Heinlein, Robert A. For Us, The Living. New York: Scribner, 2004. ISBN 0-7432-5998-X.
I was ambivalent about reading this book, knowing that Robert and Virginia Heinlein destroyed what they believed to be all copies of the manuscript shortly before the author's death in 1988, and that Virginia Heinlein died in 2003 before being informed of the discovery of a long-lost copy. Hence, neither ever gave their permission that it be published. This is Heinlein's first novel, written in 1938–1939. After rejection by Macmillan and then Random House, he put the manuscript aside in June 1939 and never attempted to publish it subsequently. His first fiction sale, the classic short story “Life-Line”, to John W. Campbell's Astounding Science Fiction later in 1939 launched Heinlein's fifty year writing career. Having read almost every word Heinlein wrote, I decided to go ahead and see how it all began, and I don't regret that decision. Certainly nobody should read this as an introduction to Heinlein—it's clear why it was rejected in 1939—but Heinlein fans will find here, in embryonic form, many of the ideas and themes expressed in Heinlein's subsequent works. It also provides a glimpse at the political radical Heinlein (he'd run unsuccessfully for the California State Assembly in 1938 as a Democrat committed to Upton Sinclair's Social Credit policies), with the libertarian outlook of his later years already beginning to emerge. Much of the book is thinly—often very thinly—disguised lectures on Heinlein's political, social, moral, and economic views, but occasionally you'll see the great storyteller beginning to flex his muscles.

February 2004 Permalink