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Double Star

Double Star

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Double Star

3/5 (603 évaluations)
209 pages
3 heures
Oct 17, 2015


Many of Heinlein’s fans consider the novels he wrote in the fifties amongst the author’s strongest work; when he was at the peak of his talents. Double Star is considered by many to be the finest of his titles. Brian Aldiss called it his “most enjoyable novel.”

Whether it is the simplicity of a lively tale, the complexity of the situation, or the depth of characterization, the book has developed a loyal following. It also won Heinlein his first Hugo.

The story revolves around Lawrence Smith—also known as “Lorenzo the Great”—a down-and-out actor wasting the remainder of his life in bars.

When he encounters a space-pilot who offers him a drink, before he knows what is going on, he is on Mars involved in a deep conspiracy with global consequences. He is given a mission where failure would not only mean his own death, it would almost certainly mean an all-out planetary war.

“Heinlein’s novels of the 1940s and 50s shaped every single science fiction writer of my generation and everyone currently writing science fiction. Or making science fiction movies ... and Double Star is an excellent example of all the reasons why.”—Connie Will

Oct 17, 2015

À propos de l'auteur

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) is widely acknowledged to be the most important and influential American science fiction author of the twentieth century. He won science fiction's Hugo Award for Best Novel four times, and in addition, three of his novels were given Retrospective Hugos fifty years after publication. He won Science Fiction Writers of America's first Grand Master Award for his lifetime achievement. Born in Butler, Missouri, Heinlein graduated from the United States Naval Academy and served as an officer in the navy for five years. He started writing to help pay off his mortgage, and his first story was published in Astounding Science-Fiction magazine in 1939. In 1947, he published a story in The Saturday Evening Post, making him the first science-fiction writer to break into the mainstream market. Long involved in politics, Heinlein was deeply affected by events such as the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Cold War, and his fiction tended to convey strong social and political messages. His many influential novels include Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, and Time Enough for Love.

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Double Star - Robert A. Heinlein



Robert A. Heinlein


Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein. Copyright © 1956, 1984 by Robert A. Heinlein, c 2003 by The Robert A. Virginia Heinlein Prize Trust. All Rights Reserved. This book may not be copied or reproduced, in whole or in part, by any means, electronic, mechanical or otherwise without written permission from the publisher except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any actual persons, events or localities is purely coincidental and beyond the intent of the author and publisher.

Tarikian, TARK Classic Fiction, Arc Manor, Arc Manor Classic Reprints, Phoenix Pick, Phoenix Science Fiction Classics, Phoenix Rider, The Stellar Guild Series, Manor Thrift and logos associated with those imprints are trademarks or registered trademarks of Arc Manor, LLC, Rockville, Maryland. All other trademarks and trademarked names are properties of their respective owners.

ISBN (DIGITAL): 978-1-61242-286-2

ISBN (PAPER): 978-1-61242-285-5


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Henry and

Catherine Kuttner


William H. Patterson, Jr.

The Heinlein Scholar

GINNY HEINLEIN loved Colorado Springs. Almost as soon as they were settled in, she began putting down roots. It was so excitingly different from Brooklyn, where she grew up, or Washington and Philadelphia, where she did her wartime Navy service—or from Los Angeles; Western, open—bracing! (And highly entertaining to Robert!)

Ginny was in her element. After running the behind-the-scenes support for the national figure skating competition in 1952, she moved on to dance clubs—five of them at one point—and the local little theatre group, doing costuming and stage management for their 1955 season production of The Teahouse of the August Moon.

After rehearsals, Ginny would casually sweep them all up, cast and crew, for impromptu parties with dancing at her house, and Robert would find himself immersed without warning in a completely different crowd of people—a real change from the rest of his scissorbill neighbors (a scissorbill he defined without capital). Stimulating, that’s what it was. He used his host’s privilege to circulate and chat with anyone who would hold still, and absorbed the details of a whole new world to him, asking careful questions about this or that aspect of stage work—what shade of makeup for a particulate role, Ginny overheard him asking once.

