Review: The Star Beast by Robert A. Heinlein

The Star Beast by Robert A. HeinleinThe Star Beast by Robert A. Heinlein

Series: None

Genre: Science Fiction (one of Heinlein’s Juveniles)

Setting: Earth

Source: Audiobook, Library (8 hours, 50 minutes)

Narrator: Paul Michael Garcia

Publishing Date: 1954

253 pages

Synopsis:A compelling coming-of-age adventure from legendary SF master and multiple New York Times bestseller Robert A. Heinlein

Lummox has been the pet of the Stuart family for generations. With eight legs, a thick hide, and increasingly large size, Lummox is nobody’s idea of man’s best friend. Nevertheless, John Stuart XI, descendant of the starman who originally brought Lummox back to Earth, loves him. But when Lummox eats a neighbor’s car and begins to grow again, the feds decide that enough is enough. John isn’t about to let the authorities take his pet away, and with his best friend, Betty, he determines to save Lummox–even if he must forever leave the life he’s always known. 

My thoughts

I think I read this book years ago when I was a teenager, but don’t remember too much about it since that was a few years ago! I’m slowly rereading some of the early science fiction and fantasy that I read and Heinlein’s books are some of my favorites.

Heinlein’s juvenile series books are just so much fun to read. The young protagonists are heroic and adventurous. They usually have to learn to think for themselves and do what they know is right even when adults don’t always do that–a classic coming-of-age story. His young people may have to deal with a lot of problems, but they have a strong moral compass and know right from wrong. That makes these young adult books different from many written today that sometimes have more moral ambiguity in them. I also think theseThe Star Beast by Robert A. Heinlein books work for adults because there are nuances that kids might not notice, but adults will.

I like this retro version of the cover which I think accurately shows the flavor of the story. Lummox is a friendly beast who sometimes finds loopholes in John’s directions and orders!

This story takes place on Earth, but with a creature brought back by an ancestor of John Stuart XI (the main character–along with the Lummox–of this story). I like that it’s his friend Betty who is the shrewd character in the story. She understands the political ramifications and the public relations value of Lummox as well as the value of powerful friends. There are stereotypes in the story–the dumb government officials who overreact and are overzealous, John’s mother who has decided what John should do with his life and doesn’t listen to anyone else’s opinions.

Anyway, I enjoyed this a lot. Lots of adventure, a good story and interesting characters. I listened to the audiobook and thought Paul Michael Garcia did a great job narrating. It definitely increased my enjoyment of the book. I especially liked his voice for Lummox.

My Rating: B+

Narrator Rating: B+

Have you read any books by this author?

Review: Starman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein

Starman Jones by Robert A HeinleinStarman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein

Series: None

Genre: Science Fiction (one of Heinlein’s Juveniles)

Source: Audiobook, purchased

Narrated by Paul Michael Garcia

Published by Blackstone Audiobooks, 2008, (original publication date: 1953)

252 pages; 8 hours, 29 minutes

Synopsis: The stars were closed to Max Jones. To get into space you either needed connections, a membership in the Guild, or a whole lot more money than Max, the son of a widowed, poor mother, was every going to have. What Max does have going for him are his uncle’s prized astrogation manuals—book on star navigation that Max literally commits to memory word for word, equation for equation. When Max’s mother decides to remarry a bullying oaf, Max takes to the road, only to discover that his uncle Chet’s manuals, and Max’s near complete memorization of them, is a ticket to the stars. But serving on a spaceship is no easy task. Duty is everything, and a mistake can mean you and all aboard are lost forever. Max loves every minute of his new life, and he steadily grows in the trust of his superior officers, and seems to be on course for a command track position. But then disaster strikes, and it’s going to take every trick Max ever learned from his tough life and his uncle’s manuals to save himself and the ship from a doom beyond extinction itself.

My thoughts

Starman Jones is part of the Heinlein Juveniles series. Heinlein wrote twelve novels between 1947 and 1958 which were published as the juvenile series.  These books are all standalone books. The first book was Rocket Ship Galileo and the last was Have Space Suit — Will Travel. I guess these would be considered young adult books today though in many ways they’re simpler more straightforward stories than many young adult books written today. I read these (and many of Heinlein’s adult novels) as a teenager. I loved the adventure in these books as well as so many of the characters. It’s been years since I read most of these books, but I think the main characters were all boys. That didn’t bother me when I was reading them. I don’t think I thought about it! I still related to the main characters and wanted to have those adventures. Heinlein wrote about characters who were intelligent, hardworking and honest and showed that was the way to get ahead in the world. I took that to heart and still believe that today. However, I am also really happy there are more books written with female main characters and more female authors.

This was a good science fiction adventure story. Max Jones is a teenager who always wanted to be an astrogator and since his uncle was an astrogator and talked of naming Max as his heir Max hopes he did that before he died. Many occupations–including astrogation–are hereditary and managed by guilds and since Max doesn’t come from an important family and doesn’t have any money he won’t have a chance to become an astrogator if he wasn’t named an heir by his uncle.

Max runs away from home after his stepmother remarries soon after Max’s father dies. Max does manage to get himself onto a passenger spaceship (but with forged documents). Even though his job is taking care of the animals on the ship–cleaning their cages–he’s ecstatic that he’s in space. During the course of the book Max manages to come to the attention of the spaceship’s captain and other officers and is given a chance to learn about the running of the ship. However, he not only has the deception that got him onto the ship, but a number of other disasters await him and the ship.

Jones is a smart, but naive young man at the beginning of this story. He learns a lot and grows up a lot by the end of the book. The book didn’t end quite as I thought it would. It’s always nice when a book surprises me. I thought this ending was good and wished that Heinlein had written more books about Max!

I read and reviewed Have Spaceship – Will Travel a couple of years ago, but of the two I like Starman Jones better. I own a number of the other Juvenile Series books so I may try to read them this year.

My Rating: A-

Narrator Rating: A

Have you read any of Robert Heinlein’s books?

Reading Challenges

2018 Swords & Stars Reading Challenge hosted by MsNoseinaBook — Read a book whose cover has stars in it or whose title has any variation of the word star in it.