Best of Science Fiction #46 – Robert Heinlein, “Time Enough for Love”

Year of Publication: 1973
Subgenres: space, man++, mary sue, sex-fi, long

The premise: A wise old man who is definitely not the author is cajoled by his many adoring fans descendants into passing on his amazing stores of wisdom about sex love.

My experience: I admit I went into this already biased against it, having not enjoyed most of my previous encounters with Mr. Heinlein. I am relieved to find that I would have hated this book even if someone else had written it.

The main character, I think he was supposed to be a Solomon figure, but he reads much more like a Mary Sue: every other character in the story (and it is a LONG story, the audiobook was 25 hours, count them, TWENTY FIVE) reveres him. They literally bring him back from the brink of death just so that they can (a) record his wisdom and (b) have his babies. Yep. Women are just constantly throwing themselves at this guy, for no reason I can see other than he is the oldest man alive and therefore has valuable genes?, he keeps rejecting them and eventually they just take his genes while he’s sleeping and have his babies anyway. Even the flippin computer downloads herself into a meatbody so she can have his baby.

Then there are a lot of tedious stories about his past, where he’s living in frontier days on colony worlds, lecturing us on how to be self-sufficient and outsmarting everyone he can’t seduce. Borrred.

There are also a couple of chapters (short ones, mercifully) of nothing but his proverbs. (If you want to read them, google “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long.”) Give me a BREAK.

All the Heinlein bingo boxes are checked: HEY YOU JOIN THE NAVY? Check, twice, at least. Clothes are stupid, let’s be nudists? Check. Capitalism is the BEST let’s sit through a thrilling board meeting? You better believe the words “non-voting stock” appear.

And then there’s the sex. This book is allll about the sex. Ten years ago, I might have been scandalized to read it, Heinlein seems determined to throw as many taboos as he can think of in your face and say LOOK, THESE ARE SILLY, LOOK AT HOW ADVANCED THE FUTURE IS… and all I gotta say is, the future’s got nothing on Capitol Hill, Seattle. (If you don’t believe me just google Boe Oddissey.) So I’m not shocked, just kinda grossed out. Look, I GET that the main argument against incest is genetic, but does that mean you need to travel back in time and go Full Oedipus on us? Ugh.

The grossest part, though (ok, maybe the second grossest, hard to top dude asking to drink his mom’s breast milk, is the unabashed paternalism. Lazarus Long always knows what’s best for a woman, and very rarely can she do something unless he oh so graciously ALLOWS it. It’s all the grosser for trying to hard to portray these women as fiercely independent, don’t-need-no-man, badass-genius-sexually-empowered-blah-blah-blah.

Look, if you’re looking for real and meaningful philosophical discussions on the meaning of love and sex and whatever, don’t turn to science fiction. Turn to philosophy, they do it better. And if you’re looking for erotic stories that break all kinds of sexual taboos– you’re already on the internet, for Pete’s sake.

You would like this book if: I don’t even know, it has 4 stars on Amazon, who ARE you people and what’s wrong with you??

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