Gradually it dawned on him that the roar of the greasepaint might make an interesting background for the new adult novel he was cooking up for Doubleday—he had a four-book contract with them that had been running since 1950. He was thinking about an unrelated version of The Man in the Iron Mask (always steal from the best!) and he realized amid the chatter that if he set it among actors he could use theatrical royalty instead of Richelieu and the Bourbons—thinking of bourbons, it was time to refresh everybody’s drink….

They were booked to make another long trip in May—to Europe this time, visiting with his brothers. His oldest brother, Colonel Larry, was stationed in Heidelberg with his family, and Rex was taking a year in Switzerland so his (adopted) daughters could go to finishing school. The opportunity was just too good to miss.

He started writing in 1 March 1955, the story falling into place and assembling itself, tick, tick, tick as soon as he had his Great Lorenzo character fleshed out in his mind. Three weeks later, he had a tight, clean 55,000-word manuscript that pleased everyone who read it. Ginny was delighted, and it sailed through the proofing and revision process in just three days. Doubleday took it without hesitation, although Robert was unhappy with the Science Fiction Book Club clause they wrote into the contract. (The book club, with its guaranteed sales to its member list, was a good deal for beginning or more marginal writers, but the lower royalty rate they offered for book club sales cut into his net revenues.)

John Campbell snapped it up for serial publication in Astounding in February, March, and April 1956, with some wondrous cover illustrations by Frank Kelly Freas—particularly the interview scene with His Lunar Majesty, the Emperor of Space and his toy trains.

And the fans liked it, too—so well, in fact, that it was nominated for a new award they had started giving at the 1955 World Science Fiction Convention, named after Hugo Gernsback, the first pulp editor of science fiction. Double Star was given the Hugo Award for Best Novel of 1956 at the 15th World Science Fiction Convention in London in 1957. Robert was out of the country at the time, and in any case no one had bothered to inform him even about the nomination.

Normally, the Hugo is a beautiful, hand-wrought nickel-steel rocket with stabilizing fins, the same shape as the rocket he had designed for Destination Moon in 1950, mounted on a wooden base of some kind. But that year, the manufacture didn’t finish the award in time and the announcements were made without the awards being presented.

Double Star went from printing to printing, in its book club edition particularly, and publishers gradually learned (at Heinlein’s expense) the value of a Hugo Award for marketing purposes—at a tooth-grating reduced royalty of about a nickel per copy. The Science Fiction Book Club was a financial disaster for Heinlein. Fortunately, paperback sales almost made up for it…

Heinlein had been surprised when the Hugo Award showed up with no explanation in his mail in 1958, and he asked around among his friends and colleagues. Someone—probably Cyril Kornbluth—told Heinlein the award had been picked up by Forry Ackerman on his behalf, and he had never bothered to send it along. Kornbluth was maliciously stirring up trouble—for a variety of reasons, Heinlein was already about soured on Forrest J. Ackerman as it was possible to be—but Kornbluth died suddenly that year and never set the record straight. Heinlein remained convinced that that no-good pascoodnyak accepted his Hugo for Double Star without authorization and kept it for a year or more. It was a sore point for decades.

In 1973, the matter came up again, and Forry tried to track down the source of the malicious story and give Heinlein the facts of the case, but the message seems never to have gotten through.

After Heinlein’s death in 1988, Forry was presented with a unique opportunity: Channeling was all the rage in Hollywood that year, and some fan friends set up a séance specifically to channel Robert Heinlein’s spirit from Beyond. Forry was invited to participate.

Now Forrest Ackerman was not a particularly credulous person, but he was willing to play along with the gag. He had his question prepared for the occasion:

I said, "Well, Bob, now that you’re on the astral plane, and you see everything with cosmic viewpoint, how do you feel about Hugo?

