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TPG reviews: The Star Beast, by Robert Heinlein

October 12, 2013

An intriguing work of science fiction. Highly recommended.

Lummox has been the pet of the Stuart family for generations.  With eight legs, a thick hide and huge (and growing) size, Lummox is nobody’s idea of man’s best friend. Nevertheless, John Stuart XI, descendant of the starman who originally brought Lummox back to Earth, loves him.

But when Lummox eats a neighbor’s car and begins to grow again, the Feds decide enough is enough. John isn’t about to let the authorities take his pet away, and with his best friend friend Betty, determines to save Lummox even if it takes leaving the life he’s known forever.

The Star Beast

One of the better covers

My rating: 9/10

Well, here it is: the review I originally expected to post well over a week ago. Better late than never, right? 😉

The Star Beast is one of Heinlein’s older novels, and not one of his better known ones. The latter point, in my view, is a crying shame. While it is slow at points, Star Beast is a truly amazing piece of work, and one which deserves to be read by all who are interested in SF.

The plot of the book is centred on Lummox, an enormous dinosaur-like creature who has lived as a pet for well over a hundred years. After Lummox creates a scene in public, it is decided to put to death like a common animal – much to the anguish of John Thomas Stuart XI, his current master. Matters are complicated by the arrival of hyper-advanced aliens, who claim that a child of theirs is on Earth. Matters are further complicated when the aliens threaten violence in the event of the child’s non-return.

Contrary to what you may expect, there really isn’t much action in this book. There is a lot of talking, however, with negotiation and legal wrangling taking up much of the book’s page count.  This probably sounds dreadfully boring; it isn’t. The situations presented in The Star Beast are simply fascinating, and the book’s exploration of them was truly a joy to read. I raced through the whole thing in about five days – that, I daresay, kinda speaks for itself.

Most of the characters were solid, though a special mention must be made for Lummox himself. Quite simply, you WILL fall in love with Lummox before the end. Everything about the character, from his (seemingly) docile personality to his childish voice, will make you want to hug him. Lummox’s viewpoint scenes were the book’s highlight, with each one managing to be funny while also giving a glimpse into a truly alien mind.

On a final note, this book contains only trace amounts of misogyny. Given who wrote it, that is quite the achievement.

All in all, The Star Beast really is a book you reall should pick up. Between its lovely sci-fi technology, detailed interspecies intrigue and consistently good writing, there is very little to fault it on. It more than makes up for Stranger in a Strange Land, certainly.

 

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