25 December 2014

Books: Starman Jones By Robert Heinlein (1953)

I've not read much of Robert Heinlein novels. And what I did read was well over 30 years ago. But since, in some way, I've decided to read some classic science fiction, I picked up his 1953 "juvenile" novel Starman Jones

Maximilian "Max" Jones is a poor boy from the Ozarks in some dystopic future Earth. He also possesses a talent -eidetic memory- and who dreams of going into space like his dead uncle.When his widowed mother remarries a loathed neer-do-well, he seizes the opportunity and heads off to Earthport with his uncle's books and hope. He falls in with a a quiet man who first betrays him and later befriends him. The Sam want's to go back to space as well and hatches a plan to get them on-board a starship as crew. By good luck, Max -who is very good at math as well as having a perfect memory- gets a chance to apprentice as an astrogator and winds up standing a watch when the head astrogator suddenly dies. Things go from bad to worse when the elderly Captain and the paranoid assistant astrogator manage to muff a Jump and lose them in uncharted space.

It's an enjoyable novel, even if Heinlein's future was not very prophetic -as computers are used to navigate the ship, but they're more like giant pocket calculators than anything else and need humans to operate. Plus the ending is a bit ludicrous -even if Max has the math skills and memory to program the computer to Jump back to their universe, it simply more "magic"than science. The villain -a fellow crew member- is a bit cartoonish and the crew itself get little (especially the women) in the way of full development, but Max is fun enough that book is still a worthy read.

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