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The Laughing Academy
A Life of Noisy Desperation
Thoughts on "For Us, the Living" 
16th-Feb-2006 07:30 pm
Steeplechase
Yesterday I finished Robert Heinlein’s first novel, For Us, the Living, which was never published in his lifetime. Reading it was an interesting and heartening experience for a very odd reason: the book is awful. For Us... is a series of socratic dialogues (laying out still-radical theories on economics, government, and ethics) connected by the most gossamer of plots: a navy pilot of the 1930s winds up in the 2080s (how is never fully explained and doesn’t really matter), where he abruptly falls in love and more gradually learns about and adapts to the society which has evolved in the interim. Heinlein’s voice and style are already there, but he seems to have no idea how to tell a story, and the characters are just sketched in; most of the main love interest’s backstory is given in a two-page footnote.

The fact that such a successful career had such an unpromising start is immensely cheering.
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