by Robert A. Heinlein, © 1948, Orb 2005 trade paperback, science fiction – juvenile
Cover by Vincent di Fate
Since a nice set has been reprinted by Orb Books it seemed a good time to re-read my way through Heinlein’s juveniles.
This is the second of Heinlein’s science fiction for what today would be called YA readers and it’s a pretty good one. The title is a clue to the basic story element. Matt Dodson is a youth who has long dreamed of joining the prestigious Space Patrol. He has passed the entrance tests and as the book opens he arrives at the Space Academy, on Terra, in North America. We follow Matt and the new friends he makes as they go through the beginning courses and training, then go to the orbiting Terra Station and on to a training ship, also in orbit. It’s pretty typical young-man-in-school stuff, with pranks, serious learning, slip-ups and problems with other boys. Note: there are no girls in the Space Patrol, but remember this is written in 1948. Rosie the riveter has sunk back into the housewife and mother role and men do “men’s work”.
Eventually Matt and his two best pals become Cadets, and ship out first on a routine mission, then on a search for a missing ship and finally on a special rescue mission on Venus. They make a few mistakes, generally do the right thing, have some interesting adventures, and come out of it in good shape, even rescuing a former student from their Academy days.
Then, just when I wanted to see the idiot Academy drop-out get his just deserts, and the boys get their reward, neither happens. Well it does but it doesn’t. There’s kind of a non-ending, as if – and this is what I suspect happened – the page count was hit and Heinlein had to wrap things up. I’d rather have seen another 50 pages and the story filled out, but in 1948 it was sell at the publisher’s command. Probably still is, unless you’re Stephen King or Dan Brown. But I digress.
The lack of a big wrap up didn’t keep me from enjoying this, just as I enjoyed Farmer in the Sky, read previously. I’m working my way through these as between-other-books reading and enjoying them for the simple straight-forward old fashioned science fiction they are.