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Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein

Double Star (edition 1986)

by Robert A. Heinlein

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Title:Double Star
Authors:Robert A. Heinlein
Info:Del Rey (1986), Mass Market Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library

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Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein

1950s (7) 1956 (9) 20th century (9) acting (7) American (10) audiobook (5) classic (6) ebook (20) fiction (202) Heinlein (36) Hugo (19) Hugo Award (24) hugo winner (21) impersonation (6) Kindle (7) Mars (16) mmpb (23) novel (29) own (10) paperback (42) politics (26) read (31) science fiction (546) sf (143) sff (47) space travel (7) speculative fiction (8) to-read (12) unread (15) young adult (9)
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    SylviaC: Both books play with identity.

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Sure, there are Martians and Venerians and Outer Jovians, but the last two are never on stage and the first isn’t very alien.

Sure, the story starts in Missouri (maybe) and goes to Mars and the Moon, but the settings usually have the exoticness of a beige office cube or, to be exact, of the many rocket ship staterooms where most of the action is set.

Sure, it all seems vaguely 19th century with an Empire ruled by a constitutional monarch, King Willem of the Habsburg lips and Windsor nose. That’s because it’s yet another version of Anthony Hope’s The Prisoner of Zenda.

Our hero and narrator, Lorenzo Smythe, unemployed “Pantomimist and Mimicry Artist Extraordinary”, turns down a pitch to impersonate leader of the Expansionist Party. They want the Empire to include aliens, to not repeat “the mistakes the white subrace had made in Africa and Asia”. But his refusal is interrupted by an armed man and Martian. Soon, bodies are being cut up and being fed into the hotel oubliette, and Smythe is on his way to Mars.

It’s the voice of the conceited Smythe that saves this story and makes it quick and quite enjoyable. He’s one of Heinlein’s Competent Men except his area of competency happens to be acting, and he’s quite devoted to the art and ethics of his profession. He’s not young, but like the hero and heroines of many a Heinlein juvenile, he learns a lesson. Here’s it that the game of politics is “the only sport for grownups.”

The ending is predictable. It’s also poignant and plausible. ( )
1 vote RandyStafford | Jun 29, 2014 |
Originally posted at FanLit:

Most of Robert A. Heinlein??s adult novels have interesting ideas or premises but many lack likeable characters and/or fun quickly-moving plots. Fortunately Double Star has all the right elements and is entertaining from start to finish. Itƒ??s one of Heinleinƒ??s best novels, I think, and I must not be alone in that opinion since it won the Hugo Award in 1956 and was nominated for Locusƒ?? All-Time Best Science Fiction Novels. Double Star is a character-based novel that explores some important political issues without getting preachy.

Lorenzo Smythe, who styles himself ƒ??The Great Lorenzo,ƒ? is a down-and-out actor who has a lot more self-esteem than he has job offers. In fact, heƒ??s a pompous ass and nobody wants to hire him. Just after heƒ??s spent his last penny, heƒ??s offered an acting job that pays a lot more money than heƒ??s ever been offered before. He will be playing... Read More: http://www.fantasyliterature.com/reviews/double-star/ ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
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. ( )
  StigE | Feb 22, 2014 |
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. ( )
  anissaannalise | Jan 1, 2014 |
Similar to The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Heinlein presents a delightful mix of wit, Hollywood glamor, and thought-provoking political speeches all in a well-imagined and engaging future society.

In this version of the future, space exploration has led to the discovery of inhabited other planets and two distinctly different opinions on how to interact with those lifeforms. Either dominate in a manifest destiny style or come to mutual cultural understanding and trade. The politician Smythe must impersonate, Bonforte, is the leader of the latter faction. This novel could easily have turned preachy with such a premise, but Smythe himself isn’t too keen on being friends with the aliens. As an actor, he is committed to playing his role beautifully. As a person, he isn’t sure he agrees with Bonforte. This position allows Heinlein to explore both sides of the question, as well as the gray area in-between. No easy answers are presented, but slowly what is more just is revealed.

Juxtaposed with the political plot is the whole aspect of Smythe being an actor who believes fully in his craft as an artform. Smythe takes himself very seriously even when others do not. At first, others view him as full of himself, but slowly they come to respect him and his talents. Smythe’s large self-esteem may at first cause the reader to roll their eyes as well, but it gradually becomes apparent that having confidence in yourself and your abilities as a professional is not a bad thing.

Although characters at first seem two-dimensional, the main characters slowly become more fleshed out and well-rounded. Nothing and no one is quite as simple as it at first seems, and Smythe is a great example of that.

What really makes the book, though, is its unexpected wit. It’s not so much a laugh out loud book, but it’s very much a snort of amusement style of humor that takes the book from interesting to highly enjoyable.

The romance lacked creativity or sparkle. It is easy to spot the instant it comes up, but it doesn’t come across as natural or meant to be. It mostly feels like the woman transferring her affection for Bonforte onto Smythe. I found it a bit squicky that she fails to ever really see Smythe as Smythe, not even after falling in love with him. Thankfully, the romance is an incredibly minor part of the book. The book is also slightly dated by the overwhelming presence of paper and microfilm. We’re talking the spaceship has a library with print books and microfilm. In general even classic scifi tends to imagine a future with at least slightly different versions of books and information exchange. I found it a bit odd that Heinlein failed to do that.

The ending is not unexpected entirely but it is satisfying and with enough fun details to entertain. Of the various options for an ending to this story, the one Heinlein took is enjoyable and makes sense within the world he has created.

Overall, this is a fun piece of classic scifi that tosses together acting and politics in outer space with Martians who look like toadstools and a heavy sprinkling of wit. The romance leaves something to be desired, and the tech isn’t particularly predictive or imaginative, but these are minor aspects of the story. Recommended to fans of witty scifi who don’t mind a dash of political intrigue.

Check out my full review: http://wp.me/pp7vL-12r, featuring quotes! ( )
  gaialover | Nov 22, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert A. Heinleinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bacon, C.W.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
James, LloydNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Powers, Richard M.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, AnthonyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Szafran, GeneCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345330137, Mass Market Paperback)

One minute, down and out actor Lorenzo Smythe was -- as usual -- in a bar, drinking away his troubles as he watched his career go down the tubes. Then a space pilot bought him a drink, and the next thing Smythe knew, he was shanghaied to Mars.

Suddenly he found himself agreeing to the most difficult role of his career: impersonating an important politician who had been kidnapped. Peace with the Martians was at stake -- failure to pull off the act could result in interplanetary war. And Smythe's own life was on the line -- for if he wasn't assassinated, there was always the possibility that he might be trapped in his new role forever!

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:34:01 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

An actor is coerced into impersonating a kidnapped politician. When the politician dies, his staff persuades the actor to continue and to carry out the politician's ambitions.

(summary from another edition)

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