The channeler said, Mr. Heinlein is a little puzzled by that question, Mr. Ackerman; he doesn’t know just exactly what you mean. He presumes you’re referring to the French author, Victor Hugo?

(Interview conducted by Dr. Robert James, 9 June 2000)

So the incident was used, after all those years, to debunk a fake psychic. Some good came of it, after all.

Double Star remains one of Heinlein’s best-beloved books—the winner of the first of four Hugos he would ultimately receive, all for Best Novel. This is a record that has never been surpassed.

The other Hugos were for books that challenged their readers, controversial works that provoke outrage and argument even now, forty-plus years later. Double Star shows Heinlein’s other side—ingratiating, tickling, amusing and entertaining without challenging—a peak of his form many fans and readers wish he had never moved off.

But Heinlein had new territories he wanted to explore, and Double Star was written during a time in which he felt increasingly constricted by publishing taboos. Double Star was at the peak of his maturity as a writer within the community and supremely in tune with it—but his own, personal golden age was yet to come.


If a man walks in dressed like a hick and acting as if he owned the place, he’s a spaceman.

It is a logical necessity. His profession makes him feel like boss of all creation; when he sets foot dirtside he is slumming among the peasants. As for his sartorial inelegance, a man who is in uniform nine-tenths of the time and is more used to deep space than to civilization can hardly be expected to know how to dress properly. He is a sucker for the alleged tailors who swarm around every spaceport peddling ground outfits.

I could see that this big-boned fellow had been dressed by Omar the Tentmaker—padded shoulders that were too big to start with, shorts cut so that they crawled up his hairy thighs as he sat down, a ruffled chemise that might have looked well on a cow.

But I kept my opinion to myself and bought him a drink with my last half Imperial, considering it an investment, spacemen being the way they are about money. Hot jets! I said as we touched glasses. He gave me a quick glance.

That was my initial mistake in dealing with Dak Broadbent. Instead of answering, Clear space! or, Safe grounding! as he should have, he looked me over and said softly, A nice sentiment, but to the wrong man. I’ve never been out.

That was another good place to keep my mouth shut. Spacemen did not often come to the bar of Casa Mañana; it was not their sort of hotel and it’s miles from the port. When one shows up in ground clothes, seeks a dark corner of the bar, and objects to being called a spaceman, that’s his business. I had picked that spot myself so that I could see without being seen—I owed a little money here and there at the time, nothing important but embarrassing. I should have assumed that he had his reasons, too, and respected them.

But my vocal cords lived their own life, wild and free. Don’t give me that, shipmate, I replied. If you’re a groundhog, I’m Mayor of Tycho City. I’ll wager you’ve done more drinking on Mars, I added, noticing the cautious way he lifted his glass, a dead giveaway of low-gravity habits, than you’ve ever done on Earth.

Keep your voice down! he cut in without moving his lips. "What makes you sure that I am a voyageur? You don’t know me."

Sorry, I said. You can be anything you like. But I’ve got eyes. You gave yourself away the minute you walked in.

He said something under his breath. How?

Don’t let it worry you. I doubt if anyone else noticed. But I see things other people don’t see. I handed him my card, a little smugly perhaps. There is only one Lorenzo Smythe, the One-Man Stock Company. Yes, I’m The Great Lorenzo—stereo, canned opera, legit—Pantomimist and Mimicry Artist Extraordinary.

He read my card and dropped it into a sleeve pocket—which annoyed me; those cards had cost me money, genuine imitation hand engraving. I see your point, he said quietly, but what was wrong with the way I behaved?

I’ll show you, I said. I’ll walk to the door like a groundhog and come back the way you walk. Watch. I did so, making the trip back in a slightly exaggerated version of his walk to allow for his untrained eye—feet sliding softly along the floor as if it were deck plates, weight carried forward and balanced from the hips, hands a trifle forward and clear of the body, ready to grasp.

