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Double Star

de Robert A. Heinlein

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Every stand-in dreamed of the starring role-but what actor would risk his life for the chance? One minute, down-and-out actor Lorenzo Smythe is, as usual, in a bar, drinking away his troubles while watching his career circle the drain. Then a space pilot buys him a drink, and the next thing Smythe knows, he's shanghaied to Mars. Smythe suddenly finds himself agreeing to the most difficult role of his career: impersonating an important politician who has been kidnapped. Peace with the Martians is at stake, and failure to pull off the act could result in interplanetary war. Smythe knows nothing of the issues concerning free interplanetary trade and equal rights for aliens and cares even less, but the handsome compensation is impossible to refuse. He soon realizes, however, that he faces a lifetime masquerade if the real politician never shows up.… (més)
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    SylviaC: Both books play with identity.
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[[Robert Heinlein]]'s unique gift is to take an altogether different type of narrative and layer it over a field of science fiction. [Double Star] is really more of a political satire, but the politics are galactic. And the unlikely hero is a ridiculous actor who is pressed into service as the double for an interstellar politician hoping to bring the Mars body politic into the fold of a larger galactic democracy. It's actually quite funny, and very inventive, as these Martians are not humanoid - and they smell bad, it turns out, at least to humans.

Recommended for Heinlein and classic Sci-Fi fans.
4 bones!!!! ( )
  blackdogbooks | Apr 3, 2022 |
review of
Robert A. Heinlein's Double Star
by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - November 6, 2021

I often point out that Heinlein was an important SF writer to me as a child but that I lost interest in him around age 16. The last bk I read by him at the time was Stranger in a Strange Land. I liked that one very much but I moved on to other more sophisticated writing soon thereafter. For awhile I lost interest in SF altogether & when I rediscovered it I was far more excited by writers like Philip K. Dick & Samuel Delany. Heinlein seemed too militaristic in contrast. Now, at age 68, I can enjoy him again for what're probably much the same reasons that I did as a kid. You just wait, the next thing you know I'll be recommending brands of diaper. I loved the beginning enuf to propose marriage to it:

"If a man walks in dressed like a hick and acting as if he owned the place, he's a spaceman.

"It is a logical necessity. His profession makes him feel the boss of all creation; when he sets foot dirtside he is slumming among the peasants. As for his sartorial inelegance, a man who is in uniform nine tenths of the time and is more used to deep space than to civilization can hardly be expected to know how to dress properly. He is a sucker for the alleged tailors who swarm around every spaceport peddling "ground outfits."" - p 1

This novel's from 1956, I was born in 1953. There's some culture from the 1950s, such as some of the music of Morton Feldman, that still profoundly resonates w/ me even today. Henlein's another one. It's not the same 1950s that've been sometimes waxed nostalgic over, I'm not talking about a bucolic 'simpler times' when a bunch of really nice people all sat around chewing on toothpicks or blades of straw, being respectful to each other, & whittling. This is more the 1950s I remember w/ that special feeling:

"I didn't like Martians. I did not fancy having a thing that looks like a tree trunk topped off by a sun helmet claiming the privileges of a man. I did not like the way they grew pseudo limbs; it reminded me of snakes crawling out of their holes. I did not like the fact that they could look all directions at once without turning their heads—if they had had heads, which of course they don't. And I could not stand their smell!" - pp 4-5

&, yes, as a fossil soon-to-be-stoned-to-death for the satisfaction of the self-righteous-indignation of the 'good neoilliberals' I still have a sense of humor. So did Heinlein, even in the era of narrowing-it-all-down-to-a-tightened-sphincter:

"I did not let the relief show in my face. It was true that I was ready for any professional work—I would gladly have played the balcony in Romeo and Juliet" - p 8

&, yes, this bk is about an out-of-work actor approached by a suspicious gentleman a little overeager to exploit his talents. SO, he takes the job as the balcony & all the critics came out of the woodwork to praise his talents, mistakenly thinking this was a Genet play. OK, ok, JK, jk!! Given that this job was to take place off-planet, even outside of the bar(n) he grew up in, you ask: What about his Vaccine Passport? Good for you, we wdn't want yr thought police faculties to get all rusty now wd we? Wd work?

"I surmised that he was going to buy tickets for the Moonshuttle—how he planned to get me aboard without passport or vaccination certificate I could not guess" - p 31

This was a serious concern given the Martian Peen Worm & its reproductive cycle.

""That's crazy!"

