Double Star

Robert A. Heinlein
Double Star Cover

Double Star -- Pure Space Opera

Tar Daddoo

What is the Science Fiction Premise?

Double Star is probably the purist example of Space Opera that I've read in some time. I do not mean that it is an adventure story set in space, though it is that. I use the term Space Opera in its original meaning, though preferably without the pejorative connotations. To me, Space Opera is a story that adopts the settings and trappings of Science Fiction, but without any commitment to the Science Fiction. These stories could just as easily have been cast in the old west, medieval Europe, or modern society and often were. The Science Fiction setting is not the meat of the story or even an important side dish. It's just flavoring.

In this case, we have The Prisoner of Zenda recast as a futuristic story. There is an inter-planetary empire, alien races, and space travel. None of which are essential to the story. In short, there is no Science Fiction premise being explored in this story.

Is the science of the premise explored?

Heinlein gives us realistic accounts of travel among planets and a moon colony, but these are not central to the story.

Is the impact of the premise on an individual explored?

Heinlein's protagonist in Double Star is more interesting than many of his heroes. He is likable enough, but somewhat vain. He does change over the course of the story, but these changes are not related to the Science Fiction.

Is the impact of the premise on society explored?

Heinlein does portray an interesting future society and the political intrigues that drive it. This may be the one place where we get the Science Fiction interacting with the story. Some of the political issues of interest concern the relationship of humans with aliens and the approach to expansion.

How well written is the story?

This book is very easy and enjoyable to read. Heinlein's sometimes overbearing dogmatism is mostly absent. My copy of the book (SF Masterworks) has an introduction by Ken MacLeod. Don't read it first; there are too many spoilers. Do read it when you've finished Double Star. It offers some interesting insights regarding the relationship of this book to Heinlein's later work.

Can I recommend the book?

This book is fun. You'll like it, even if Heinlein's later works (starting with Starship Troopers) turn you off. Sit back, accept that it is Space Opera with no real Science Fiction premise, and enjoy the story-telling.

Tar Daddoo