Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Assignment in Eternity by Robert A. Heinlein
Assignment in Eternity is probably my least favorite, to date, of Heinlein's story collections. Just not his best work.
Gulf is the story of a couple of secret agents working for Earth who are tasked with finding and disarming a nova-creating device, located on the Moon, that threatens all of mankind. The two agents, a man and woman, seem to be the same cardboard cutout types he used all too often, as are the rest of the good guys in the story. Its ending reminds me all to much of The Perfect Storm, a depressing film if ever there was one.
Elsewhen is a parallel universe story which goes nowhere slowly. A professor, somewhat like the characters in L. Sprague DeCamp and Fletcher Pratt's Compleat Enchanter stories, has discovered a way to prepare his students, hypnotically, to travel around the universes, but it doesn't really cover any new or exciting concepts, in my opinion.
Lost Legacy is a bit more interesting. Some college professors experimenting with psychic powers find ways to awaken the abilities that have lain dormant in humans for centuries, such as esp, telekinesis, conscious control of bodily function, and precognition. On a field trip during the summer break, they climb Mount Shasta and discover a community of recluses who have mastered these arts through discovering a cache of ancient wisdom left by the remnants of the empire of Mu, which was destroyed millenia ago. There are also groups of people in the world who also practice these arts for evil purposes, and eventually the group determines that it's time to begin fighting the forces of evil. The interesting concept that comes up here, from a Heinleiniana point of view, is that this is the first appearance of his concept, used later in Stranger in a Strange Land (there's even a preshadowing of the title in the thoughts of one character), that the use of the correct language, with the right structure results in a different, correct manner of thinking, unlocking the mind's powers. The ending, however, trails off indefinitively.
The final story, Jerry was a man, explores the idea of human rights, and how we determine whether someone is human, or not. Asimov does it much better later on with his robot stories.
A must read for the sake of completeness, but not much of any import there, on other fronts.