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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

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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    285
  • 4 Stars
    171
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    67
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    25
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    10

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    84
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    35
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    10
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Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Sort by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Variable quality

Spider Robinson speaks way too fast. I had trouble following the story because of the breakneck speed of the narration. Parts of the story seemed familiar, containing many puns and phrases RAH used in other novels. Not sorry I bought it, and I want to thank Nr Robinson for completing it for us.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Spider WHO

Spider Robinson, ruined a story started by Heinlein. Don't waste your time, the spider is horrible.

11 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Stick to the Day Job

First of all the narration was poor. Just as in "Rocketship Galileo" Spider sounds like he is mumbling with rocks in his mouth. So, that definately distracts from the book. Just a hint for Spider, stick to the day job, singing is not a forte and also distracts from enjoyment of the book.

Now, about this being the completion of a Heinlein work - NO WAY. There was obvious use of some of the Heinlein word choices and techniques. But, the book in no way could be considered at the Heinlein level. Heinlein had an amazing grasp of what were, in his time, cutting edge technologies and he took great pains to clearly describe these in his books. This book didn't even try to do this. Just when you thought that the author would, he would gloss over anything that started to touch on technical detail, since that would just prove his incompetence in this area.

Heinlein also used his books to experiment with ideas in the way people interact socially. Keeping in mind that that he was writing mostly in the 50's these ideas didn't just follow popular trends, he was out in front of the trends and ideas that became more clear and public in the 60's. Spider's book does none of this. At best he tries to mimic it by falling in with popular liberal ideas that are already out in the public media (for example his view on Iraq). But, he does nothing to push the envelope as Heinlein did.

Despite all these failings, it wasn't a bad book. It is entertaining. Just DO NOT expect to be reading Heinlein. You will be disappointed!

11 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • G.P.S.
  • Greeley, CO United States
  • 05-17-09

"Variable Star" just doesn't make it

I have read this and another "colaberation" with Spider Robinson. This is the worst of the two and clearly neither have the Heinlein touch. It does not move smothly nor does it hold this readers attention as does even the least of the true Heinlein books.

10 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Foul Language Warning

This could have been a much better book had the author used language that Heinlein would have used. Unfortunately, he chose the crudest language available and spoiled the story with it. Heinlein was a master at his writing, but this is not Heinlein. It is sad that mores have devolved to such lows today that such crudeness is expected in novels. I really cannot recommend this book.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Could've Been Great...Ruined by Political Ranting

Would you try another book from Robert A. Heinlein and Spider Robinson and/or Spider Robinson?

I would definitely read more books by Heinlein, but I don't think I would try Spider Robinson again. The story had great potential--it had a sound plot, some very witty/funny moments and interesting Sci-Fi elements. The potential, sadly, was ruined by unnecessary, disjointed rantings on contemporary political issues that had nothing to do with the story.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Variable Star?

They should edit out the entire political ranting scene at the end that was clearly meant to be nothing but criticism of the war in Iraq. Politics or personal feelings aside, it really ruined the book and left a very bad taste in my mouth. The rant was unnecessary. Looking at it almost ten years after the book was written, the rant also badly dated the book. It was a completely unnecessary distraction that ruined the book. I'm also not sure that Robert Heinlein would have agreed with direction that Spider Robinson took that part of this postmortem book--it really made this book less "Heinlein" and more "Robinson"...I would have felt better about it if the book had been credited as by Spider Robinson with ideas borrowed from Heinlein...I didn't think it was fair to Heinlein to stick his name on a book with such rapid political statements without definitely knowing what his feelings would have been on the issue.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

A Big Letdown

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.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • jason
  • portland, OR, United States
  • 06-13-12

Not Heinlein, Not Very Much Fun

What disappointed you about Variable Star?

The plot is kind of ham fisted. I guess I was hoping for something else, something that felt more like classic sf. I dont listen to modern sf and this work reinforces that tendency. There was little wonder, and little joy. It had fascinating bright spots but those would usually be ruined by some character emitting some crappy dialog and spoiling it.

What do you think your next listen will be?

Fountains of Paradise

What didn’t you like about Spider Robinson’s performance?

OMG. I didnt even know Robinson was the narrator, this makes placing the blame much easier. The narration and the prose collude in a schleppy mess that sounds like old Woody Allen, if Woody Allen were a space faring Canadian gentile. There are moments of singing, and they are not nearly brief enough. The main character and narrator seemed smarmy to me. I dont know, if he had a English accent maybe I would have found the whole thing charming and Arthur Dent like.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

I felt like it was a waste of time.

Any additional comments?

I am sure that there are legions of Robinson fans out there that appreciate his work. I am just not one of them.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • 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.

13 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

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!

15 of 21 people found this review helpful