""Is it? We aren't Martians. They are a very old race and they have worked out a system of debts and obligations to cover every possible situation—the greatest formalists conceivable. Compared with them, the ancient Japanese, with their giri and gimu, were downright anarchists. Martians don't have 'right' and 'wrong'—instead they have propriety and impropriety, squared, cubed, and loaded with gee juice.["]" pp 63-64

Note the casual dropping of future slang: "gee juice": obviously 'gravity juice' meaning strong drink. Heinlein was great at coining future-speakisms. He was also great at imagining future-tech:

"That pesky Mars-type mask almost finished us; I had never had a chance to practice with it" - p 88

"The model Bonforte favored was a mouth-free type, a Mitsubushi "Sweet Winds" which pressurizes directly at the nostrils—a nose clamp, nostril plugs, tubes up each nostril which then run back under each ear to the super-charger on the back of your neck." - p 89

Well, one thing leads to another.. just like: What's the expression? The blind leading the bling? Or is it the One-Eyed Monster conducting the Woodie? No, NO! Don't shun me any further, I'm trying to learn my lines, really! Vaccination is goof, Anti-Vax is bod, Vaccination is glued, Anti-Vax is unglued. Whatever, reviewer, stop fucking around, sex is bad, stay on target.

"I was questioned and I responded. Every word, every gesture, was as stylized as a classical Chinese play, else I would not have stood a chance. Most of the time I did not understand my own replies; I simply knew my cues and the responses. It was not made easier by the low light level the Martians prefer; I was groping around like a mole.

"I played once with Hawk Mantell, shortly before he died, after he was stone-deaf. There was a trouper! He could not even use a hearing device because the eight nerve was dead. Part of the time he could cue by lips but that is not always possible. He directed the production himself and he timed it perfectly. I have seen him deliver a line, walk away—then whirl around and snap out a retort to a line that he had never heard, precisely on the timing." - pp 106-107

The actor is being called upon to be a politician, this before the day of Ronald Reagan becoming president, before Arnold Schwarznegger became governor, before Sonny Bono became mayor. Heinlein cd look in the crystal ball they called television back in those olden times & see the future of politics, a new era of puppeteering.

""I'm an Expansionist, too, sir. Good job you did today." He glanced at the life wand with a touch of awe.

"I knew exactly how Bonfort should look in this routine. "Why, thank you. I hope you have lots of children. We need to work up a solid majority."

"He guffawed more than it was worth. "That's a good one! Uh, mind if I repeat it?"" - p 119

I probably lost interest in Heinlein way-back-when partially b/c he seemed to be just a tad-too-much a believer in The American Way: something that I saw, esp in the light of the Vietnam War, as horribly corrupt.

"The Communists developed the new brainwash-by-drugs to an efficient technique, then when there were no more Communists, the Bands of Brothers polished it up still further until they could dose a man so lightly that he was simply receptive to leadership—or load him until he was a mindless mass of protoplasm—all in the sweet name of brotherhood. After all, you can't have "brotherhood" if a man is stubborn enough to want to keep his own secrets, can you?" - pp 128-129

Now, the fault in the above, for me, is that Heinlein doesn't give the anti-Communist Americans enuf cred for the development of brain-washing. & let's not forget the pharmaceutical industry, eh? They won't be happy even when we're all medicated whether we like it or not. They're probably researching how to get blood out of stone as I write this. Me? I'm one of those stubborn people who actually likes to think for myself. What on Earth-as-it-is-in-the-Big-Pharma-Marketing-Dept is wrong w/ me? Well, don't worry, folks, there'll be a name for it soon if there isn't already: something like FTD (Free Thinking Disorder).

"The tightrope act I was going to have to attempt was made possible only by Bonforte's Farleyfile, perhaps the best one ever compiled. Farley was a political manager of the twentieth century, of Eisenhower I believe, and the method he invented for handling the personal relations of politics was as revolutionary as the German invention of staff command was to warfare."

[..]

"It was nothing but a file about people." - p 151

"A Farley file is a set of records kept by politicians on people whom they have met.

"The term is named for James Farley, Franklin Roosevelt's campaign manager. Farley, who went on to become Postmaster General and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, kept a file on everyone he or Roosevelt met.

"Whenever people were scheduled to meet again with Roosevelt, Farley would review their files. That allowed Roosevelt to meet them again while knowing their spouse, their children's names and ages, and anything else that had come out of earlier meetings or any other intelligence that Farley had added to the file. The effect was powerful and intimate.

"Farley files are now commonly kept by other politicians and businesspeople.

