Mon
Oct 26 2009 11:23am

The Identical Twin Paradox: Robert A. Heinlein’s Time For the Stars

Time For the Stars was first published in 1956. It was one of Heinlein’s Juveniles—a series of books he wrote in the fifties with young heroes in the near future. The book is slightly dated—less so than some of the others that have more noticeable computers in them—but not really all that much. The story is an exploration of the Twin Paradox—a thought experiment that explains how relativity works. If you had identical twins, and one of them accelerated away from Earth and the other stayed home, so much more time would pass on Earth than in the spaceship that the Earth twin would be a hundred years old when the space twin came home, only a few years later. Heinlein took this concept and made it a real story with characters—and he made the twin thing relevant by using twin telepathy (which works faster than light...) as a means of communicating between Earth and ship.

Heinlein was absolutely amazing at evoking world and character. Time For the Stars is one of his few first person books. It always amazes me how fast he can hook me. I’ve read this book probably more than thirty times, I know everything that happens in it, and yet when I pick it up I get sucked right in:

According to their biographies, Destiny’s favoured children usually had their lives planned out from scratch. Napoleon was figuring out how to rule France when he was a barefoot boy in Corsica, Alexander the Great much the same, and Einstein was muttering equations in his cradle.

Maybe so. Me, I just muddled along.

I think this kind of thing where there’s an authoritative voice telling you things directly either grabs you or it doesn’t—see also Scalzi’s Old Man’s War—and I’ve always been completely sucked in by it. I’ll admit this was a comfort re-read when I wasn’t feeling well, and you know what? It comforted me and made me feel better, and I can’t see why there’s a problem with that.

No plot spoilers!

It’s revealed, in minor asides about growing up, that Earth is ridiculously over-populated, with five billion people. There’s a heavy tax on having more than three children, and our hero, Tom (and his twin brother, Pat) are unlicensed and their parents have to pay fines every year for having excess children. This is a future that didn’t happen and isn’t going to, and it’s interesting to consider why not. Lots of science fiction writers were very worried about over-population—but Heinlein gives a figure here and it’s a billion less than today’s population. I think Heinlein was assuming here that the Earth’s resources would be fairly and equally divided to each of those five billion people by irritating bureaucrats—in which case we probably all would be tightening our belts and living in small apartments, instead of some of us living comfortably and others in the Third World. The overpopulation is what causes the nearly-as-fast-as-light starships to be sent out to discover Earthlike planets where the excess population can be shipped. (I’m sure I’ve seen figures suggesting that this wouldn’t work.) The attitude is very much the colonization of the US seen as space—any dangerous animals, diseases, and inferior aliens had better watch out for mankind, and as for mankind, the evolutionary pressure will be a good thing.

If Time For the Stars had been written now, it would have been a different book in almost every way. It wouldn’t have had that exploitative attitude to the galaxy. Earth would be dying because of global warming and pollution, not simple over-population. The book would be four or five times longer, with much more angst. The focus would be on relationships, not on adventure. The section on Earth before Tom leaves would be about the same length, but everything else would be much longer. The actual adventures on other planets would take up a lot more space—Inferno wouldn’t be left out. There would be more sex, and it would be treated in a very different way. The telepathy thing would also be treated entirely differently. The Long Range Foundation who send the ships out would be evil, or at least duplicitous. The odd incestuous relationship between Tom and his great-great-niece Vicky would be more explicitly sexualised at long distance and contain more angst. There would be far more description—there’s almost no description here except as is incidental to character. I’d read it, but I probably wouldn’t keep coming back to it.

Tom and Pat are identical twins, and communicate telepathically, though they don’t at first realise that they do. Tom is sent on the mission, Pat stays at home and marries the girl they both love. They both thought they wanted to go, but maybe subconsciously neither of them wanted to go. Tom has been bullied by Pat all his life—and psychologically and personally the book is a coming of age story about how Tom gets free of Pat. It is therefore a bit of a copout to have telepathy work with people who are not twins, and to have it work between Tom and Pat’s daughter Molly, and later her daughter Kathleen and her daughter Vicky, and especially having it stop working between Tom and Pat. Thinking about what would have to be different to make this a modern book, I could actually see an improvement if the telepathy had continued between Tom and Pat as they grew further apart and more and more different. Having Tom communicate with cute nieces instead is a kind of cop-out.