There are a dozen other details which can’t be set down in words; the point is you have to be a spaceman when you do it, with a spaceman’s alert body and unconscious balance—you have to live it. A city man blunders along on smooth floors all his life, steady floors with Earth-normal gravity, and will trip over a cigarette paper, like as not. Not so a spaceman.

See what I mean? I asked, slipping back into my seat.

I’m afraid I do, he admitted sourly. Did I walk like that?


Hmm.... Maybe I should take lessons from you.

You could do worse, I admitted.

He sat there looking me over, then started to speak—changed his mind and wiggled a finger at the bartender to refill our glasses. When the drinks came, he paid for them, drank his, and slid out of his seat all in one smooth motion. Wait for me, he said quietly.

With a drink he had bought sitting in front of me, I could not refuse. Nor did I want to; he interested me. I liked him, even on ten minutes’ acquaintance; he was the sort of big ugly-handsome galoot that women go for and men take orders from.

He threaded his way gracefully through the room and passed a table of four Martians near the door. I didn’t like Martians. I did not fancy having a thing that looks like a tree trunk topped off by a sun helmet claiming the privileges of a man. I did not like the way they grew pseudo limbs; it reminded me of snakes crawling out of their holes. I did not like the fact that they could look all directions at once without turning their heads—if they had had heads, which of course they don’t. And I could not stand their smell!

Nobody could accuse me of race prejudice. I didn’t care what a man’s color, race, or religion was. But men were men, whereas Martians were things. They weren’t even animals to my way of thinking. I’d rather have had a warthog around me any day. Permitting them in restaurants and bars used by men struck me as outrageous. But there was the Treaty, of course, so what could I do?

These four had not been there when I came in, or I would have whiffed them. For that matter, they certainly could not have been there a few moments earlier when I had walked to the door and back. Now there they were, standing on their pedestals around a table, pretending to be people. I had not even heard the air conditioning speed up.

The free drink in front of me did not attract me; I simply wanted my host to come back so that I could leave politely. It suddenly occurred to me that he had glanced over that way just before he had left so hastily and I wondered if the Martians had anything to do with it. I looked over at them, trying to see if they were paying attention to our table—but how could you tell what a Martian was looking at or what it was thinking? That was another thing I didn’t like about them.

I sat there for several minutes fiddling with my drink and wondering what had happened to my spaceman friend. I had hoped that his hospitality might extend to dinner and, if we became sufficiently simpatico, possibly even to a small temporary loan. My other prospects were—I admit it!—slender. The last two times I had tried to call my agent his autosecretary had simply recorded the message, and unless I deposited coins in the door, my room would not open to me that night.... That was how low my fortunes had ebbed: reduced to sleeping in a coin-operated cubicle.

In the midst of my melancholy ponderings a waiter touched me on the elbow. Call for you, sir.

Eh? Very well, friend, will you fetch an instrument to the table?

Sorry, sir, but I can’t transfer it. Booth 12 in the lobby.

Oh. Thank you, I answered, making it as warm as possible since I was unable to tip him. I swung wide around the Martians as I went out.

I soon saw why the call had not been brought to the table; No. 12 was a maximum-security booth, sight, sound, and scramble. The tank showed no image and did not clear even after the door locked behind me. It remained milky until I sat down and placed my face within pickup, then the opalescent clouds melted away and I found myself looking at my spaceman friend.

Sorry to walk out on you, he said quickly, but I was in a hurry. I want you to come at once to Room 2106 of the Eisenhower.