"A predecessor may be Ancient Rome's nomenclator, "a slave who attended his master during canvassing and on similar occasions, for the purpose of telling him the names of those he met in the street.""

- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farley_file

These days, of course, there's a Farley File app for yr iJones: "Farley File keeps track of the people you meet by maintaining a log of every time you meet them, along with your own notes and easy access to the Address Book information. Use the notes field to enter personal information and add a log entry with your comments whenever you meet people. The log entry also contains date and time and, optionally, the location which can be shown in the built-in Maps application." - https://appsafari.com/notes/6690/farley-file/

Not a bad idea, really, if you're the type of person who can't keep track of who people are w/o assistance. But, heckagoshen, in this age of the deepfake, there's bound to be deepfake Farley Files that can be malevolently inserted into anyone's contacts list to make sure that no one trusts anyone else (except Big Brother, of course). Ahem.

But back to the review: I enjoyed the HECK out of this bk & I'm thankful to its author for enabling me to take a break from being such a serious intellectual. You, too, shd read it - it's much easier than reading things like Unconscious Suffocation - A Personal Journey through the PANDEMIC PANIC where you might have to think instead of being entertained. Shudder. ( )
  tENTATIVELY | Apr 3, 2022 |
Vintage Heinlein, more overtly political than usual. Predicted the fall of Communism in 1956, but more as an Article of Faith than for any explicit reason. Still a good story, even with the now-antiquated (and ultimately anachronistic) technology -- he was always extrapolating the use of computers, but kept using slide rules; his 'hush cones' almost made it to cell phones but not quite. His political philosophy is civilized libertarianism; characters are just place-holders, although Lorenzo clearly had the same qualities as Bonforte, just nascent in the beginning.
Quote on final page from Voltaire (maybe?): "If Satan should ever replace God he would find it necessary to assume the attributes of Deity."
What Voltaire missed is that Satan would fail, which is why he is not the Savior: he didn't have the capacity to become Deity. In a more secular mode, some people elected to the Presidency fail, spectacularly in some cases, to assume the attributes of the office. Ditto small-minded men elevated to a throne. ( )
  librisissimo | Dec 5, 2021 |
Role of a Lifetime

Robert A. Heinlein was certainly an intellectually dexterous man with many skills and varying and sometimes self-contradictory viewpoints. He was a naval officer (USNA graduate), politician (ran unsuccessfully for office in California in the 1930s), counterculturist (sexual freedom, nudism, etc.), an early life liberal who passed through conservatism to libertarianism, and, of course, a gifted writer. He espoused racial inclusion and he for quite a long time believed that a strong central government stood between human salvation and destruction. Too, he was scientifically based in physics, a perfect foundation for space fiction.

What he thought about at different junctures in his life often ended up in the pages of his novels and stories. In the case of Double Star, the novel reflects his then current views on government, his personal knowledge of politics, his belief in racial fairness, and the characteristics he supposed a decent politician might incorporate. Even the typical sexism of the period is toned down a bit. These ideas given life in Double Star resonate as strongly today as back in the 1950s when some of them could be considered, well, outré. And these make Double Star, the 1956 Hugo Best Novel winner, eminently readable and enjoyable today.

Characters switching roles and coming out better for it can be found throughout literature, among examples Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. Heinlein employs this effectively by creating an engaging character in the person of near-do-well actor Lorenzo Smythe, who begins as pompous and progresses to personable and finally to a completely subsumed personality. Lorenzo tells the story about how he came to play the greatest and final role of his life, assuming the persona of the solar system’s greatest politician, John Joseph Bonforte.

In the future, the various inhabited planets of the solar system live under one central government, a constitutional monarchy governed by a parliamentary system under the auspices of a titular monarch, the Emperor of the Solar System. While various political parties contend for leadership, the two prominent ones are the Expansionist and Humanity parties. Their political viewpoints aren’t readily discernible from their names. The Expansionists wish to extend equality to all the intelligent species in the system, whereas the Humanists advocate for human being supremacy. They have lots of support on Earth, which represents the most strongest power in the system, including Lorenzo, who openly despises Martians and the Expansionist leader who wishes to gain representation for Martians and other species, namely Bonforte.

