Between Planets

Robert A. Heinlein
Between Planets Cover

Between Planets


One of Heinlein's fun "juveniles". Don Harvey, warned by his parents on Mars to leave his schooling on Earth before there is war between Earth and its Martian and Venusian colonies, is asked to collect a package from a professor friend before leaving Earth, which leads to his arrest and the mysterious death of the professer. There is a seemingly valueless plastic ring which is returned to him by the ominous security officers, and he takes it off on his travels to Mars, via a space station and Venus. On the spaceflight he aids a stricken Venusian "dragon" and witnesses the destruction of the military space station by the rebels. Landing on Mars he is overtaken by the war, and is surprised that Earth is searching for him and his ring, which eventually proves to hold vital breakthrough technology about weapons and speeding up spaceflight.

Don sees a friend murdered by the Earth troops, and escapes from a prison camp, wading through vile stagnant swamps full of mud lice. He falls in with rebels and becomes a guerilla taking part in dangerous raids. Eventually he meets up with the brilliant Dragonagain. who turns out to be a brilliant scientistand passes on the ring, which gives the edge to the rebels. Oh, and there is a light little romance too, though the not very sharp Don barely recognises it!

I really enjoyed this book full of action and adventure, but with nuggets intriguing enough to keep the interest of adults. I was glad that it was written at a time when all the data we had on Venus was by telescope etc, no Hubbles or passing satellites, and authors could still have fun inventing strange environments and could still have venusian "dragons"!

This was, as is common with Heinlein juveniles, a coming of age story-, but with some more serious shadows. The ebullient practical but rather obtuse young man we meet at first comes through hard times, and that has impact on him, though Heinlein touches only lightly on it for his young readers eager for adventure. On Venus he sees a friend shot dead, and in a prison camp though he escapes when an outage makes the electric fence be useless he gets over in time but sees a fellow prisoner fried as the fence comes on again. When he meets up with rebels their leader is frank about their aims, to make the lives of the small earth force unbearable and expensive in terms of men and equipment. "We will sneak in at night and cut their throats, and sneak out again for breakfast" and we can assume when Don joins them he is involved with this, though its not very explicit - "He learned the ways of the guerilla - to infiltrate without sound, to strike silently and fade back into the dark.... those that learned survived, those that did not, died.... He aquired deep lines around his mouth. lines beyond his years, and a white puckered scar on his left forearm. "On a later occasion, when reunited with allies a man tries to bully him into giving up the ring, and suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere a knife is pressed against the man's stomach. At one point he thinks about his parents, but admits to himself that somehow he can not conjure up any emotiions. None of this sort of thing is standard in juvenile fiction, and as|I said, it makes for enjoyable reading for adults.