Saturday, May 18, 2013

Podkayne of Mars

After going through some "heavy" books this is a refreshing relief. Podkayne is the diary of a human adolescent who grew up on Mars. Heinlein wrote it during the "bridge" portion of his career, near the tail-end of his juvenile period. Thus, he wrote a lot of what he wanted, but didn't get too "out there" as he managed to do in his later career. Podkayne has always wanted to be a starship captain. However, she had not traveled far from earth, and as a girl she felt disadvantaged. She also had a things for babies. (And she got experience with her family having young triplets.) Her younger brother is an early adolescent who is a technical whiz, but always causes trouble. The two of them get to go on a big journey with their uncle, a Martian politician. They get to ride first class. We follow them along on the journeys and experience the social hierarchy of the ship, the challenges with a radiation storm, and the vastly different culture of Venus. (Think Las Vegas owned by a single corporation.)

Then suddenly we find out the uncle is on a secret mission, there is a kidnapping, a giant bomb goes off and the story ends.

The end seems to come on much too suddenly. Did Heinlein just tire of the book? The end ties together many pieces from earlier, but it seems to be forced. I can see him saying: "I'm bored. Rather than continue this exploration, I'm just going to throw in the action sequence here and call it a day."
In Heinlein's original version, the bomb kills her. In the version here (made "happier" at the request of his original publisher), she is seriously wounded. This, however, is just the last few paragraphs. And for the story, it hardly matters which one is used. It is the few pages before this where Heinlein seems to have given up.
On the audiobook, the narrator fit's the book perfectly. She has just enough of a juvenile bubliness to make it feel like the character Podkayne.


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