Friday, September 9, 2011

The Rolling Stones by Robert A. Heinlein

The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones is another one of Heinlein's young adult novels, loosely tied into the story The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, taking place perhaps 60 years later. The matriarch of the family, Hazel, was a bit player in the revolution in the earlier novel. This seems to follow a well-used formula by this author, a highly competent pair of parents, Roger and Edith Stone (an engineer and a doctor), have a set of very precocious offspring, the twins Castor and Pollux, their older sister, Mead, and the youngest, an infant chess genius, Lowell. Note the astronomical references in their names.

Castor and Pollux, boy geniuses (or is that genii?), have invented a very successful breathing mask. Their father and mother have kept the proceeds from its sales in a trust fund for their education, but the boys have other ideas. As the story opens, we find them at a rocket ship junkyard, trying to negotiate the purchase of a space freighter, which they intend to fill with cargo (or contraband) and ply the spaceways to make a profit.

Unfortunately for them, their father soon brings them back to Earth - which is tough, as they all live on the Moon - and tells them in no uncertain terms that they're to go to college, not gallivant around the solar system. However, after Grandma Hazel - a variation on Heinlein's usual old wise cranky male curmudgeon - gets into the act, and then Edith puts her two cents in, Roger's hope of staying quietly at home is ground fine, and he ends up buying a spaceship himself, instead. The entire family jaunts off towards Mars on a grand adventure. Their ship is the Rolling Stone, and they are The Rolling Stones. I wonder if this was written long before Mick Jagger hit the scene?

The twins get some harsh lessons in shipboard discipline, the vagaries of commerce, and the inexhorable laws of physics. Roger and Edith keep their cool, mostly, amidst the demands of their extremely intelligent and devious children, and Grandma Hazel chimes in with all sorts of advice and harassment, as necessary. For once, Heinlein doesn't end the story awkwardly, but leaves it open for further adventures.

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