Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Methuselah's Children, Robert A Heinlein, Gnome Press, 1958, 276 pp

Heinlein returns to writing for adults here with the expansion of a story originally serialized in Astounding Science Fiction in 1941.

The Howard Families are descended from a man who got rich during the California Gold Rush and left his money to be used for research into the prolongation of life. This goal was realized by his trustees providing financial encouragement to the grandchildren of long-lived persons to marry and have children. By the 22nd century, descendants have a life expectancy of 150 years, but their existence is a secret from the rest of society.

Great plot set up, because of course when they decide to reveal their secret all hell breaks loose and the Families must escape Earth in search of other galaxies and a new planet. The remainder of the story concerns their adventures in space and the events surrounding their attempts to live on two different planets. Heinlein covers contact with alien races, mad scientists, beleaguered administrators, telepathic mutants and questions of time in deep space.

I liked the men who wore kilts (yes, really) and the many hairs breath escape scenes. I thought of Greg Bear's Darwin's Children and The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Now we also have Embassytown by Mieville. All of these later books riff on some of the key elements in Methuselah's Children. Also detectable were ideas that will show up in Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), which answers the question I had in my review of Have Spacesuit, Will Travel. Best of all was renegade hero Lazarus Long.

(Methuselah's Children is out of print. I found my copy at The Bestseller Bookstore, a used bookstore in Burbank CA with a huge sci fi section.)

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