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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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MOVIE REVIEW | Atlas Shrugged: Part I Thumbnail

Atlas ShruggedIn Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged, the first time we meet Dagny Taggart is on the Taggart Comet. The scene comes alive as Rand’s pen reveals the details such that the reader feels as if he is there. When Dagny awakens from a nap to discover the train has stopped, she gets off to investigate. Ayn Rand writes:

There was a cold wind outside, and an empty stretch of land under an empty sky. She heard weeds rustling in the darkness. Far ahead, she saw figures of men standing by the engine—and above them, hanging detached in the sky, the red light of a signal.

I have often thought Rand would have made an excellent director, and in that single paragraph we can see some of her talent. She appeals to three senses and evokes compelling images in our heads. A director, location scout, sound engineer, set designer, and cinematographer intent on filming such a scene have half their work done for them already. Let us hear the weeds but not see them; let us see Dagny shiver once and hold her coat tighter to her body; let us see a long shot of silhouettes of men bathed in red light from the stoplight that seems to float in the dark sky above them. The appropriate shots present themselves, practically instructing the director.

Before the stop, Dagny hears a brakeman whistling a tune she just knows was composed by Richard Halley.

“Tell me please what are you whistling?”

“It’s the Halley Concerto,” he answered, smiling.

“Which one?”

“The Fifth.”

She let a moment pass before she said slowly and very carefully, “Richard Halley wrote only four concertos.”

The boy’s smile vanished… “Yes, of course,” he said. “I’m wrong. I made a mistake.”

This early scene, which I find excellent and a great mood setter for the rest of the book, is absent from the movie. So too is any trace of the talent for storytelling present in it.

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MOVIE REVIEW | Alien Thumbnail

Could I overpraise the sci-fi horror sensation Alien if I wanted to?  I look through my thesaurus and see words like magnificent, brilliant, exalted, superior, remarkable, exceptional and outstanding and conclude that the English language’s strongest adjectives do no more than justice to the film.  Necessity being the mother of invention, and there being no cinematic achievement whose fitting accolades would be too much for Alien, one must suppose the word that hangs too weighty an ornament on that particular tree has yet to be invented.

It has been over thirty years since it came to the silver screen.  Had the studio done to it what was done to so many Orson Welles films and boxed it away in a vault, it could pull it out today and, without touching a single frame, release it to theaters and nary a soul would suspect a thing.  Understand, I do not mean merely to say that it would play well to modern audiences.  Though indisputably true, there are many older films that can do just that.  I have sat in on a showing of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window as it positively thrilled an audience half a century after its initial release.  No, I mean that few would even pause to consider that the film seemed out of its era.

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