To prevent Bonforte from attending a Martian ceremony in which he will become a Martian, the Humanists kidnap him. Not attending would constitute the highest insult imaginable in the Martian culture. To thwart them, Bonforte’s associates persuade Lorenzo to play the role of Bonforte so the ceremony can take place. Not able to pass up the role of a lifetime, and well as the compensation, Lorenzo accepts the role. Then, of course, one thing leads to another, until the role turns into a lifetime commitment and Lorenzo for all purposes becomes Bonforte. How and why this all happens constitutes the crux of the story, every moment of which is not only propulsive and engaging but also thoughtful and insightful on a political level. It’s Robert A. Heinlein at his best and not only one of the really great sci-fi novels but just a terrific novel in and of itself.
( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
Role of a Lifetime

Robert A. Heinlein was certainly an intellectually dexterous man with many skills and varying and sometimes self-contradictory viewpoints. He was a naval officer (USNA graduate), politician (ran unsuccessfully for office in California in the 1930s), counterculturist (sexual freedom, nudism, etc.), an early life liberal who passed through conservatism to libertarianism, and, of course, a gifted writer. He espoused racial inclusion and he for quite a long time believed that a strong central government stood between human salvation and destruction. Too, he was scientifically based in physics, a perfect foundation for space fiction.

What he thought about at different junctures in his life often ended up in the pages of his novels and stories. In the case of Double Star, the novel reflects his then current views on government, his personal knowledge of politics, his belief in racial fairness, and the characteristics he supposed a decent politician might incorporate. Even the typical sexism of the period is toned down a bit. These ideas given life in Double Star resonate as strongly today as back in the 1950s when some of them could be considered, well, outré. And these make Double Star, the 1956 Hugo Best Novel winner, eminently readable and enjoyable today.

Characters switching roles and coming out better for it can be found throughout literature, among examples Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. Heinlein employs this effectively by creating an engaging character in the person of near-do-well actor Lorenzo Smythe, who begins as pompous and progresses to personable and finally to a completely subsumed personality. Lorenzo tells the story about how he came to play the greatest and final role of his life, assuming the persona of the solar system’s greatest politician, John Joseph Bonforte.

In the future, the various inhabited planets of the solar system live under one central government, a constitutional monarchy governed by a parliamentary system under the auspices of a titular monarch, the Emperor of the Solar System. While various political parties contend for leadership, the two prominent ones are the Expansionist and Humanity parties. Their political viewpoints aren’t readily discernible from their names. The Expansionists wish to extend equality to all the intelligent species in the system, whereas the Humanists advocate for human being supremacy. They have lots of support on Earth, which represents the most strongest power in the system, including Lorenzo, who openly despises Martians and the Expansionist leader who wishes to gain representation for Martians and other species, namely Bonforte.

To prevent Bonforte from attending a Martian ceremony in which he will become a Martian, the Humanists kidnap him. Not attending would constitute the highest insult imaginable in the Martian culture. To thwart them, Bonforte’s associates persuade Lorenzo to play the role of Bonforte so the ceremony can take place. Not able to pass up the role of a lifetime, and well as the compensation, Lorenzo accepts the role. Then, of course, one thing leads to another, until the role turns into a lifetime commitment and Lorenzo for all purposes becomes Bonforte. How and why this all happens constitutes the crux of the story, every moment of which is not only propulsive and engaging but also thoughtful and insightful on a political level. It’s Robert A. Heinlein at his best and not only one of the really great sci-fi novels but just a terrific novel in and of itself.
( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Robert A. Heinleinautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Hollander-Lossow, Else vonTraductorautor principalalgunes edicionsconfirmat
Adlerberth, RolandTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Bacon, C.W.Autor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Capel, TheoTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Day, ThomasTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
García, AlbertTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Giancola, DonatoAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
James, LloydNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Joó, AttilaTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Korkut, NazlıTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
MacLeod, KenIntroduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Michel ChrestienTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Powers, RichardAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Powers, Richard M.Autor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Rekunen, VeikkoTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Roberts, AnthonyAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Szafran, GeneAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Valla, RiccardoTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Weiner, TomNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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Wikipedia en anglès (1)

Every stand-in dreamed of the starring role-but what actor would risk his life for the chance? One minute, down-and-out actor Lorenzo Smythe is, as usual, in a bar, drinking away his troubles while watching his career circle the drain. Then a space pilot buys him a drink, and the next thing Smythe knows, he's shanghaied to Mars. Smythe suddenly finds himself agreeing to the most difficult role of his career: impersonating an important politician who has been kidnapped. Peace with the Martians is at stake, and failure to pull off the act could result in interplanetary war. Smythe knows nothing of the issues concerning free interplanetary trade and equal rights for aliens and cares even less, but the handsome compensation is impossible to refuse. He soon realizes, however, that he faces a lifetime masquerade if the real politician never shows up.

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