Friday, July 29, 2011
The Door into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein
This book by Heinlein definitely ranks right up there in terms of being one of my favorites, and I've certainly re-read it more often than most. Daniel Boone Davis is an inventor, who has created a really useful household gadget, a robotic cleaning lady patented as Hired Girl. He and his partner, Miles, are raking in money hand over fist, but that's not good enough for Miles. With the collusion of Danny's fiancee, Belle, he wrests control of the business away from Danny and boots him out of the company with a severance package. Miles and Belle appear to have become romantically involved while Danny was working hard on the next generation of household robot, and snuck off to Vegas to get married, sealing their unholy alliance.
Miles has a step-daughter named Ricky (Frederica) who adores Danny, and never trusted Belle. Danny has a cat named Pete who also never trusted Belle. Danny realizes that his life is in a shambles, and decides to take the Long Sleep, a cryogenic suspension process that has just become somewhat popular in 1970. After assigning the remainder of his Hired Girl stock to Ricky, and making arrangements for Pete to take the plunge into the future with him, he confronts Belle and Miles one last time. In the ensuing fight, Belle tranquilizes Danny with a truth serum/zombie drug and interrogates him, finding out that he wants to escape into the future 30 years hence, and she uses some of her connections to change the sanctuary where he will sleep the decades away to one that will ask no questions about his drugged state. This new sanctuary, though, doesn't send Pete to the future along with Danny, and he is furious that his cat has been left behind.
Fast-forward to the year 2000, when Danny wakes up. The assets he thought were in trust for him while he slept have been embezzled away, and he must make his way on his own in the new world. Things have changed quite a bit, and Heinlein missed the mark on some things, (writing in 1957). The common cold has been cured, gold is dirt cheap, and dental work has been replaced by tooth regeneration techniques. Would be nice if any of those were true today, eh?
A quote I can relate to:
"I have spent too much of my life opening doors for cats - I once calculated that, since the dawn of civilization, nine hundred and seventy-eight man-centuries have been used up that way."
Another principle that has played out in a number of situations in my life:
"Paymasters come in two sizes: one sort shows you where the book says you can't have what you've got coming to you; the second sort digs through the book until he finds a paragraph that lets you have what you need even if you don't rate it."
There's a great bit, also, where Danny is working on a manufacturing line in an automotive plant in 2000, and he sees that a number of the cars coming off the assembly line are immediately sent to be crushed and recycled. When he asks about it, he's told that the cars are being built as part of a price and job support program funded by the federal government. Cash for clunkers, anyone?
Danny eventually decides that he needs to somehow fix the problems he ran away from in 1970, and through the offices of a defunct secret government project that discovered time travel, he is able to go back and see to it that Belle and Miles get their comeuppance, Pete is not left astray, and Danny and Ricky's financial affairs are left in far better shape.
A somewhat light hearted romp in the Heinlein spirit.