Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Heinlein's new book

Robert Heinlein has a new book out. The fact that he's been dead for 18 years has slowed down his production, but he has managed to eak out a couple of novels, some short stories, and some teleplays.
This one was an outline that was discovered shortly after the death of his wife. It was 8 pages long, single spaced, in 10pt font with extra notes on assorted notecards. When the existence of this outline was mentioned at a Toronto sci-fi convention someone suggested that the guy who wrote the forward for another of Heinlein's post-mortem books, a sci-fi writer named Spider Robinson who is often compared to Heinlein, finish the book. So a couple of months later Spider received 7 of the 8 pages of notes.
He went to his office and started trying to figure out how to end the story. He put on iTunes and started going through his entire MP3 collection for inspiration. A few days later it hit an old interview with Heinlein and he told Spider what he wanted.

Variable Star starts with a boy and girl dancing at their high school graduation dance. They're very much in love. He wants to become a musician and she wants to get married. But they can't, for lack of funds. It'll take him years to become successful enough to afford to raise a kid. That's when she admits that instead of an orphan she's really the daughter of the richest man in the galaxy. They can get married right away, but marrying into this family means he has to give up music and become a businessman. So he runs. He runs to the only place he can escape that family's influence. He hops on a colony ship and leaves the Solar System completely.

Oh, how much to tell? ...

About 6 years out (ship time. 13 years Earth time.) the sun (Earth's sun) explodes killing everyone in that star system and sending a wave of radiation out that will probably kill everyone on the colony worlds. The ship is travelling so close to C (the speed of light) that they'll get to their new planet with 6 years to spare to bury themselves deep enough to survive. There's only time to warn one other colony.

Yeah, that's enough. I've spoiled all I'm prepared to.

The point is that it's a really great book. You know how George Lucas can tell a good story, but can't write or direct worth beans? ...Star Wars is made better when someone else writes the script and directs? Heinlein is great, but I think having his story written by Spider makes for a better book than if Heinlein had written it himself.

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