Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Have Spacesuit, Will Travel

Finally, her first Heinlein!  I am a complete Heinlein fan (I've read most of his books, juvenille and adult fiction), and love all of them.  I started when I was 9 years old, when my dad brought me into a used book store, found Red Planet, and started my obsession.

I decided Evalina was ready.

Have Spacesuit, Will Travel is a classic, and for good reason.  A problem with many Heinlein novels is that they seem to be discontinued, so it can be trickier finding them, but I got my hot little hands on a couple, joyfully.

The Story:  Kip, like many regular teenage boys, dreams of going to the moon.  His chance comes in the form of a contest from the SkyWay Soap company - come up with a winning slogan, and get a trip to the moon base!  He is obsessed, and enters the contest methodically countless times.  The day finally comes and... he doesn't win.  As a consolation prize, he gets a used spacesuit.  It's a total fixer-upper, and instead of just let it sit as a curiousity, Kip restores it.  He names the suit Oscar, and learns to work in it, buys parts from all over, wanders around his family farm in it.. and gets kidnapped by a passing alien spaceship!  There, he meets a spunky young girl named Peewee, who has also been kidnapped, and he gets his wish - they go to the moon!  However, it isn't all that he could ever want, because he gets to go to the moon as a hostage of the evil alien "wormfaces," who operate from a hidden base on the moon and are about to try to take over the world.  He manages to free his spacesuit, Oscar, from the clutches of the aliens, and get Peewee and her friendly alien companion, The Mother Thing, free, but they are still not out of harm's way.  Still they have to traverse treacherous lunar terrain with less air than they need, towards the lunar station, and that's only the beginning of their adventures.

The Good: This is sci-fi gold.  It is chock full of real facts and figures (which sometimes can get overwhelming, but it's still nice to have them there), and Kip's plight is something you can relate to.  He has a dream and he sets about making it happen.  That's commendable.  Though the outcome is not what he might have expected, the journey is certainly exciting, and what teenaged kid from a small town wouldn't want to save the entirety of humanity, all before figuring out where he is going to go to college, and how he's going to pay for it?  Peewee is lively and likeable, though sometimes she can be a brat, but you still root for her.  The Wormfaces are as despicable and terrifying as The Mother Thing and her kind are fair and just (at least to their own thinking), and Kip is not without flaws.  His trusty space suit, Oscar, is with him through thick and thin, and is essentially another character.  I remember liking this book when I was 9 or 10, and I certainly enjoyed it the second time around!

The Bad:  Sometimes the technical details get a bit dense.  Heinlein doesn't shy away from math and physics, and trying to explain that to a 9-year old can sometimes get a bit challenging, but that's a minor complaint.  If nothing else, it reaffirmed how math is important, and could even save your life (!) if you get into a desperate situation.  The writing holds up surprisingly well for something written in 1958, though there are certainly parts which could be a bit more modern.  Minor complaint.

The Verdict: Evalina was begging for more Heinlein!  (That's my girl)  She loved it all.  It was a relatively quick read, and I loved reading it with her about as much as she liked reading it (and sometimes, Philip was listening from his bed, having finished his own reading...)  Read this.  Classic sci-fi, made none the worse for it's age.  Amazon has it recommended for grades 7+, which is a possibility if you are trying to understand all the math and such, but the rest of the subject matter was not too much over Evalina's 4th grade head (as a read-together book).  Can't wait to get her some more Heinlein!

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