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Variable Star  By  cover art

Variable Star

By: Robert A. Heinlein,Spider Robinson
Narrated by: Spider Robinson
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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 listeners say about Variable Star

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Spider WHO

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

105 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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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!

22 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

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.

19 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

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!

19 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Ugh

This book is terrible. When Heinlein is bad, he is tedius. As for the completion written by ... who cares, he just has to inject his leftwing, hate Bush, the West created terrorism, etc. What a jerk. The narrator is AWFUL, and his singing is ghastly. Save your money.

18 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

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.

17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

"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.

16 people found this 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!

16 people found this helpful

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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.

15 people found this helpful

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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.

13 people found this helpful