He offered no explanation. The Eisenhower is just as unlikely a hotel for spacemen as Casa

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Ce que les gens pensent de Double Star

603 évaluations / 36 Avis
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Avis des lecteurs

  • (3/5)
    For many, this is is their favorite Heinlein novel, sitting in the sweet spot of his transition from young adult novels, without the issues of The Puppet Masters. It's for adults, not because there's any sex, but because it's almost all about politics. I can understand why this may be so. It's compulsively readable, despite my critiques to come. The political view is aggressively inclusive. The sexism is typical for 1950's American SF, but not a dominating factor. So why is this not my favorite Heinlein? I don't mind that the book is almost all dialog and monologue, but why then have an opening chapter straight out of a pulp mystery magazine? It's surprisingly weak as science fiction. The story of an actor hired to impersonate a politician kidnapped at a crucial point in his career could easily have been told with no SF elements. The action moves around from Earth to Mars to the Moon, but, like a cheap B movie, stays almost always indoors, with no serious use of the changing locales. The major outdoor scene on Mars, when our hero has to make peace with the Martians, reads just like a pow-wow with Native Americans in the desert. Even its link with Heinlein's post-hoc Future History is limited mostly to passing references to torch ships.Recommended for adults looking to see how Heinlein's writing worked, when it worked well, and not particularly interested in SF. But my favorite Heinlein remains Citizen of the Galaxy.
  • (3/5)
    This is a book I would have loved as a kid. Feels dated now. Glad I read it but I was thankful it was short.
  • (4/5)
    This was a pretty good book...hope for things to come? (I'm reading his novels in publication order.)

    One observation: a book based on a premise of overcoming prejudice ought not to have racist phrases out of the context of the moral being imparted; phrases such as "make heap big smoke"

    Two particular likes:
    1 - a character referred to the Communist fear phase (of the fifties) as the New Dark Ages. I like that and will borrow it for what I think the right wingers are creating today.
    2 - "Sounding spontaneous is a matter of careful preparation."
  • (4/5)
    Good. Interesting fast paced read.
  • (4/5)
    This is a nice little study of an actor in the very challenging role of having to perfectly emulate a well known public figure--not only to the voters, but to his intimates. It is also a portrait of an insecure, superficially polished, down at the heels man who, though he has great belief in his talents and skill, achieved that skill through his father's abuse, and is a lonely and isolated individual. Through his involvement with a mission he had no personal interest in he is changed in many ways.Not to mention a well paced adventure story.
  • (4/5)
    I read Stranger in a Strange Land and could barely get through it, so I was not looking forward to reading Double Star. Luckily, they almost seem like they were written by totally different people. Double Star has an engaging plot that is easy to follow and moves at a great clip - everything that Stranger in a Strange Land lacks.
  • (3/5)
    An interesting read, a little too heavy on the libertarianism for me.
  • (4/5)
    This lovable out-of-work actor ends up Supreme Minister of the Empire, retains his humility, and gets the girl. It's evidently a what-if game played with the history of the Lincoln assassination. Very endearing.
  • (3/5)
    An interesting read, a little too heavy on the libertarianism for me.
  • (4/5)
    This was just fun to read. The narrator made me laugh with his observations & sky high opinion of himself.The political intrigue was paced well & I thoroughly enjoyed it. A quick & easy read.
  • (4/5)
    This was delightful. I just finished Starship Troopers and hated the lectures, characters and the plot. In this the main character is fantastic, the author's own opinions more muted and the plot, although not original, is engaging.
  • (3/5)
    You can tell right away that Double Star is from the fifties - almost all sci-fi elements feel ridiculously anachronistic. There are rocket ships, but you still need to dial the operator when you use your car phone; at least two other alien races exist but microfilm is still in use and every executive have a female secretary.

    Luckily the futuristic stuff are more of a backdrop to the straightforward political intrigue that is the plot.
    The narration is heavy on dialogue but is easy to get in to and avoids being lecturing and retrospective.

