This is an interesting combination of a first contact story, a combat science fiction story, and a love story. It is very different from the other science fiction I’ve read recently, and I enjoyed it a lot. The book has a good beginning and ending, but is slow in the middle. I’m glad I kept at it though.
This isn’t Heinlein’s best work. The faux Russian grammar of the narrator is pretty annoying, and the story shallow. Its an ok read as entertainment, but I think it could do with more plot and fewer long rants about the dangers of big government. I’d like to know more about the cyborgs which seem to pilot everything important as well.
This book is good science fiction, in the sense that it explores something which we are not ready to address as a society — in this case, would profoundly disabled people prefer that we could replace their disabled bodies? What if the replacement wasn’t humanoid? The book is pretty old though, and that shows in some of the elements of the story. I don’t feel it detracts though. The book is also composed of a series of independantish by related short stories, which was a common publishing technique for science fiction in the 1960s.
One story — “Dramatic Mission” — did throw me a little. Its just too out there conceptually, and actually kind of dull until about the last three pages, where the controller poses some interesting questions of Helva. I feel that perhaps the lead up could have been better though.
[award: nominee nebula 1969]