Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Assignment in Eternity -By Robert A. Heinlein (Review)

Like many sci-fi fans over the years, I must say that my favorite writer is Robert A. Heinlein.  I first read Citizen of the Galaxy as a teenager, and I was instantly hooked on his fantastic tales.  I've read almost everything he wrote, and while there were a few low points (as with any prolific writer), the vast majority of his books and short stories are pure gold.

Assignment in Eternity is one of his few selections which had eluded me until recently.  It's a collection of four novellas he wrote in the 1940's.  They were published in different pulp magazines of the day.

Like many of Heinlein's stories, these are a little dated, with technology and sociological events which haven't quite come true.  He also uses his mind-over-matter plot device a lot in these stories.  We see the mind used to perform unimaginable tasks, such as crossing time, traveling to alternate realities, and even stopping the aging process, all by force of will and mental suggestion.  These metaphysical elements prove to be a set of prototypes, as they resurface in some of his future books and stories.  We also see some social conjecture about slavery, and the value of life, which may have been new back in the day, but is very old and familiar today.

As a Heinlein fan, it was nice to read something else by the Grand Master, though I can't say these stories were anything special.  In fact, I wouldn't recommend them for your average reader who isn't already familiar with Heinlein's work.  While they are halfway decent, they're nowhere near his best, and as such should be sampled only after someone is already hooked by other, more exciting and relevant tales.

I rate this one 3.5 out of 5 stars.  It's by no means as bad as For Us, The Living, but it's no Glory Road or Methuselah's Children, either.

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