Variable Authors

I picked up Variable Star by Robert A Heinlein and Spider Robinson at the Jones Library yesterday. I usually hate collaborative novels, and collaborative sci-fi is usually the worst of the worst. Someone has a good idea, and someone else ghostwrites, sorry, co-writes, books four through twelve. I was even less likely to pick it up when I realized that Heinlein had died with the story unfinished, and Robinson had finished it… a collaborative novel that one of the authors might not even like?

I was dead wrong. Variable Star is typical Heinlein because it’s in a creative and clever ficton, with a developed main character surrounded by two-dimensional walk-ons. Robinson turns those secondary characters into an ensemble cast. Robinson needs Heinlein’s world-building; Robinson writes snappy dialogue between believable people, but ultimately his best books are about sitting in a bar. He also tones down the overt sexism that keeps me from being a real Heinlein afficionado.

Actually, I should say that this story is by Heinlein, Robinson and a ghost. Someone who had the book out before me was kind enough to correct H/R’s grammar mistakes.

In some places, the mystery annotator made factual corrections. I know this isn’t the clearest picture ever, but someone’s crossed out “samba” and written “WRONG! BOSSA NOVA” in the margin.


I wonder if it’s ok to write in library books if it’s a public service to the next reader.

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