    In the beginning I felt that Smythe, the narcissistic and self delusional main character, was going to be an 'unreliable narrator' and make me guess what part of the plot really happened. I am a little disappointed that this didn't happen. That being said, I very much liked how the story was told. A pleasant surprise all in all.
  • (4/5)
    What would you do if a politician's staff came to you and asked you to be the man's double for a few days because he had been kidnapped? Especially if you were an actor with an enormous ego? Would you turn them down or would you think that this would be an incredible opportunity to show just how good an actor you were?This is the premise of Double Star. It's not a long book, in fact, it's a pretty quick read. However, the situation that the protagonist finds himself in doesn't need very much room to be told. It's a who-dun-it but also an excellent look at the politics of the 1950s on Earth as well as at the author's future history. The 1950s were far from boring, even if President Eisenhower was not the most charismatic man eve to sit in the Oval Office. Between the Cold War, bush wars popping out all over the world (the Vietnam War actually started in 1948 -- we were simply late-comers to it), and angry words were exchanged between even the best of political friends. It was the time of the Communist Conspiracy (which never really existed), Wisconsin's own Joe MacCarthy, and nightmares for every child on earth. Somehow, Heinlein manages to weave all this into his tale of intrigue and ego, and come up with a story about a not so likable man who, because he has to "become" a great leader, actually learns how to lead. This is not a great, earth-changing story. It is, however, one that I come back to every once in a while because it shares that one thing all the Master's books possess -- good writing.
  • (4/5)
    This is a lesser known Heinlein compared to 'Moon', 'Stranger' and 'Troopers' but is as entertaining. I felt that the first half of the novel was better than the last one.
  • (4/5)
    This isn't my favorite Robert Heinlein book, and it's not in my opinion his best book, nor his most famous book, but it may very well be his most fun--science fiction writer Brian Aldiss thought so. It's one of only four of Heinlein novels that won him a Hugo in his lifetime. (The others were Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.) Lorenzo Smythe, an actor who bills himself as the "Great Lorenzo" is shanghaied to Mars and offered the role of a lifetime--to impersonate a kidnapped Mars politician and thus avert interplanetary war. The fun comes from seeing Lorenzo grow into, and play, his role. The book isn't perhaps as thought-provoking as Starship Troopers and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but it does have interesting things to say about politics and politicians and has plenty of intrigue and adventure. It's told by Lorenzo himself and he's one of Heinlein's most vivid characters--as befits an actor a fine observer of people around him. The book was published in 1956, and sure, some details social and technological are dated, but it's still tremendously...yeah fun.
  • (4/5)
    Try this for a scenario: It's 1968. President John Kennedy is just finishing up his second term in office.The President asks for time on television to talk to the nation. He reveals a deep dark secret: He's NOT John Kennedy. John F. Kennedy was asassinated in Dallas in 1963 BUT the Democratic Party quickly and secretly hired a good actor to take his place and carry out his programs for the good of the nation I imagine he would just about get that far before the nation rose up in a body and tore him and everyone who supported the mascarade limb from limbYet that is the exact premise of Double Star by far my favorite of all Robert A Heinlein's novels. It's about a down on his luck actor who gets picked up to double "temporarily" for a leading political figure who has been kidnapped - and then falls ill. But the politico dies - and the actor is asked to stay with the role - perhaps for life!What's striking is that nobody asks the question - is it ethical for the party and the actor to lie to all the people on four planets who voted for "John Joseph Bonforte" and are going to be handed four years of some "actor fellow" pretending to be Bonforte instead? Yes, a political leader is not a man but a team we get that. But if the leader of the team dies - then it's a new team? Right?In the middle of having fun throwing around theatrical slang in the Space Age Heinlein seems to have ignored the main question - would "Bonforte" who believed in honest dealing and open government - agree to have his place taken by a small time (if very well intentioned) actor? Forever? I suspect not. And people in politics who believe that the solar system would end in fire and flood if their man and their party were out of office give me a quick pain in the you-know-where. Anyway the book is a good read and short. But if I could conjure up the ghost of Bob Heinlein, that's the first thing I would ask him.
