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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.

Critic Reviews

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

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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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.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Michael
  • East Peoria, IL, United States
  • 07-01-07


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

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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!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Rodney
  • El Cajon, CA, USA
  • 10-16-08

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

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  • Karen
  • Seattle, WA, USA
  • 09-03-07

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 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.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

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.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

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

  • Overall

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

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Spider Robinson Lives Up to His Billing

Yes, he really IS the true successor to Heinlein. I've known so since reading "Lady Slings the Booze". I remember checking the cover several times to make sure that it wasn't actually R.A.H. who had been the author. When I read the description of the background of this book, my reaction was "Well, who else could even come close?" I was not dissapointed. This is vintage Heinlein presented by his top pupil. Well done, Spider Robinson, or as they say in the Navy, Bravo Zulu!

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  • Dale
  • Northampton, PA United States
  • 12-11-16

great read for sf buffs

except that the author had knowledge of Heinlein's future, this could have been a classic 50's novel when Heinlein's classic fore thought