chapters are very funny and sound a lot like something written in 1955. RH's very conservative values really come through and he takes a stab at nepotism which I really like. The whole book is an internal monologue of the main character.

    When the main character leaves Earth the book take a drastic change in style, mood and values. There is no more laughing, the language becomes crude, and it becomes a soap opera. There still are some good parts but it is no where near as good as the beginning.

    I am not a big fan of publishing material in an authors' name after he is gone. RH started this in 1955, yet he never finished it and he never tried to publish it. There had to be a reason. Maybe he did not want his name on something until he was happy with it. He also never in his life had a co author and there was probably a reason for that. Robert A. Heinlein means something when it is on the cover of a book and RH may have not wanted that soiled in any way.

    I did give the book four stars, because of the first six chapters and chapters 17 and 18.

    My favorite Heinlein books are: The Green Hills of Earth, Starman Jones, Double Star, Have Spacesuit Will Travel and Starship Trooper.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cletus van Damme 04-16-11
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    "Oh, the humanity!"

    I nearly lost my lunch when Spider Robinson started singing "On the Road to the Stars" in the first ten minutes of this recording. Oh, the humanity! It was the worst thing I have ever heard. He has a deep, slightly nasal voice and I truly enjoyed his narration of "Rocket Ship Galileo," but I could not continue listening after he began singing. I have only heard one narrator sing successfully -- Patrick Tull singing sea shanties in the Aubrey-Maturin novels. Tull was one-in-a-million. No one else should even try. They should post a large sign in the recording studio that says, "No singing during narration." Robinson has recently lost his wife to cancer and I extend my sympathies to him, but they do not include finishing this book.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marco Corinth, TX, United States 09-30-07
    Marco Corinth, TX, United States 09-30-07 Member Since 2001
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    "Must Read"

    I listened to this book just after finishing "Have Spacesuit Will Travel." I was blown away by how well Spider Robinson captured the feel and pacing of Robert Heinlein in writing this story. Having loaded both books into my MP3 player, I went from the end of one to the start of the other . . . and it was pretty nice.

    I would suggest you take the time to listen to this story.

    5 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Louis South San Francisco, CA 07-30-07
    Louis South San Francisco, CA 07-30-07 Member Since 2006
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    "Nice new twist!"

    I enjoyed this book, very well narrated. Had a nice mix of Heinlein with some nice new twists. That is the great thing of having a work put together by 2 authors, you get the best of both worlds. I really enjoyed the new twist to the Heinlein style made with Spider's humor. Although that may be disturbing to some, I loved it! I really enjoyed the roomate/writer character too. You guys are right, a sequel will be necessary, the story seems to have been just cut off in a rush.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mysie Cairns Seattle, WA 12-24-13
    Mysie Cairns Seattle, WA 12-24-13 Member Since 2013

    bibliophile

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    "Spider Robinson made this book come to life"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Variable Star to be better than the print version?

    I've never read a print version of this book, but I can safely say that the narration made this book come to life in a way not possible in print.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Most of the characters either weren't very likeable or not developed enough to truly appreciate them. The main character had my sympathies, and by the end of the book I was rooting for him, but I'm not sure how much I actually liked the guy. My favorite characters were probably Sol(omon) and Ms. Rob, as they both seemed quite interesting and very likeable, but they weren't developed enough to know them as much as I would have liked.


    What does Spider Robinson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He was incredibly engaging. As with all narrators, there is the obligatory random distraction of wondering about their voice, accent and inflections, pronunciations, and pauses. Having the knowledge that the narrator was also a co-author, it was easy just to relax into the idea that you were listening in on the true inner-monologue and speaking cadence of the main character, allowing you to just accept the voice quirks and listen to the story.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    I had a very extreme reaction to this book. First, I have to say this is the best first chapter of a book I have ever read. Dickens may have written the best first line in a book, but Spider Robinson's verbal delivery of the first chapter had me nailed to my spot and weeping. Do not take to heart any comments about his singing voice until you have actually heard it for yourself. I can only assume there is something about his voice that you will either love or hate. I am mystified by other reviews picking at his voice and trashing his singing. I found the lyrics and their delivery haunting.

    Also, this book has convinced me that I have to read another Spider Robinson novel immediately. I have never even heard of the guy until I bought this audiobook, and now I anticipate he will be another favorite.


    Any additional comments?

    Do not take any reviews to heart until you've read the first chapter or three for yourself.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Max United States 10-24-13
    Max United States 10-24-13 Member Since 2011
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    "enjoyable easy book"

    Heinlein's name drove the decision to purchase this book even though I knew that it was really written by Spider Robinson. The story is simple. The ending is happy, so to speak. All in all - I enjoyed listening to the story but it's not something I would go back again and again, like some other Heinlein's books.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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