Yesterday was the centennial of the birth of science fiction author Robert Anson Heinlein (1907-1988). Heinlein was one of the greatest innovators in the field. In the Golden Age of science fiction, alongside Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, Heinlein mainstreamed science fiction and elevated it from pulp fiction to serious literature. A graduate of the Naval Academy, he served until tuberculosis led to his medical discharge. Later he became involved in Socialist politics and unsuccessfully ran for the California State Assembly. Over time, he embraced a more libertarian political ideology, as many of his works demonstrated.
Last week, Heinlein's literary contributions were celebrated at the Heinlein Centennial Convention in Kansas City.
My favorite of his works is the 1959 classic Starship Troopers. It is a great yarn about a radically different future earth in which military service is a prerequisite for citizenship, and a highly sought-after honor. This novel follows the life of trooper Johnny Rico as Earth battles an alien insect race across interstellar space. Controversial at its release, Heinlein wrote the work in response to a growing advocacy for appeasement with the Communist Bloc among science fiction authors.
I first read Job: A Comedy of Justice about fifteen years ago. It is a satire of evangelical Christianity (at least, an evangelicism from two generations ago, even though it was written in 1984). The main character is a minister who suddenly finds himself in an alternate universe and then experiences the eschaton. The Final Judgment separates him from the woman he loves, and he goes on a quest to find her. This book is theologically preposterous, but a great love story.
What Heinlein books have you read and enjoyed?