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.
"I'd nominate Spider Robinson as the new Robert Heinlein." (New York Times)
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Do not take any reviews to heart until you've read the first chapter or three for yourself.
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.
While knowing it wasn't Classic Heilein, what I had anticipated was that it would at least attempt to hold mostly true to the man's memory. What I got was L. Ron Hubbard-like story that essentially venerated Bhuddism/Zen instead of Scientology, all the while spewing nothing but vile contempt at mono-theism, mostly directed at Christian and Islamic religions.
There were some interesting thought-provoking theories explored like the possibility that the force behind the destruction of Sol and all its planets might not have been from aliens who wanted to destroy humankind at all but who were at such a higher sentience level than humans that they gave humankind as much thought as humans give the killing of millions of microbes when taking a shower; only then to use that to segue into why the remaining hundred or so humans left should not hate these aliens and ends up making Truther claims out of whole cloth that purport to show where nothing good would come of it.
As to the protagonist and the other characters, there was very little interesting in them; mostly banal and endless discussion of puppy love gone awry eventually leading to his decision to venture off-planet to escape and then the long, dreary droning of every day life on a constrained ship on its passengers 20 year journey to an uncharted planet.
The prose writing style and the author's jocular narration of it was truly an epic example of two blase skills combining to make suffering through the story as grating to my tolerance threshold as any narrated novel as I've ever experienced.
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