Beyond This Horizon by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It's time to prepare for the 1943 retro Hugo awards that will be presented in 2018! (Why? Why not? Some books deserve love even if they're before the Hugos even began!)
In this case, novels published in 1942 are eligible. Books like C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters are technically eligible but really shouldn't be. There's nothing much SF about the religious satire.
On the other hand, I really enjoyed Olaf Stapledon's anti-novel and worldbuilding masterpiece The Darkness and the Light that came out this year and please imagine how thrilled I was to learn that Heinlein also published a bona fide adult-oriented novel, too!
He was generally known for his Juveniles by this point, so an early adult novel is something of a treat. And fortunately, his writing is always polished and clear and sometimes funny and always full of light agendas. It's Heinlein! He's a very opinionated man. :)
In this case, we're treated to science lessons on genetics and a superior-gene race of humanity planning on overthrowing the current Utopia. The hero is the ultimate perfect superman and I kept thinking about the Howard families in his later fiction, the prototype that gets so fully explored later.
We shouldn't forget the day. 1942.
Does this kind of story sound familiar? In Heinlein's case, it feels like a mirror to a huge segment of the American population that already agreed with the Eugenics movement and what was happening in Europe at the time. Maybe no one really understood the impact or scope or even the reality of the death camps, but everyone could see the implications and the stated goals. It was war and knowing the publishing field, there's a long stretch between when a writer finishes a text and when it actually gets put on the shelves. I'll assume for a moment that Pearl Harbor had not happened yet, or if it did, there was no way Heinlein could have fixed his novel to reflect America's sudden inclusion in the war.
However, it should be noted that he got all the salient points and sentiments RIGHT. It might have been a utopia like Stapledon's work but unlike Stapledon, he went the full "good story" option with interesting characters, exciting plots, cool snags, romance, and a big blowout. :)
Without even mentioning the Hugos or the need to find the best SF or Fantasy of 1942, I would have read this early Heinlein novel thinking that it's a very polished introduction to his later genetic-field obsession with longevity.
No Lazarus Long here, but enough ideas were packed in here to stand proudly with any of his later works. :)
Between Stapledon and Heinlein, I choose Heinlein for the sheer fun factor, the timeliness of the topic, the sophistication of the storytelling, and lastly, the idea. :) Stapledon might blow him out of the water for sheer scope and range of ideas and world-building and commentary, but Heinlein's soup had the perfect mix.
He's my main choice for the Hugo. :) So far. I'm still reading, however. :)
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