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Variable Star (2006)

by Robert A. Heinlein, Spider Robinson (Author)

Other authors: Cordwainer LoBrutto (Editor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,2254216,179 (3.64)16
Fiction. Science Fiction & Fantasy. HTML:

Upon his death in 1988, Robert A. Heinlein left a legacy of novels and short stories that almost single-handedly defined modern science fiction. But one of Heinlein's masterpieces was never finished. In 1955, he began work on Variable Star, a powerful and passionate tale of two young lovers driven apart by pride, power, and the vastness of interstellar time and space. Then he set it aside to focus on other novellas.

The detailed outline and notes he created for this project lay forgotten for decades, only to be rediscovered almost a half-century later. Now the Heinlein estate has authorized award-winning author Spider Robinson to expand that outline into a full-length novel. The result is vintage Heinlein, faithful in style and spirit to the Grand Master's original vision.

When Joel Johnston first met Jinny Hamilton, it seemed like a dream come true. And when she finally agreed to marry him, he felt like the luckiest man in the universe. There was just one small problemâ??he was broke. His only goal in life was to become a composer, and he knew it would take years before he was earning enough to support a family.

But Jinny wasn't willing to wait, and when Joel asked her what they were going to do for money, she gave him a most unexpected answer. She told him that her name wasn't really Jinny Hamiltonâ??it was Jinny Conrad, and she was the granddaughter of Richard Conrad, the wealthiest man in the solar system. Now that she was sure Joel loved her for more than just her wealth, she revealed her family's plans for him: he would be groomed for a place in the vast Conrad empire and sire a dynasty to carry on the family business. Most men would have jumped at the opportunity. But Joel Johnston wasn't most men. To Jinny's surprise, and even his own, he turned down her generous offer and then set off on the mother of all bendersâ??and woke up on a colony ship heading out into space. There he found himself torn between regret over his rash decision and his determination to forget Jinny and make a life for himself among the stars. He was on his way to succeeding when his plansâ??and the plans of billions of othersâ??were shattered by a cosmic cataclysm so devastating it would take all of humanity's strength and ingenuity just t… (more)

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» See also 16 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
"What is it I'm smelling, exactly?"

"Us," he said simply. ( )
  Jon_Hansen | Aug 11, 2023 |
Couldn't finish reading it. Liked the start but it got boring. ( )
1 vote Faltiska | Apr 30, 2022 |
AVOID! Yuk. ( )
  frfeni | Jan 31, 2021 |
"If you happen to be one of the fretful minority who can do creative work, never force an idea; you'll abort it if you do. Be patient and you'll give birth to it when the time is ripe. Learn to wait."
Robert A. Heinlein



"Finishing" a book left by a dead author almost never works out. While Variable Star was written by Spider Robinson from notes left by the science-fiction superstar, it comes across as more of an homage than a bastard novel.

Joel Johnston is a college student on Earth, hailing from the farms of Ganeymede. He finds himself running from the solar system, leaving behind a failed romance and everything he ever knew, aboard the starship Sheffield. Joel meets many new people, and has many lows and friends. The ship has crises aplenty, and I won't ruin any of the surprises. The Sheffield, and its destination Brasil Novo, are world-building at its grandest.

The stock Heinlein situations and societies have been deftly updated to reflect current technologies and cosmologies as we now understand them. The science fails to overwhelm, but is present in abundance when needed, with pleasant, helpful air. The reader almost doesn't notice that the author is more lost in the science than the page-turner.

Joel, the farmer Zog, Dr. Amy, Evelyn Conrad, Solomon Short, -- the folks inhabiting the world or Variable Star feel like they're a few years out of a concise Heinlein Juvie novel. Joel is a sympathetic man who makes mistakes. I was rooting for him and the 500 folks on the Sheffield all the way through.

Variable Star is great fun, a thoughtful novel, and while it doesn't feel like Mr. Heinlein was at the author's elbow, his influence is in the broad strokes. (Even the ending, maybe a touch predictable, wasn't on the original outline, but to Mr. Robinson's credit, feels like something from a Future History novel.)

A very good, page-turnin' stand-alone novel, drawing from a rich tapestry. Highly recommended. ( )
  neilneil | Dec 7, 2020 |
Good job on Spider's part. Really comes across as a Heinlein novel from the early years. Really enjoyed it!!! ( )
  aldimartino | Nov 24, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert A. Heinleinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Robinson, SpiderAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
LoBrutto, CordwainerEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Martiniere, StephanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Fiction. Science Fiction & Fantasy. HTML:

Upon his death in 1988, Robert A. Heinlein left a legacy of novels and short stories that almost single-handedly defined modern science fiction. But one of Heinlein's masterpieces was never finished. In 1955, he began work on Variable Star, a powerful and passionate tale of two young lovers driven apart by pride, power, and the vastness of interstellar time and space. Then he set it aside to focus on other novellas.

The detailed outline and notes he created for this project lay forgotten for decades, only to be rediscovered almost a half-century later. Now the Heinlein estate has authorized award-winning author Spider Robinson to expand that outline into a full-length novel. The result is vintage Heinlein, faithful in style and spirit to the Grand Master's original vision.

When Joel Johnston first met Jinny Hamilton, it seemed like a dream come true. And when she finally agreed to marry him, he felt like the luckiest man in the universe. There was just one small problemâ??he was broke. His only goal in life was to become a composer, and he knew it would take years before he was earning enough to support a family.

But Jinny wasn't willing to wait, and when Joel asked her what they were going to do for money, she gave him a most unexpected answer. She told him that her name wasn't really Jinny Hamiltonâ??it was Jinny Conrad, and she was the granddaughter of Richard Conrad, the wealthiest man in the solar system. Now that she was sure Joel loved her for more than just her wealth, she revealed her family's plans for him: he would be groomed for a place in the vast Conrad empire and sire a dynasty to carry on the family business. Most men would have jumped at the opportunity. But Joel Johnston wasn't most men. To Jinny's surprise, and even his own, he turned down her generous offer and then set off on the mother of all bendersâ??and woke up on a colony ship heading out into space. There he found himself torn between regret over his rash decision and his determination to forget Jinny and make a life for himself among the stars. He was on his way to succeeding when his plansâ??and the plans of billions of othersâ??were shattered by a cosmic cataclysm so devastating it would take all of humanity's strength and ingenuity just t

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