I like it being the length it is and having the balance it does. Tom’s a slightly surly everyboy, and that’s just fine with me. I like the casual sprinkling of details about the world. I’m delighted every time I get to the line—in the last chapter—that implies that all the women have been wearing hats all through the book because that’s just common politeness. I love that kind of reversal—you find out all the women were wearing hats all the time because Tom’s shocked at seeing women with their heads bare-naked like an animal, and suddenly the earlier mentions of hats form a very different pattern. Heinlein always did that kind of thing beautifully.

There are any number of reasons, some fashion, some politics, some attitudinal, some stylistic, why you wouldn’t get this book written today. But there it is in print, more than fifty years after publication, and it’s still deeply readable and I’m still very fond of it.


Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published eight novels, most recently Half a Crown and Lifelode, and two poetry collections. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.

41 comments
Nancy Hantzis
1. Nancy
The very first science fiction book I ever read was this one. It may not be up to today's standards, but it opened my eyes (and heart) to a genre that had been overlooked. Having said that, I did read it back in 1966 when I was 12 years old. I didn't notice back then any of the failures that the book apparently conveys today. It was just a really good yarn. I guess we all a lot more innocent back then.
Sean Fagan
2. sef
Just a comment about the overpopulation thing: RAH wrote this before Norman Borlaug changed the rules of the game.
Shireling
3. Shireling
Love, love, love Heinlein's "juveniles". If only the adult-level SF today had a fraction of his original ideas, sense of wonder, and sheer storytelling. Tremendous IWantToReadItosity. Better than all the angst and relationship blather in the world!
Shireling
4. Stefan Jones
I read this about ten years ago, one of the last Heinlein juveniles I caught up with. It struck me as incredibly somber compared to the other juveniles.
Jo Walton
5. bluejo
Stefan: I think that's one of the things I like about it.
Liza .
6. aedifica
Jo, I noticed you have started mentioning within the text whether there are spoilers--thank you, that was unexpected and appreciated and helpful!
Shireling
7. DemetriosX
It's been ages since I read this and I remember it as one of my least favorite RAH juvies (pretty much only ahead of Farmer in the Sky, but wow, what a hook. I'm going to have to give this one another try. FTR, my comfort RAH juvenile is Citizen of the Galaxy, a book I know every twist and turn of, but still return to again and again.
Shireling
8. James Davis Nicoll
I think Heinlein was assuming here that the Earth’s resources would be fairly and equally divided to each of those five billion people by irritating bureaucrats—in which case we probably all would be tightening our belts and living in small apartments, instead of some of us living comfortably and others in the Third World.

We don't have total conversion of matter to energy, which you'd think would help Heinlein Earth's more than it actually does. If I had inexpensive conversion reactors, I'd spend more time thinking about how to turn the energy they produce into chemical bonds human biochemistry can exploit than I would lobbing NAFAL ships at the near stars. Not that I wouldn't lob NAFAL ships at all but the Solving World Hunger Forever thing* would definitely provide immediate benefits, while the NAFAL ships won't produce results for years and years.

There's the same curious complete disinterest in applying similar converstion technology to mundane problems in Farmer in the Sky; there has to be a better way to apply conversion tech to the problems that Earth has than terraforming Ganymede.

* Well, except that in a Heinleinoverse, absent war famine and disease, humans have no brakes on their reproductive rates and will presumably turn the whole biosphere into a large mass of human flesh**. In the real world, humans are not limited to war, famine and disease to limit their population.

