Waldo – Robert A. Heinlein – Book Review

My first introduction to science fiction came in the Portales Junior High School Library around 1958.  One of the first of the hundreds of Sci-Fi books read over the course of a lifetime was Red Planet, by Robert A. Heinlein.  Probably Keith, one of the readers of this blog, stood beside me in PJHS Library and argued over who’d get to check it out first. 

The library didn’t include a lot to select from and we pored over them all.  Thunder and Roses, by Theodore Sturgeon.  City, by Clifford D. Simak.  The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury.  The Stars are Ours, and Star Born, by Andre Norton. And anything by Robert Heinlein.

Written in 1940, Waldo must have been one of Heinlein’s earliest novels.  By the late 1950s it was still too early to be profound.  Most of the setting, plot, concepts Heinlein visualized in 1940 hadn’t yet come to pass.  Hadn’t made their way into human reality in a form more concrete than a pleasurable indulgence in imagination set to words.  My memories of reading it were vague compared to hundreds of other works by Heinlein and other visionaries who hammered and blasted the new genre into mainstream readership. 

So when Waldo showed up in a box of books in the Saint Vincent de Paul Thrift Store in Kerrville for a dime each and I bought them all, noticing Waldo among them, I was only mildly interested.  Another couple of hours of something to read before dropping off to sleep, I figured.

I was wrong and discovered how wrong I was roughly 20 pages into the book.  Squinted, read and re-read it far past my normal sleep time.  Read it again the next day.  Twice.

Aside from a goodly other phenomena Heinlein described in 1940 that eventually came to pass decades later, he discusses others that haven’t yet made it into mainstream thinking.  One of which includes something I’ve been examining with insane intensity during the past several years, began experimenting with during the late 1990s.  Dropped, partly because of Y2K, partly because the Internet and home computer RAM didn’t yet allow the accumulation and examination of sufficient evidence to arrive anywhere beyond conjecture and assertion.

Thankee, Saint Vincent de Paul Thrift Store.  And thankee Robert Heinlein, particularly for this one.

I keep Waldo close at hand, thumb through it when I’m pondering where things are going as I go through my daily downloading rituals, working my way through the maze to the center. 

You mightn’t, probably won’t be as impressed with this tome as I am.  But I’m betting if you can find it you’ll be more than mildly surprised.  Find yourself asking, “How the hell did Heinlein figure all that out in 1940?

If not, you’ll at least enjoy a fun plot, good characters, a couple of hours of science fiction back when that’s what it was.

Old Jules

19 responses to “Waldo – Robert A. Heinlein – Book Review

  1. Man, I too read some of those books and short story collections. I loved Theodore Sturgeon and Clifford D. Simak. Poul Anderson too. I remember interviewing Ursula K. Le Guin, (actually her husband was next to us too) and asking her how come those guys and others were not more recognized at the time (middle 70s), but that was of course a tremendous mistake; I had no idea how famous she was in the U.S. at the time, and it seemed in perspective, at least rude from my part to put her on the spot like that. Hopefully she forgave my ignorance before she passed, although I doubt it.
    I’ve read Stranger in a Strange Land, then, and Bradbury, and a Canticle for Leibowitz, which is also very good. But somehow missed Waldo. Never too late to try it, I guess. After all, it was late that I came to Philip K. Dick, which is now one of my favorites. Thanks for bringing that up.

    • Hi wesley. You and I’ve shared similar tastes in our reading and other matters evidently. Incidently, I did visit your blog, as you mentioned. Tried to subscribe by email, but WP wouldn’t allow it. Refused repeatedly. Wouldn’t allow me to comment, either, for that matter. Put up the comment screen repeatedly without a post button to click once it was finished. Thanks for coming by. Jules

  2. Know what U mean…he was the only Science “Fantasy” that I read in the 50’s…preferred Asimov & such…have U reread The Huxley’s?

