Podkayne of Mars

BOOK REVIEW | The Door into Summer by Robert Heinlein Thumbnail

The Door into Summer

The Door into Summer, by Robert Heinlein, is the author’s last adult novel written before his arguably three most famous works: Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. The book benefits from the strong points that every Heinlein novel displays, but in other ways it almost feels like the author was holding back. Like Alfred Hitchcock, Heinlein had some great works mixed in with a lot of decent ones, and the present novel fits squarely into the latter category. In researching it, I came across a quote by John W. Campbell that sums up for me how I feel about certain Heinlein novels, The Door into Summer included: “Bob can write a better story, with one hand tied behind him, than most people in the field can do with both hands. But Jesus, I wish that son of a gun would take that other hand out of his pocket.”

The narrator, Dan Davis, is a gifted engineer who cannot see eye to eye with his business partner and best friend, Miles Gentry. Miles and Dan’s fiancée, Belle, conspire to steal Dan’s company from him and then send him into hibernation for thirty years. He wakes up in the year 2000, destitute, but begins working to build himself back up and maybe get some revenge. Along the way, as Dan investigates what has happened since he was put into the “Long Sleep,” strange clues begin turning up, indicating that there is more going on than he may realize.

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BOOK REVIEW | Podkayne of Mars by Robert Heinlein Thumbnail

Podkayne of Mars by Robert Anson HeinleinWhen Robert Heinlein told a tale, it was with a compelling and engrossing voice.  He created personalities with interest and depth and fashioned dramatic interactions to keep us involved.  However much or little happens to his characters, the experience for us readers is enhanced because we become invested in the people who inhabit his stories.  Even a book like Podkayne of Mars, which one might quibble is a touch underplotted, is a satisfying read because of the investment in the people.

Podkayne Fries, a girl on the verge of womanhood with dreams of becoming an interplanetary ship captain, is the principle narrator and protagonist of the story.  She and her younger brother Clark get an opportunity to accompany their uncle on a voyage to Venus and Earth.  Her uncle, however, is an ambassador and there are those who would interfere with his mission, disdaining no despicable act in their attempts.  That is about all there is to the story structure.  There are a few plot points thrown in – such as the mysterious object Clark smuggles on board, or the solar storm that catches them between planets – and the ending is harrowing, but it becomes clear early on that the novel’s strongest points lie elsewhere.

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