** I guess the fact that somewhere around 5000x our current energy use, we'd release enough heat energy to trigger the same sort of runaway greenhouse effect as seen on Venus just before its ocean boiled away implies another limit. Heinlein Earths never have that degree of energy use, though.
Jo Walton
9. bluejo
Aedifica: Well, I figured that you might not be the only person reading in an RSS feed and not seeing the cut-tag note. I'm trying to remember to do that.
Tony Zbaraschuk
10. tonyz
>there has to be a better way to apply conversion tech to the problems that Earth has than terraforming Ganymede

Actually, there's at least some evidence in Farmer in the Sky that this is the case -- the colonization bureau thinks Earth is doomed and Ganymede (and perhaps other colonies) will be a replacement sanctuary.
Shireling
11. James Davis Nicoll
I am sure that it is a mere coincidence that the colonization bureau's belief justifies more funds for the colonization bureau.
Jo Walton
12. bluejo
In _Time For the Stars_, star colonies are being sent out by private enterprise, albeit a trust that I think would be illegal, forbidden, or at least discouraged, from making a profit.
Shireling
13. James Davis Nicoll
As I recall, the Trust kept discovering that its wild, blue-sky investments paid off, saddling them with yet more horrible, horrible money.
Shireling
14. James Davis Nicoll
So actually the NAFAL ships must have looked like a good money sink, since there was no chance of making money off them for some decades.
Shireling
15. Formerly Underhill
My favourite Heinlein Juvie is "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel." It was the first of his books I read, and I'm pretty sure it was the first SF book I read, and it made an indelible impression.
john mullen
16. johntheirishmongol
I just reread about 3 of the juvies, including this one. I thought Tom was one of the more annoying protagonists of RAH, but I still loved the book. I just thought he was a bit whiney. Anyway, my fave was the Door into Summer, mostly because it twists the time travel paradox and does it superbly. However, I have them all and every few years I take a few hours and reminise with them.
Shireling
17. OtterB
I second Formerly Underhill in my favorite being "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel." "Space Cadet" runs a close second.
Jeff Weston
18. JWezy
johntheirishmongol@16: I think The Door Into Summer was classified as part of the RAH "Future History" series, not the Juveniles. Although, as Wiki points out, some "defy easy categorization". The key differentiator appears to be the age of the protagonist, however.

That said, however, I also was a big fan of it, and for no good reason the line about "Colonel Plushbottom" has stuck in my mind for all these years.

The thing I always liked about Heinlein was that he made you think, and think just a little bit harder than the plot and characters seemed to demand. There was always some subtext or angle about how technology would affect people or be affected by people. I think this is why he survives re-reading so well; it seems simple, but there is a bit more to it.

I think I owned all of his stuff at one point or another over the years, he was the first author I really went out of my way to collect. In no particular order, my favorites:

Methuselah's Children
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
Double Star
The Door Into Summer
Stranger in a Strange Land

And lots of short stories, I don't think he gets enough credit for some of those:

The Green Hills of Earth
The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag
By His Bootstraps
Jerry Was A Man
Shireling
19. Shireling
@7
Citizen of the Galaxy is my favourite too. It has been the template for at least one recent SF novel (which naturally had a lot more angst).

@18
What about the story "--All You Zombies--" ?
Shireling
20. FeloniousMonk
Shireling @7: What recent SF novel is that? CotG is my favorite as well.
Jeff Weston
21. JWezy
Oh, yeah, Zombies. It was interesting how Heinlein worked up to The Door Into Summer, trying out the concepts and fiddling with the edges of the problem before writing the full novel. And yet, the prototypes (Bootstraps, Zombies, etc.) don't suffer, because the characters are different and interesting in their own rights, and the tecnhical backdrop varies as well.

