Robert A Heinlein was one of the most influential and controversial science fiction authors of the 20th Century. Incredibly popular, he set very high standards of literary quality and scientific plausibility and he was one of the first writers of his genre to break into the mainstream market.
Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke and Robert A Heinlein were known as the "big three" of science fiction and even today, more than 20 years after his death (1988) his influence is still seen in the science fiction genre.
Robert A Heinlein integrated recognisable social themes into much of his writing, self-reliance and individual liberty, the influence of religion on culture and government and the relationship between emotional and physical love. He was never afraid to push the boundary's of acceptability and courted controversy with tales of sexual revolution, polyamory (Stranger in a strange land) and fascist militarism (Starship Troopers), although his iconoclastic approach has led to many divergent and alternative interpretations and in many cases contradictory labels on his works.
Such was Robert A Heinlein's influence that after the publication of his most (in)famous novel - Stranger in a Strange Land, a religion was formed (Church of all worlds) from the religion of the primary characters within the novel. It's difficult to imagine many people who have had that level of influence. Stranger in a Strange Land was originally edited with 60,000 words removed as being considered too shocking at the time (1961). Many argue that this edited version is a better novel than the full un-cut version (released in 1991).
Robert A Heinlein has won a total of 7 Hugo Awards (three retrospectively), he was the very first "Grand Master" of the Science Fiction Writers of America and many of his written concepts have since become science fact. The concepts include the Automatic Light switch (from the novel The Man who sold the Moon), Electric Hand Dryers (from the novel Coventry), Mobile Phones (From Space Cadet and Assignment with Eternity) and Screensavers (Stranger in a strange land).
In his life time he has published 32 novels, 59 short stories and 16 collections. Four films, two TV series and several Radio broadcasts have been made from his literature.
Review by Phil Wing
I stumbled across your site as I was doing some more research on Iain Banks as I have first editions of all of his works. I was looking round the rest of your site and was just reading you Robert Heinlein reviews. Methusalahs Children was the second Lazarus Long book after Time Enough For Love which is an epic tale covering hundreds of years (and pages). It introduces the whole of the original history of Long and the family, and is a masterpiece. I picked up Methusalehs Children as part of a double book set including Revolution which is the follow up to Stranger in a Strange Land, another masterpiece. Stranger was to be made in to a movie with Tom Hanks in the lead and whilst not really a Lazarus Long story you can see some of the Long character in it. If you want a brilliantly witty Heinleing book then try Job: A comedy of errors. It's a re-telling of the Bibles book of Job but with Heinleins excellent sense of mischief and desire to re-examine his religious beliefs.
- Phil Wing, London
The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.