  • (4/5)
    Double Star is a much more straightforward adventure novel than Heinlein's other famous books, but as such it is very successful. The setting is imaginative, the main character flawed and interesting and there are plenty of sticky situations. Maybe not a masterpiece, but a very enjoyable piece of craftsmanship nevertheless. It does have some interesting insights into politics, and so isn't entirely void of food for thought either.
  • (4/5)
    Vintage Heinlein, more overtly political than usual. Predicted the fall of Communism in 1956, but more as an Article of Faith than for any explicit reason. Still a good story, even with the now-antiquated (and ultimately anachronistic) technology -- he was always extrapolating the use of computers, but kept using slide rules; his 'hush cones' almost made it to cell phones but not quite. His political philosophy is civilized libertarianism; characters are just place-holders, although Lorenzo clearly had the same qualities as Bonforte, just nascent in the beginning.Quote on final page from Voltaire (maybe?): "If Satan should ever replace God he would find it necessary to assume the attributes of Deity."What Voltaire missed is that Satan would fail, which is why he is not the Savior: he didn't have the capacity to become Deity. In a more secular mode, some people elected to the Presidency fail, spectacularly in some cases, to assume the attributes of the office. Ditto small-minded men elevated to a throne.
  • (3/5)
    Reasonably entertaining tale of an actor recruited to stand in for a kidnapped political party leader. Comes with all the usual trappings of 50s/60s science fiction, where men are men and women are secretaries, and engineers pilot their rockets using slide rules.
  • (4/5)
    One of Heinlein's best, in which down-and-out actor Lorenzo Smythe is drafted as a body-double for a famous statesman. The description of how he does this is fascinating, as is the story of how he has to keep doing it. Lorenzo is an appealing character despite his manifest weaknesses and follies, and actually manages to evolve. An interesting slant on the world of politics -- written in the mid-1950's, years before Reagan began to build a political career.
  • (5/5)
    A great short book for thinking about acting and politics. Written for the YA audience, readable by all. SF, but applicable to those who are not particularly enthralled by that genre if they can stomach a little unreality in the mix.
  • (3/5)
    A quick and moderately fun read but definitely not meeting my expectations. The book overall was quickly paced with little real story. Basically it touched on racism as the main theme but I found the main character to be mostly unbelievable.
  • (3/5)
    This is sort of a retelling of "The Prisoner of Zenda," and the plot succeeds or fails based on whether or not you buy the possibility that, with just a little grease paint and some talent, one man could pass himself off as another, at close range, to people who knew him. The other part of the story is that this man whom you are impersonating is a key political figure in the story of mankind reaching out to the stars. He brings an end to human-centered government, and xenophobic relations between Earth and the other inhabited planets in our Solar System. Heinlein takes on this sort of theme much more powerfully later in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress." This book is more of a romp, with some stuff to think about just coming along for the ride. How different was the world of late 1950's sf publishing. Novels could be 140 pages long. No need for warp drive in order to meet aliens (though some sort of relativity drive makes it possible to get from the Earth to Mars in a matter of weeks), because they're right here! They live on Venus, and Mars, of course. Did we really know so little about conditions on Mars as to think big people-sized creatures could live there, in 1956? Hard to imagine we were that ignorant still. Of course, we had still not one satellite in orbit in 1956, let alone sent any robot vehicles off to the Moon and planets. But canals with shrimp growing in them? And an atmosphere that would allow someone to breath, albeit only for a short period. Mars would kill you in a matter of minutes, it's barely better than the Moon. Several themes of Heinlein's later work are on display here, though he develops them a lot more later on. His whole interest in the impersonating schtick is to explore what it would be like to inhabit another person's...life. In a later work, he has an old man taking over a young woman's body ("Time Enough for Love"). All of this raises interesting questions about what is it I'm talking about when I say "I"? Also, the motif/theme/whatever it is of the Wise Old Man is here, in the person of the politician, Bonforte. He's not preaching and pontificating yet, as he will in later novels, but he is there. I enjoyed reading this, but be prepared for some major boners in future-prediction. There are mountains of microfilm filling up vaults on the Moon, which I'm guessing the "robot brains" (computers) can read somehow. Slide rules still...rule. As another reviewer here said, it's more Ruritania than sf, but what the hey. Give it a read.