Now I have to go home and look at my library to see what other favorites I forgot. Thanks for the poke!
Shireling
22. James Davis Nicoll
Speaking about the unstoppable rise in population that forms part of the background for so many Heinlein novels, it's interesting that although Warren Thompson was writing about the demographic transition model in 1929, his ideas don't seem to have made much of an impression on SF writers or other members of the public.
MC Pye
23. Mez
Ah, JDN #22, but in this world, the demographic transition has been blocked across large areas, either deliberately for nationalistic, religious, 'economic' or some other kind of ideological dogma or hidden agenda, by banning contraception or making it very difficult and (openly) socially unacceptable, or by — usually as a side-effect — destroying the conditions for supplying contraception, and destroying the kinds of security that promote the transition, thru things like civil wars, chaotic dictatorships, etc.

A most cheering thing I heard lately was that in the latter cases, given security, medical support, and choice, most women will choose smaller families. It's harder to test with the former case; Romania, with and without Nicolae and Elena Ceau?escu perhaps?

RE: Nieces. could be way to keep boys of a certain age interested? Or early indication of slimy offputting later developments with young spunky women and crusty older and older men in his work.
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
24. pnh
JWezy, #18: Just as a data point, The Door Into Summer isn't part of Heinlein's "future history" continuity, nor does it hook up with any of his other multi-story futures, like the torchship universe of several of the "juveniles", or the "Martian" quasi-continuity of Red Planet, Double Star, and Stranger in a Strange Land. It's pretty much a stand-alone.
Shireling
25. Doug M.
Coming to this late, but:

I loved this book as a kid. Utterly loved it. Did my first book report on it!

It still holds up. Pat is, as you say, a slightly surly everyteen, and there's nothing wrong with that. He /should/ be slightly surly. He's been shanghaied by his brother, who is a selfish asshole, into spending a decade or more locked up. I'd be surly too.

Yes, it's the darkest of the juveniles. _Citizen of the Galaxy_ starts in a worse place, but has a happy ending. The ending of this... well, it works out for Tom. But a lot of people, including some we've come to know, die along the way.

There's just one thing in the book that sets my teeth on edge today. That's "Uncle", the Kindly Old Negro.

Yes, in the context of 1954 it was slightly radical of Heinlein to have any black character at all in a novel written for teenagers. But Uncle is... well, he's kindly, gentle, wise, and -- most of all -- /loyal/.

Too damn loyal. In the next-to-last chapter,

SPOILERS AHOY

FOR ANYONE WHO IS STILL READING THIS THREAD

ARR, HERE BE SPOILERS


the ship is damaged and half the crew is dead including the Captain. So the backup Captain has taken over... and his judgment is, frankly, suspect. But he's saying the mission must go on, even though the odds are excellent that they'll all die.

A bunch of the crew are preparing to mutiny, take over, and pilot the ship back to Earth. Then Uncle steps in... and makes a speech about how A Man Keeps His Promises, and Does His Duty. And the would-be-mutineers melt before his moral authority, and that's that.

Oh my GOD is this scene grating today.

One, this was a sudden intrusion Heinlein the frustrated ex-Naval officer. Let's keep in mind this is not a military ship; it's a scientific expedition launched by a non-profit. But all of a sudden the Captain's Word is Law, the chain of command trumps common sense and simple decency, and balking at a suicide mission is mutiny, nothing more.

(I have some vague memory of Heinlein inserting a sentence or two of bafflegab to cover this -- how they all swore an oath to the Federation at the beginning, and are now reserve officers, or some such. It's underwhelming, to say the least.)

Two... did it /have/ to be the black character who steps in to remind them that obedience to authority is the highest virtue? Could Heinlein not have had another character do it?

(Though upon consideration, I suspect Heinlein thought he was doing Uncle a favor, by making him the voice of honor and duty.)


Doug M.
Mitch Wagner
26. MitchWagner
"Time for the Stars" was my introduction to the unreliable narrator. In the first part of the novel, I thought that Tom, the hero and narrator, and his brother Pat were two fine fellows, courageous, upstanding and smart. Then we learn that Pat is a bully and Tom is a pushover.

Doug M. - I think you're overthinking this. I recognize the signs of overthinking because I do it myself. This is a novel written before the Civil Rights movement. with a black man as the head of an essential department of an elite exploration mission. That's pretty forward-thinking. As I recall, there is never any hint that Uncle is less respected than any other senior officer on the ship.

