Have Space Suit – Will Travel was my favorite Heinlein when I was a kid, and it generally holds up. It’s very bright and cheerful and likable, except for the genocide.

Teenage Kip wants to go to the moon, but he has no money. His father encourages him to practice self-reliance and study advanced math from textbooks. (A recurring theme in all three of the novels I’ve read so far is that a normally intelligent person should be able to do types of math I’ve only ever heard of in Heinlein novels.) When Skyway soap offers a free trip to the moon for the best slogan written on a soap wrapper, Kip gets the whole town in on it and submits thousands of entries. (This whole section is quite funny: “Come highway or byway, there’s no soap like Skyway!”) He’s a runner-up, and wins… a space suit.

Only slightly daunted, he fixes it up at great and generally interesting detail (this is where I first skipped a big chunk of math, something I was to do repeatedly throughout the book) and, when he gets it working, answers a hail. A space ship nearly crashes on top of him! He is kidnapped by alien space pirates and locked up with a friendly telepathic furry alien, the Mother Thing, and a genius little girl, Peewee. A series of adventures ensue, Kip isn't the only one who gets to be heroic, and it’s all a lot of fun, except for the math. (Though I’m sure for some readers – at least one on my f-list - the math was the best part.)

And then they all get tried by creepy genocidal aliens. Even when I was eleven, I found this part strange and unsettling. This go-round, I noticed two things which escaped me then: as Earth is on trial using four completely random people as its representatives, the three evil Wormface aliens could be just as unrepresentative of their species. (And what about all the baby Wormfaces?) Also, Wormface’s evil tirade (“We can do whatever we like! We don’t recognize your authority!”) is not dissimilar to Kip’s heroic last stand of mankind (“Go to hell! If you condemn us, we’ll hunt you down and kill you!”) I assume that, at the very least, Heinlein intended the genocide aliens to be creepy. I’m not sure if the other issues I mention were intentional.

When I was eleven, I loved the final scene, in which Kip stands up to a local bully. I still like it better, and it fits with the tone of the rest of the book better, than the weird Trial of Mankind.

Have Spacesuit, Will Travel

I don’t have a lot to say about Space Cadet, whose teenage hero has the least personality yet. The best part of the book is the first quarter, in which Matt takes a slew of oddball tests to get into the all-male Space Patrol academy, and then begins training. More casual racial diversity here. The cultural diversity consists of a guy from Venus and another guy from Ganymede – that was handled well – and a guy from Texas, named Tex – that was not.

The middle section, after Matt’s learned the basics and is studying math and so forth, was a bit dull, enlivened only by a scene I was probably not supposed to laugh at in which he goes back home and his mom is hilariously horrified when he earnestly explains how he maintains the orbiting nukes that will destroy their hometown in case of war, and is baffled when this upsets her.

The final section picks up again, when they get stranded on Venus and encounter friendly aliens. The aliens, who are all female, are the only women who appear in the book other than Matt’s none-too-bright mother. They’re chemists, so Heinlein approves of them.

Space Cadet
I noticed that a container of tzadziki yogurt dip, purchased a couple days ago from Trader Joe's and kept refrigerated and unopened, had developed a suspiciously bulging shape. I took off the lid, and indeed the plastic shrink-wrap beneath was bulging up like the whole thing was about to explode. I am a paranoid American, so I put it in the trash can under the sink.

About ten minutes later, I heard a small explosion. A check of the trash can revealed that indeed, it had exploded!

1. This sort of thing only ever happens to me, right? Or does it???

2. Should I alert Trader Joe's? Or check my refrigerator (it seems fine - at least, nothing else has rotted and/or exploded)?

3. WTF happened? Gases produced by decomposing yogurt? Could this phenomenon be harnessed as a cheap energy source?

4. If I was a Heinlein hero, it would take me ten minutes of math to answer question 3. Probably "no."

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