The Menace from Earth

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Another book down on my reread-Heinlein project. Seven to go! This one is a collection of short stories from the 1940s and 50s. Many of them feature death and decrepitude, so be warned.

My copy: a falling-apart 50¢ Signet paperback missing the back cover. Can't remember where or when I got it.

I enjoyed the title story the most. Narrated by Holly, a plucky teenage inhabitant of the moon (think "Podkayne of Luna"), the "menace" is in the form of Ariel, a beautiful tourist from Earth who wants to see the sights. Holly acts as her guide for a while, but her friend Jeff gets kind of starry-eyed and quickly takes over. (Holly vehemently denies that she's jealous, but c'mon.) Holly finds herself back on duty when Ariel wants to don strap-on wings and try flying in the huge lava cave that acts as an air reservoir for the lunar city. Holly's an expert flier herself. The details of this popular recreational activity are meticulously described and (for all I know) might actually be practical someday. (There are lava tubes, so couldn't a lava cavern be possible?)

The remaining stories are less fun. Perhaps some spoilers ahead:

"The Year of the Jackpot" — an offbeat statistician collects disparate bits of data that seem to predict imminent societal breakdown and chaos. Fortunately he finds a girlfriend. They "meet cute": she's a victim of one of those mass-insanity trends, compelled (somehow) to disrobe in public. Unfortunately, he remains unaware of a Very Important Trend until the very last few pages.

"By His Bootstraps" — Graduate student Bob is trying to finish his thesis about the impossibility of time travel, when… he's abducted by a mysterious-but-somehow-familiar stranger, gets fed into a time portal, transported into the far future, where he meets a different mysterious stranger, and … well, I liked "—All You Zombies—' better.

"Columbus Was a Dope" — two barflies argue about the merits of an upcoming attempt to send a spaceship to Proxima Centauri. The setting of their argument is only revealed at the end!

"Sky Lift" — an emergency trip delivering medical supplies to Pluto is only possible by a "torch ship", and it can only arrive in time if it accelerates at 3.5 Gs. Which is harmful to one's health, specifically the ship's two-man crew.

"Goldfish Bowl" — Mysterious waterspouts and fireballs near Hawaii are investigated. Not successfully.

"Project Nightmare" — A team of psychics has amazing powers. Which comes in handy when it turns out the Commies have planted nuclear bombs in dozens of American cities. Things work out well, except for… well, sorry Cleveland.

"Water Is for Washing" — A tale of disaster survival, when a businessman traveling in California's Imperial Valley (below sea level) experiences an earthquake which causes a biblical flood. Fun fact: Heinlein was pissed that his magazine editors (Argosy) trimmed the final two paragraphs from the published story. Wish I could read them!

Last Modified 2024-01-10 6:27 AM EDT