In that speech at the end, Uncle is apparently the mouthpiece for Heinlein's own philosophy. He valued the military chain of command highly. And the crew and officers, of all races, listen to him. They respect his authority.

OTOH, "Uncle" is a really, really unfortunate name for an older black male character. It did not age well.
Shireling
27. Doug M.
-- Do you think it was much less unfortunate in 1954?

Respecting his authority: if Uncle was a tough Marine sergeant who barked at them and told them to /shape the hell up/, that would be one thing. But he's mild, gentle and kindly, and basically shames them into doing the right thing. (Or what Heinlein thought was the right thing.)

I'd say that Heinlein _under_thought the scene, myself. The black guy is the one who has to tell them all to Obey, even if the orders are obviously nuts? I'd argue that was even more obnoxious in 1954 than today. Back then, there were still people walking around who'd been born into slavery, and you had United States Congressmen saying on the floor of the Senate that the Negro was naturally docile (unless whipped up by outside agitators, of course).

"Magic Negro" is slightly anachronistic here. But consider: make Uncle an old white guy. Does it change that scene, at all? Why or why not?


Doug M.
Mitch Wagner
28. MitchWagner
Doug M., I don't know if Uncle was an unfortunate nickname in 1954. I was born in 1961.

I think I've pretty much stated my case on the issue of whether Uncle is a racist character. It's been years since I read the novel, and I may be misremembering it. But I'm not hearing anything today that indicates I'm remembering it wrongly.
Shireling
29. Doug M.
"Racist" way overstates, and isn't really what I was getting at.

I think Heinlein was sincerely trying to be forward-thinking here. I just think he cross-wired one good idea (have the black guy be likable and important) with one somewhat shaky one (have someone give the "carry out our orders" speech) to produce a rather wince-inducing result.


Doug M.
David Holden
32. davidholden
This is extremely late, but as a response to Doug M. in Comment 25, he's wrong about the order of the scenes (I *just* finished the book now).

Uncle Alfred's "anti-mutiny speech" took place much earlier in the book--when they first land on Constance (in Tau Ceti). The telepaths weren't going to be allowed out because it was too dangerous for them and put them too much at risk. One of the telepaths organizes a strike among all of the others, but Alfred nips it in the bud with the aforementioned "speech." I actually saw it as "I'm the head of the department, and you better not *not* do your duty, and by the way, do my bidding" (in the nicest way possible). Alfred (and later Tom) then go to the captain to organize a way for the telepaths to visit the planets.

The actual almost-mutiny occurred the end when Tom is too worried about keeping contact with Earth after the next journey and Uncle Alfred makes no appearance (he's shut up in his room, moping, after the Elysia disaster). And we don't see anything of that almost-mutiny other than a note given to Tom (who is himself confined to his own room for suspicion of mutiny).

I can't say anything about the use of Uncle to refer to Uncle Alfred, but he *is* an uncle (or rather, a great-uncle) to his "Sugar Pie" back home. Given his age (I think he's probably the oldest on the ship) and his adoration for his great-niece, I wouldn't be surprised if, by his demeanor and his love for his telepartner, he encouraged or otherwise allowed him to be called Uncle.
Shireling
36. T.L.A.
I, unfortunately, did not read this book but instead listened to it from audiobook. It was a great book. I found myself laughing many times throughout it.

But I found the last few chapters slow. And I found his work on relationships (aside from Pat and Tom's relationship) a bit weak. He definitely kept things close, between characters, but there should have been more of a sentimental attachment at times. Especially concerning Tom's Uncle Steve.

