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The Door into Summer by Robert Heinlein

A science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein.

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Futures Passed of Days Long Passed

  • Mar 23, 2011
Rating:
+5

People keep saying that old science fiction is dated.  Of course it is dated.  But how it is dated may be another reason for reading it.  The present is the result of decisions made in the last 50 years.  How many of them were wrong?  If they had been made correctly then this present would be different.  Some of the people writing science fiction in the 50s and 60s were looking to the near future.  Well now we are in it.

This book has been published many times and has had many covers.  I selected that picture because that is the one stuck in my mind.  That cover is from 1959.  I am extremely certain that I read that book in grade school.  I have finally decided that this book is THE MUST READ BOOK by Robert Heinlein.  I am sure there are plenty of people who will come up with plenty of other Heinlein books as THE MUST READ and they will have valid reasons.  I can come up with valid reasons for other books too.  So here is my reason for this one.

It is DATED!

LOL

I mean that in multiple ways but usually reviewers give that as a reason to NOT READ a science fiction book.  This book was published in serial form over 3 months in 1956.  That means it was published before the invention of the INTEGRATED CIRCUIT.  But the story is set in the years 1970 and 2000.  So although at the time of writing it was the future the setting is now our past.  But the engineer/protagonist of the story does things with technology which would undoubtedly be done with integrated circuits if they can be done.  Some of them have.  Heinlein describes an automated drafting machine which undoubtedly corresponds to CAD programs running on a computer built with integrated circuits today.  Heinlein uses a McGuffin called Thorsen tubes to account for the capabilities of his imaginary technology but he knew memory was required.  So by 1970 Heinlein had household robots doing things which we still do not have machines capable of. 

So what is the story actually about?  Our brilliant engineer is double-crossed by his best friend and two-timing fiance so he confronts them about their thievery.  He underestimates old girl again and gets drugged and shipped into the future via cold sleep.  So he ends up in a year 2000 that looks all too familiar because there are inventions created by someone with his name that he did not have time to invent.

Something is very wrong!  The only thing to do is go back in time via a nudist camp and fix it.

NATURALLY!

Heinlein is certainly good at making memorable moments.

Some reviewers accuse Heinlein of being bad at predicting the future because this story has a small nuclear war around 1968, shortly before the beginning of this tale.  But this book was written in 1956 and the Cuban Missile Crisis was in 1962.  If you watch The Fog of War about Robert McNamara you will learn that there were live nukes in Cuba and McNamara didn't even know it in 1962.

So we were closer to nuclear war than anyone knew and we are just lucky that Heinlein missed the mark by as much as he did. From a sci-fi perspective there is probably a parallel universe where the Cuban Missile Crisis did get out of hand. How much of the United States is left in that world?

But now we have a world with lots of cheap and powerful integrated circuits even though we still do not have robots as good as Heinlein described.  We, as a society, have to decide how to integrate this technology into our lives.  What will it do to our schools and what we call EDUCATION?  Do we even want the people we call educators making that decision?  Do the educators want to implement the technology in the most productive manner?  Do our politicians and economists want that done? Somehow the educators have managed not to suggest that 700 year old double-entry accounting be mandatory in our  schools.  Look at the state of the economy.  Economics and complicated technology make for a very funny mix.  Accounting was among the first things big corporations were doing with computers back in the 50s and 60s.  But we are supposed to use our computers to play Doom with the economy.  RIGHT!

Pay very close attention to what Heinlein says about automobiles in the year 2000.  And he wrote that in 1956?  INCREDIBLE!

Heinlein was without question an influential SF writer.  Three of his ideas were stolen for Star Trek episodes.  Stranger in a Strange Land was stolen from Heinlein for the Star Trek episode Charlie X. Heinlein's Puppet Masters became Operation -- Annihilate. And the tribbles to have troubles with are rather obviously related to Martian flatcats from Space Family Stone. So Trek "borrowed" from RAH at least three times that I have noticed.

1959 was the year of C.P. Snows "Two Cultures" lecture.  How does science fiction fit into that divide today?  Who was imagining home computers in 1959? 

http://ttapress.com/fix/features/sf-and-two-cultures/

http://www.stevenpressfield.com/2011/02/the-two-cultures/

http://www.themodernword.com/pynchon/pynchon_essays_luddite.html

Wait, Asimov was doing it in 1951.

http://users.aber.ac.uk/dgc/funtheyhad.html

Unfortunately there is another reason why The Door into Summer is an appropriate MUST READ considering that it is partly set in 2000.

http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2010/201..._stateoftheclimate.html

In 1956 the data collection for the Keeling Curve had not even begun.  But it looks as though the human race has walked through the door into summer.  It is the children and grandchildren born long after Heinlein who will learn how much of a scorcher the summer will be.
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April 24, 2011
psy - a bit preachy (climate) but ok nonetheless. TDIS is one of my all-time favorite Heinlein tales; the brief intro in which RAH explains the title of the book (the house he rents has many doors to the outside and every day during the winter the narrator and his cat must visit each door 'looking for the one into summer') neatly sums up Heinlein's own particular brand of future-optimism. Keep on trying, eventually you'll get there. The nuclear war bit: don't worry about it. Intimate knowledge of living through the cold war is fast passing from memory. If you consider the time frame it was written in, you'll understand that RAH HAD to stick a small war (one that taught us all a lesson of why we didn't want a bigger one) in there because his audience would have rejected the rest of his future if there hadn't been one. The coming global nuclear exchange between east and west was a given back then. His 'wet-firecracker-war' neatly answers that and makes the rest of his future world plausible (for a 1956 audience). I also tend to believe that if we'd kept on the path that RAH's technology in TDIS described, we'd all be a lot better off AND on the Moon AND on Mars AND....I'd still be able to fix my car with common hand tools. (Think about this: would there be any Wal*Mart type businesses if you could fix your TV or radio by changing out tubes?)
April 25, 2011
psy - a bit preachy (climate) but ok nonetheless. --- Keep on trying, eventually you'll get there.

Sorry, I'm stuck on preachy. LOL I think grade school kids should be given a lot of science fiction because it can get mind expanding ideas into their heads when their mids are still plastic enough to be expanded. Who cares what 40+ year old readers read? It is just a way for the publishing companies to make money selling whatever fits on the band wagon. Like lots of Star Wars junk.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WY1dM33uVU

What do you mean by eventually get there? I thought associating Door into Summer with Global Warming was kind of cute.
 
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Wiki

The Door into Summer is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, originally serialized in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (October, November, December 1956, with covers and interior illustrations by Frank Kelly Freas) and published in hardcover in 1957. It is a fast-paced hard science fiction novel, with a key fantastic element, and romantic elements. In three separate Locus Magazine readers polls from 1975 to 1998, it was judged the 36th, the 29th, or the 43rd all-time best science-fiction novel.

The title was triggered by a remark that Heinlein's wife had made: in the novel, the protagonist's cat refuses to leave their house through any of its numerous doors when he sees snow on the ground: he is looking for The Door into Summer. Heinlein wrote the complete novel in only 13 days. No rewrite was needed, only some light editing that Heinlein did himself.

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Details

ISBN-10: 0345330129
ISBN-13: 978-0345330123
Publisher: Del Rey

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