  • (3/5)
    This is an interesting book about political intrigue and the inner workings of a possible interplanetary, interspecies government. This book shows the rivalry of political dissidents as well as a loyalty not often seen in people today.
  • (4/5)
    I like visions of the future from the 1950's. There's always an overload of microfilmed data.
  • (4/5)
    This is one of Heinlein's best.
  • (3/5)
    This book could be described as a lightweight romp from Heinlein, very entertaining and very readable, except for the philosophical discussions that RAH always manages to insinuate into his stories.Lorenzo Smythe - an actor tagged the Great (especially in his own mind) and whose career is stalled (to put it politely) takes on the role of a lifetime as the impersonator of a major politician in the Galactica. Through his need to mimic this man in entirety we learn about the society of the time, the beliefs of his cadre and the changes being attempted and challenged to the order of the day.It must be emphasised that this book was written many years ago - which can be seen in the writing, in the characterisations of the main players and with some of the obvious outdated technological descriptions - but the xenophobic attitudes, the cynical political manoeuvring and the social structures are still relevant today.Despite the sometimes incredulous assumption of the ease in which the whole deception is delivered I liked Heinlein's description of the structure and philosophy of alien societies, I liked his almost inexhaustible desire for impassioned, innovative men to succeed and I was left to contemplate whether, with enough knowledge, enough innate ability and enough desire, one's own persona can be totally transformed.Light on the science fiction, weak with an improbable premise of a plot - and despite the constraints of the writing of the time - the story still manages to throw up quite a few intelligent questions for a reader to ponder.I read this for a group read on this site and I'm glad I did.
  • (4/5)
    One of the more enjoyable Heinlein works, from his early period. The book gets a little bogged down, as his tend to do, with political discussion, but overall it's a good story. The tale begins with a down on his luck actor being hired to be a stand-in for a famous opposition politician, who has been kidnapped. One thing leads to another, and, well, he has so stay in character somewhat longer than originally intended. It's a fast read, but well worth the time
  • (4/5)
    This is an interesting book of Heinlein's, one that I picked up well after I had read most of his standards. It seems transitional, in that he is moving away from the straightforward space writing in "Starship Troopers" and moving towards the social and political writing that would make him famous in the Sixties with "A Stranger in a Strange Land." As such it has elements of both worlds, but isn't in either of them.In this book an actor is hired to be a body double for an incapacitated politician during a delicate phase of diplomacy with Mars and the Martians. That really is the essential plot. It is all from one point of view, and the plot unfolds quite linearly, with only a few twists.The characters are starting to sound a lot like they will in Heinlein's later books, particularly like Jubal Harshaw will later. Now, Heinlein was never afraid to have characters stand around and explain why his philosophy of the world was right, but previously that had been subsumed by other things, whereas here it is starting to come further into the foreground. The other major difference here to his earlier career is that there is no military involvement at all in this novel.One huge difference between this and what will come later is the lone female character: late his females will be hyper-compentent, able to do anything kind of gals. This one is a little useless. In most scenes she cries, and she even faints twice. It's a bit embarassing, really. To contrast that, however, there is a strong message of racial tolerance in this book. One of the characters is incredibly afraid of and bigoted towards Martians and is shown the error of his ways. Considering that the book was written in 1956, it was a bold statement.Overall, if you've ever enjoyed a Heinlein book you'll enjoy this one, and if you've always loathed his writing, this won't change your mind. I for one, enjoyed it quite a bit.
  • (3/5)
    Only a little dated, cool idea, not deep or trying to be shocking like other books by Heinlien.