Nevertheless, it was a great book. One I will most likely read instead of listen to.
Ron van Lienden
37. Ron.vanl
I can't tell you how many times that I've read this book over the years and I never noticed something. The first star system they go to is Tau Ceti which is 11 ly from Earth. It only takes them 2 years to get there. Which means they are traveling at least 5.5 times the speed of light. More actually considering time needed to accelerate to light speed and then decelerate. Can't believe that RAH made this kind of an error.
Shireling
38. James Davis Nicoll
Ron.van1, you're overlooking time dilation. Which admittedly Heinlein bolloxed up as he generally did whenever he talked about it but he was not ignoring it.
Shireling
39. James Davis Nicoll
Here's a relativistic starship calculator to play around with:

http://mysite.verizon.net/res148h4j/javascript/script_starship.html
Shireling
40. DavidD
I just finished "reading" this book a few minutes ago (audiobook, unabridged) and I found it just as enthralling as Heinlein's other works. I agree it would have been a much different book if it were written today, but only insofar as thinking further-outside the box of technology based on our current advancements. In reality, our understanding of the underlying science in the book isn't terribly more advanced than his when he wrote it. Ages would have also been more realistic with people living beyond 100, especially with above-and-beyond private medical care.

And *wow* Doug M (I know, this is an old comment thread and you'll likely not see this), but I never even considered race in the book. In fact, I didn't "assign" races to any of the characters. As far as I recall (and forgive me, since I was listening to the audio book I can't page back through and look easily) Uncle's race wasn't mentioned. No matter his race, it seems like anyone who is looking at those statements independently would draw the conclusion that the individual speaking was being noble and helping guide people to making the right decisions. The idea of being subserviant and faithfully serving the master? That takes a lot of "read in" to find racisim.

I thought the treatment of Tom's emotions was fantastic. Perhaps it's because I'm close enough (9 years off...) to my teenage years I can still remember the attitude. His emotional progression from teenaged boy to man seemed pretty realistic.

Given that this is a coming of age adventure story, it wasn't really intended for an audience of my age, but I still enjoyed it. As an adult and a curious individual, I felt the story terminated too quickly and wrapped up too easily. But how are you going to hold onto a young reader much longer? For the intended readers it probably ended at the right time. Me, I would have preferred a few more hitches at the end of the voyage. It just seemed too convenient. It would have also been nice to see a little more exposition at the end to explain how the characters adjust to their new lives. It was talked about briefly, but not quite enough for my tastes. Imagine you were suddenly transported back to the 1930's. Even with the benefit of knowing your history and having spoken with parents and grandparents who lived during that time, how well would you fit in? Now imagine someone from the 30's being transported to our time without those benefits. How is that person going to adapt? Not so well at first, I presume. Admittedly, the telepaths would have had some benefit from keeping in touch with their partners, but what about the non-telepaths? Especially the older ones who have no job skills and may have a difficult time catching up on their education? It would seem there is much more story to tell and I was left unsatisfied with how quickly everything wrapped up.

Altogether though, I loved the book and will definitely be buying the analogue version to read and thoroughly enjoy more than I can with the audiobook.
Shireling
41. JohnC in BC
I was first introduced to Robert A Heinlein back in high school in the early 70's, when I picked up "Red Planet" in the school library -- and I was an instant fan. During that period of my life I read several more of Heinlein's "juveniles", including this one, before graduating to the racy "Stranger in a Strange Land" when I went to university. I never saw them again until I found paperback version of several of them at a used book store about 10 years ago -- and it was fun to re-read them as an adult here in the 21st century.
Heinlein definitely writes with some of the biases of his era (the immediate post-war years), when there was plenty of optimism about technology and man's grand task to bend nature to his will. In "Time For the Stars", we see a character boasting about melting the Greenland ice cap and watering the deserts, which is of course our modern-day nightmare scenario. Later, the story's hero, Tom, confidently predicts that one day man would exterminate a rather nasty beast they encounter on their first planetary exploration (something we would go out of our way NOT to do in today's world). Just as in another Heinlein novel ("Have Spacesuit Will Travel"), his narrator asks "when we clear jungle, do we worry that baboons were there first?" (Well.. yes we do, nowadays... but we didnt in the 1950's which is why we've lost so much of our environment.)
I wasn't too offended by the "Uncle Alfred" character. To DavidD, this character is described as an "old darling -- a Negro, whose age was anywhere from 65 up" in the novel. But Heinlein gave him a strength and dignity, and a keen insightful intelligence, and that certainly was NOT the way black people tended to be portrayed in those days.
Overall, this novel is very enjoyable and exciting, especially for a younger reader -- but I enjoy reading it even now when I'm in my 50's. The idea of mind-reading twins instantly communicating while one hurtles through the cosmos at the speed of light, thereby aging very slowly, as his brother remains on Earth and ages as we all do -- much too fast -- is a great twist on the standard space exploration story!! I agree the book wrapped up too quickly, and I think there could have been a little more elaboration on the ship's homecoming, and especially Tom's reunion with his family.
But I think this is a very entertaining and enjoyable novel, and one well worth reading.
Shireling
42. Doug M.
I found "Uncle" slightly skiffy before I'd read Heinlein's now-notorious letter to F.M. Busby on The Whole Race Thing. Having read it... oh, dear.

