That angst stuff you pulled from thin air, and I never criticized heroic fiction.
Sorry. I was just venting at the "sophistication above everything else" school of literary criticism. These people write off Heinlein (and most sf in general) because it's plainly written and entertaining.
You are defending yourself against a different straw man by listing all the books you have read, as if having read a book says something about you.
I was trying to make the point that, while I may be a Heinlein fanboy, it isn't because I've only read him and a few Star Wars novels. I've read and enjoyed a wide variety of other stories, and I still value Heinlein's contributions to literature.
Why do so many people latch onto this guy and not some other equally loud and opinionated Kilgore Trout?
Dunno about other people, but here's why I like Heinlein:
Heinlein's "hard/pure" science fiction aspect is usually well motivated and well executed. The first deadly sin that he avoids is that his science and technology are physically plausible and properly developed. When he uses fictional machines, they are described in enough detail to seem real, and are usually pretty well integrated into the story. Example: a Heinlein character would not escape from captors using a suddenly-introduced teleporter. He would steal a flying car, and when he got away, set the car's autopilot to lead the Evil Authorities on a wild goose chase. Lesser authors (e.g., most Star Trek novels) would just use a "magical" teleporter that suddenly rescues the protagonist, with no skill or guts or luck needed by the rescuee. As an engineer, I find that sort of deus ex machina resolution disappointing and unfullfilling, and Heinlein rarely resorts to it. When he does use it (e.g., the Martian mental powers in Stranger In A Strange Land), he first takes the time to thoroughly describe and motivate their use, and he also places practical limitations on the powers. I think this is one of the reasons so many technical people like Heinlein stories.
The second deadly sin of hard sf is describing technical stuff in excruciating detail. When some authors include an sf gimmick, they spend several paragraphs (or even pages!) describing *exactly* how the gimmick works. You get the feeling that they're about to burst out in equations. Heinlein mostly avoids this, especially in his later work. He takes the time to integrate the gimmick with the story, and he writes in plain, understandable language rather than descending into technobabble.
Heinlein was also quite inventive with his gimmicks. Examples: waterbeds (Stranger In A Strange Land), the dangers of nuclear power (The Green Hills Of Earth and another story whose name escapes me), rocketry and space travel in general, weaponry (powered armored suits in Starship Troopers), waldos (which take their name from his story Waldo), and many others. About the only technologies you can accuse him of overusing are flying cars and big, shiny rockets.
As an added bonus, the making of many of his technological gimmicks is a part of the story. Technology is a critical part of industrial societies, and Heinlein is one of the few authors to write about how and why engineers do their work. Even most science fiction authors resort to handwaving and/or "magical" development when telling how idea X got turned into machine Y.
One of Heinlein's faults is the recycling of character types. There are only about half a dozen different character types in all his work. At least most of the characters are likeable or at least respectable. Heinlein did not subject his readers to an endless parade of squalid or obnoxious characters just for the titillation value. I get the feeling that, except for the odd nuclear explosion or revolution, his characters would make nice neighbors.
His plot structures, too, tend to be of a couple of varieties, such as the favorite 1) ordinary man is 2) suddenly thrust into an extraordinary situation by 3) events outside his control, but he manages to 4) overcome it by a combination of 5) personal strength and 6) ethical behavior, and 7) returns home a hero. This gets somewhat tiresome, especially if you're reading several of his books back to back. (Although most authors are tiresome if you do that.) At least Heinlein didn't slavishly follow a single form: it may be transparently obvious that the protagonist is about to be hauled across the galaxy on a rocket ship, but it's usually different circumstance that precipitate the adventure, and the actual adventure itself is unique.
One area where Heinlein had versimilitude was the setting, especially the societies. I particularly like how he explores other possible societies. Examples: Slavery in several stories. Military culture and franchise in Starship Troopers. Repression and revolution in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress and Revolt in 2100. (And additionally religion-based gov't. in the latter.) Genetic manipulation in Friday. Nudity and other social mores in many stories.
Of course, this is also where he is preachiest and most didactic, but I can partially forgive that because the issues are important to the future of the human race and he doesn't cop out like most authors do. As an example, most authors just raise a question like "Is slavery bad?" and all they can think of is "Why, yes, it is bad. Very bad." No shit -- I had to read your book to find out that? If they had any solution at all, it would be some sort of magical hero who shows up and frees all the slaves (Spartacus, Annakin Skywalker, whatever). Heinlein would plainly and simply show why it's bad without belaboring the obvious, show the conditions under which it is likely to occur, show how a few of the obvious solutions are useless or counterproductive, and show one way of working towards a solution, which solution usually means acting in an ethical but pragmatic way given the prevailing circumstances. Heinlein also rarely treats the antagonists as pure ravening evil -- he shows what drives them from their point of view and evokes pity and perhaps even sympathy. This doesn't make for the most readable stories, of course, but I think it's interesting and thought provoking, and it's a hell of a lot more useful than the good vs. evil approach. Another thing to consider is that Heinlein rarely wrote giant 700 page books, and one paragraph of preaching can illustrate a point that would take dozens of otherwise superfluous pages of story.
I also like the way Heinlein treats non-human life forms and intelligences: they are portrayed with understanding and comprehension. Too many stories treat non-humans as simple forces of nature. He examines even dangerous threats to the human race (the Martians in Stranger and the alien invaders in Puppet Masters) from their own point of view, and doesn't just treat them as ravening bug-eyed monsters to be annhilated.
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
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