Kirkus Reviews QR Code
FOR US, THE LIVING by Robert A. Heinlein


by Robert A. Heinlein

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-7432-5998-X
Publisher: Scribner

The world as it should be—according to the late Heinlein (d. 1988).

It’s a rare lost manuscript that’s published with a critical introduction, but this is exactly what happened with For Us, The Living, the newly uncovered first novel from SF master Heinlein. Spider Robinson’s intro gives a pretty honest evaluation of the book, refraining from the usual urge to proclaim it a lost masterpiece of an ineffable kind. Spider is right: this isn’t really a novel, and anyone expecting something along the lines of Starship Troopers, The Puppet Masters, or even one of the author’s later think-pieces like Stranger in a Strange Land, would do well to steer clear. For Us is really a bundle of lectures on the world situation and ways it could be improved, from the viewpoint of Perry Nelson, who has an accident in 1939 and wakes up in 2086. It’s Perry’s good luck that he’s rescued by Diana, a dancer who tends to walk about in the nude and thinks Perry is just peachy. Also fortunate for Perry is that everybody he runs across finds it hardly strange at all that he’s arrived from some 150 years in the past; instead, people just want to treat him to free lectures on all the history and changes in government, world affairs, and economics he’s missed over that time. In this sense, For Us isn’t really so much a novel as a treatise on utopian society, similar to Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward.

Though you can occasionally see the pulp SF guy lurking behind the narrative’s stoic face here, this is definitely more academic exercise than worthy fiction.