Anyway. Putting dear old Uncle aside, there are a lot of interesting things going on in this book.

There's the largest on-stage mass death of sympathetic characters in any Heinlein juvenile, and maybe in any Heinlein book at all. I mean, Heinlein was fine with killing sympathetic characters -- but I can't think of another instance where he killed several of them at once, on stage, and in a fairly horrific manner. ("It wasn't a mouth that got him. I don't think it was a mouth.")

There's also the entirely plausible exploitative sibling relationship between Pat and Tom. (And note that Heinlein drops another bad sibling relationship in there, with Prudence and Patience.)

As to relativity: Heinlein got relativity wrong. (Both twins would have perceived the other twin as slowing down.) But what the hey -- not one reader in 100 would know (I didn't) and it makes a great story. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's the first SFnal treatment of time dilation and its effect on human relationships.

Marrying the niece is very pat, and has echoes of the "raising up a wife" relationships in _Door Into Summer_ (slightly squicky) and _Time Enough For Love_ (more than slightly squicky). But it's not (IMO) squicky in and of itself. (For more discussion on this particular issue, grep this book and my name over at James Nicoll's Livejournal.)


Doug M.
Shireling
43. CharlesTheBold
One thing I thought was interesting about the novel is that it is the anti-StarTrek, written before anybody even thought of Star Trek. It's about a starship on a mission of exploration -- but the emphasis is on shipboard life, not the exotic planets they reach, and the hero is not a flamboyant captain, but an ordinary crewman.
Shireling
44. Flytrap
"Time for The Stars was one of his few first person books"
This statement confuses me. I went in and checked my (almost complete) collection of his works and, by my reckoning, about 3/4 of his novels and quite a few of his shorter works are written in the first person. Did I misunderstand you?
Shireling
45. G Benford
DougM:
"As to relativity: Heinlein got relativity wrong. (Both twins would have perceived the other twin as slowing down.) But what the hey -- not one reader in 100 would know (I didn't) and it makes a great story."

Sorry, wrong. The shipboard twin undergoes two major bouts of acceleration, the Earthbound one not. That changes the symmetry. This had been worked out in great detail in plenty of physics papers.

I checked this too when I read the book at age 16. It helps my interest that I'm an identical twin, too.

Gregory Benford
Shireling
46. SYAgnon
I just finished this novel, and also liked it, and liked Ms. Walton's review, as usual. (I'm afraid I haven't yet had time to read all the comments.) However, I think the novel was about relationships as well as adventure. The main relationship in the book is the ambivalent, indeed deeply conflicted, relationship between the twins, and their reconciliation--or at least coming to terms (as I read it)--at the end.

I also like stories involving time dilation, the famous "twin paradox," etc. In a sense it's a sub-gentre of a sub-gentre (time travel). I find such things among the most evocative themes in science fiction. I especially liked the last chapter with Tom's reflections on the changes 0n Earth and his being reunited with his relatives (after several decades Earth-time) on his return.

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