Book 25: Methuselah’s Children
Well, I’m putting down Methuselah’s Children by Robert A. Heinlein. This is the second book of his on my list that I’ve stopped reading. The first was his Space Cadet, which just dragged on and on and wasn’t an enjoyable read for that reason. I did manage to get through Red Planet, though it too dragged on. The only book of his that I’ve actually enjoyed so far was Farmer in the Sky.
I have three more Heinlein books on my list:
- Starship Troopers
- Stranger in a Strange Land
- The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
A while ago I started reading Stranger in a Strange Land and couldn’t get through it for the same reason I couldn’t get through Space Cadet and Methuselah’s Children; namely the story dragged on and on. It’s a shame because the story ideas themselves are really good and interesting but because the pacing is so drawn out, it really brings the whole story down and I’m just not compelled to finish it. For example, Methuselah’s Children is about a group of people who live more than a hundred years due to their genetics. When the truth comes out about how long they live, they are immediately persecuted and forced ot hijack a spaceship to escape Earth. That’s about as far as I got. This might seem like an exciting story and it had the potential to be so, but unfortunately Heinlein’s writing style hindered it.
So I’ll give Starship Troopers and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress a chance since they’re classics, but I have a feeling I’m going to be putting those down too after a few chapters.
This is not to say that Heinlein was a bad writer or anything. He’s a classic for a reason and I’m sure there are many Heinlein fans out there, but he does have a very specific style that I don’t think has aged well. My guess is that because he was writing during the Golden Age of science fiction, he was more focused on exposition since popular sci-fi was still relatively new at that point. So there’s a lot of pretty dry sci-fi exposition that I can imagine seemed exciting to the young reader in the ’50s and ’60s. Nowadays, we’re more used to science fiction language and terminology and so can focus more on the story. Of course, science fiction and fantasy are known for their world-building, but I’m trying to imagine what it must have been like to read something so different back in the day.
Anyhoo, the next book on my list in The Big Time by Fritz Lieber, which won the Hugo Award in 1958 and is about time travel, so it seems to be right up my alley. I’ll get started reading it right away.
What are your thoughts on finishing books you’ve started? I always feel bad about putting down a book, but at the same time, there’s no point in wasting your time reading something that you dread picking up. On the other hand, maybe sometimes it’s important to push past that. I’m not sure what the right answer is. Leave me a comment below to let me know what you think!