To Sail Beyond the Sunset

Robert A. Heinlein
To Sail Beyond the Sunset Cover

To Sail Beyond the Sunset


To Sail Beyond the Sunset

By Robert A. Heinlein

It would not be accurate to say that this novel has no redeeming features. Not exactly. If that were the case, I would have had to rate it one half star - but, as you see, it has slithered all the way up to one entire star. In my rating system, this would imply that I rated it "C -". Such a rating would be fine, if not for all of the loathsome prose crammed in between these two covers. I don't suppose that Hillary Clinton would have been surprised to find this novel in her rival's basket of deplorables back in 2016.

Where to begin?

If the cover blurb promised:

would there still be fans lining up at the bookstore to read the last novel by RAH?

SPOILER ALERT: if I was reading the novel, I would read it first, before continuing with this review.

Oh, despite all of the forgoing, I did promise that I would illustrate my point about redeeming features for the novel. Well, the novel does begin in a promising fashion, with a great portrayal of a young girl's life and her relationship with her doctor father. We cruise all the way through to page 70 (in the Ace/Putnam hardcover edition), before we divert our attention to the Spanish American War. We then are served an interesting course in turn-of-the-century history, but flavoured by Heinlein with a generous portion of right wing / rabidly-patriotic / libertarian sauce. The narrative seems distorted out of all proportion, to the extent that it was challenging for some time to sort out what on earth was being discussed. Eventually, we loop back to the main plot.

But time is passing, and our heroine Maureen is not a little girl anymore, and the novel gets a bit racier. Actually, it gets a whole lot racier - and not in a good way. I would say it's mostly downhill from there.

For fans of RAH, those who have read many / most /all of his novels and stories, it might be interesting to see how he weaves so many of his characters into the "plot". On the other hand, others among us would enjoy much more plot and much less weaving.

In summary, unless you are committed to reading all of Heinlein's novels, I would give a miss. In fact, I would give it a very wide berth indeed.

As a final aside, re sub-genres, I would say there is very little to justify calling the novel "theological." There is an interesting discussion of the ten commandments at one point, but there is no consideration of whether these are from Charlton Heston's character or some other fictional individual. This work is not very theological otherwise. Considering the life-spans of many of the characters, I would think "immortality" is far more relevant to this novel.

My rating system starts with a rating of one star for a story/novel that I ranked "C -". Ratings move up 1/2 star with each step, up to 5 stars (equivalent to a ranking of A+). I reserve 1/2 star for works rated D and lower.