Thursday, June 9, 2011

Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein

Double Star
Another great story to read by Heinlein. I go way back with this one, having read it in the early 70s for the first time. The unlikely hero of this story is The Great Lorenzo, aka Lawrence Smith, a slightly disreputable out of work actor, of minimal ethics. I think I mentioned that The Golden Globe, by John Varley, has a similar story line to this much earlier work. Lorenzo is approached in a bar on earth by a spaceman named Dak Broadbent, with a truly singular job offer, but before he can get any details, Broadbent asks him to meet at a hotel room nearby, with better privacy.

When he arrives, he is informed that he is needed to impersonate someone. His ego being somewhat larger than life-size, he refuses to consider it at first, until his pride is stung by Dak's companion, Jock's contempt for his acting talents, and he agrees to the work without asking further questions. Shortly after that, they are rather rudely interrupted by several Martians who kill Jock before Dak can respond, but when he does, he rapidly deals with the Martians. Dak and Lorenzo dispose of the bodies, then make a madcap dash off planet, steps ahead of the law and the villains who are out to stop them.

When they are finally in orbit, Lorenzo finds out he is to impersonate the Right Honorable John Joseph Bonforte. Bonforte is one of the premier statesman in the solar system, and sinister forces have kidnapped him on the eve of his adoption into the nest of the most important clan of native Martians. Certain factions among both humans and Martians oppose this, and will do anything in their power to prevent it. Bonforte's political party is determined to unite both races in the Empire and give equal rights to all.

Lorenzo fights it harder than a salmon on the hook, but eventually is convinced by Bonforte's lovely young secretary, Penny, that he must do it for the good of the solar system (tho it's mostly because he has a bit of a thing for her already). They and their co-conspirators go ahead with the act, and the show is on the road all the way to the end.

I suppose that this novel is a little bit about what we call today "fake it till you make it". Lorenzo is a thoroughly contemptible man at the beginning of the novel, but the longer he spends in the role of a quite noble and inspiring leader, the more he begins to think like one, and eventually to become one himself. The only virtue he has at the beginning is the idea that "the show must go on", but as time goes by he acquires a few more.

There's also some interesting thoughts about colonialism, which Heinlein saw in his travels in the Navy, and how our attitudes on Earth might affect our attitudes as we expand into the solar system someday, and eventually to the stars. It's also fun to note how Heinlein's characterization of Martians evolves through his novels. In the last one, they were unable to survive unaided in Earth conditions, and were the feeble remnants of an ancient civilization, but we see Rringrill (the one who murdered Jock) and his friends able to wander around Earth without any prosthetics, and the civilization on Mars is pretty robust.

What else can I say, it's good solid Heinlein.

1 comment:

Ron said...

"The Golden Globe" was a much better book than just about anything Heinlein wrote. But I realize it was a different time...