    • dayledann: Thanks for coming by. I did read Huxley, but so long ago I barely remember. Science ‘Fantasy’ actually arrived on the scene a bit into the ’60s as I recall, but I might be mistaken. I suppose Darker Than You Think, by Jack Williamson might qualify as science fantasy, written in the ’50s. The lines between the two are vague for me. Gracias, J

  3. I recall the story. I find my own ruminations about such things don’t agree on all points, but it’s not foreign to me. You probably note I use some of the same terminology when I write.

  4. I found science fiction in the early to mid 80’s, and read every last thing my small-town library had – which seems to be the same ones that were around in the 40’s and 50’s. I particularly liked Heinlein, he had some big ideas for someone raised in the Bible Belt, and I still expect ‘Waldos’ to be invented and named as such. I’d love to revisit his books – the only one I own is Stranger in a Strange Land. Now you’ve given me a hankering…

    • heretherebespiders: Thanks for coming by. My memory of his books is a bit dim these days. I do recall The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and The Puppetmasters being impressive to me at the time. Also Farnham’s Freehold. Probably others I can’t recall now offhand. 1980s I was reading a lot of Larry Niven, Phillip Jose Farmer, Vonnegut, Saberhagen and Cordwainer Smith, as I recall. Niven was in the midst of his Known Space era, Farmer doing his Riverworld thing. Saberhagen still in his wossname, Devastator, Destroyer, whatever books. Cordwainer Smith might have been doing a series about hobo cities wandering around in interstellar space. Gracias, J

  5. I believe the power of the imagination when used with deductive reasoning and a logical progression of ideas is highly underated these days. Even though the evidence of it’s usefulness in predicting the future is quite clear if you pay attention to writers such as Heinlein, Bradbury etc.
    I believe the same is possible in the world of politics and government and that is why I am afraid. Shhhhh; I think I can sometimes see the future and it ain’t pretty.
    Great post.

  6. Have you read Starship Troopers – the book, not the joke of a movie that never got the real heart of the book – what makes a citizen?

    • Hi Warren. Thanks for coming by. Yeah, I do recall reading Starship Troopers. Liked it well at the time. Don’t recall seeing the film. What makes a citizen as nearly as I can figure, is a person living in a particular piece of geography among a particular segment of the world population. Norton was a good fiction writer but never distinguished herself as a philosopher particularly. Certainly not a limerick philosopher. Gracias, Jules

  7. And I thought I owned all of Heinlein’s work. Apparently not. I will look up “Waldo.” Though I’m not a big fan of his rolling roads and whatnot. He hit his stride with things like “The Number of the Beast” and of course his old young-adult fiction like “The Rolling Stones” and “Have Space Suit, Will Travel.” Classics.

    Funny, I was just reading Larry Niven’s short story of how someone with a time machine tried to kill the space program by curing Heinlein of his consumption in the Navy, so he never became a sci-fi writer. Didn’t matter… the timeline healed itself, America became indomitably strong in the space race, subjugated Russia and Admiral Heinlein’s Navy wound up running America’s space program after NASA bungled it too badly.

    • Hi Marvin: I have to confess Heinlein lost me toward the end. After Stranger in a Strange Land he got into a lot of areas I wasn’t ready for. Might be if I read them now I’d like them better. Can’t recall ever reading the Niven story. Gracias, Jules

      • I hated SIASL. I thought it was his worst story ever. He got weird with his theories on incest and cloning etc, but I liked his characters and their witty banter. Niven’s story is in “N-Space,” a collection of short stories. Good read. I really like Niven’s short, “The Fourth Profession.”

  8. Added Waldo to my Book Bucket List this evening. Enjoy looking to the future and seeing predictions come true. Thanks, Bev

  9. I see I need to add a few books to my reading list. Seams you guys have all the fun. In the 50’s I was reading Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and some boy/girl twin mystery books. SiFi didn’t find it’s way into my world until my kids were teens. Then non-fiction has taken my time since the early 80’s. NF remains a big part of my reading time. I’ll have to find some of the mentioned books for my pleasure reading. Thanks Jules and others.

  10. I blame sci-fi for my addiction to reading. In my case it was H.G. Wells that kick started everything.

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