Double Star

Robert A. Heinlein
Double Star Cover

Double Star


In Double Star, a 1956 Robert Heinlein novella, Lawrence Smith (aka Lorenzo Smythe or "Lorenzo the Great"), an out-of-work actor, accepts a job to impersonate a man for a few days, without, perhaps, asking as many questions about the job as he should have. He promptly finds himself whisked off to the planet Mars, standing in for one of the most important political figures in the solar system, who has been kidnapped. Larry's first task: fool the Martians during a vitally important Martian adoption ceremony. But somehow one appearance as a double leads to another, and another...

My (self-imposed) mission was to find a Robert Heinlein story where the enjoyment of the tale isn't swamped by the offensive content for which Heinlein is, unfortunately, well known. Double Star, I think, does the job pretty well. There are a couple of instances of eyebrow-raising dialogue, and the women mostly have secretarial-type jobs, but it's par for what you'd normally expect to see in 1950's books (even science fiction; the imaginations of mid-century SF authors had their limits), and nothing was too far out of line.

Heinlein gets on his soapbox a little about personal freedoms and politics, but it's all good since the main message is equality for all races, including Martians and Venerians (aliens from Venus). A few outdated technologies like microfilm and slide rules appear alongside the spaceships and ray guns, but it doesn't ruin the fun. It's actually pretty amusing in a retro kind of way.

This is a quick and humorous read, not terribly challenging, but enjoyable, and there are some interesting ideas about how acting a role can change you as a person, the importance of the political process, and the impact one person can have.