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The Star Beast by Robert Heinlein

The Star Beast - Robert A. Heinlein

Note: Even though this is Book 8 in the series, it works perfectly fine as a stand alone novel.

John Thomas Stuart has a very large pet, Lummox. He’s a gentle beast with eight legs, a very thick hide, and a taste for roses and steel. Lummox has been in the Stuart family for generations but has recently outgrown their small town. No pen can hold Lummox and while John can reason with him to some extent, there is no physical means by which to make Lummox obey. Town authorities are ready to go to extremes, but no one is ready for the extremes that both John and Lummox will go to in order to remain together.

This was a fun coming of age book. Some parts of it might be considered quaint nowadays while others are still somewhat progressive for mainstream SF literature. I was sucked into the story once Lummox was described – the multiple legs and a sentry eyestalk for while he slept. Plus, Lummox talks! Yep. He sounds much like a little 5 year old girl and he’s not just parroting human speech back at you. Lummox can answer questions and make promises and tell you what he needs or wants. On the other hand, things have definitely changed a bit since the 1950s when this was first published. I was a little surprised at how often someone threatened to beat Lummox. Some of the threats were quite specific and graphic. So don’t look to this book as a good example of how to discipline a family pet. Or livestock.

Early on, John and Lummox end up in court because of the damage to city and personal property Lummox did. John’s friend Betty Sorenson acts as his attorney in a bit of courtroom drama. While I found this bit a little boring, being a bit overdone, I did find it very interesting that Betty was able to act so independently even though she was a minor. Later in the book, the theme of teens divorcing their parents came up. Considering the over all 1950s wholesome nature of this book, I applauded breaking of the mold in this matter as it made things more interesting.

Besides Betty, John’s mom, a female secretary, and perhaps Lummox (whose species really has 6 genders so I should probably ask Lummox what gender pronoun he prefers), there were no other female characters in a decent sized cast of male characters. Still, for a 1950s SF novel, Betty had a pretty important role in the book and she wasn’t your stereotypical teen female love interest. Indeed, John seems to be maturing a little slower and often calls her companionable names like ‘Slugger’ and ‘Smarty’. John’s mom also helps shape the plot, though I would say her role is more stereotypical – she’s a bit overbearing and loud about it.

Lummox is the real star of this story. He, who later in the story is referred to as a she, comes from an advanced race called the Hroshii. They are long lived and consider humans to be barely in their infancy as a species. However, they want their long-lost baby back as there is an arranged marriage among their kind to see to. The Hroshii could easily withstand any weapon the planet Earth could throw at them and just as easily wipe out the entire planet. So in steps our other hero, Mr. Kiku.

Mr. Kiku has a pretty high status in the Earth’s government, but not so high that he has to bow to popular whims. Indeed, he handles things very smoothly, always 3 or 4 moves ahead in his thinking than most of those around him. Also, he’s black. Now SF literature in general has come a ways, but sadly most heroes in SF are still white. So, another round of applause for Heinlein for shaking things up again.

This book started off rather humdrum, cookie cutter SF adventure story and turned into a surprise-riddled coming of age tale that had me chuckling, gasping, chewing on a knuckle, and nodding my head in agreement. The story had a happy ending that took all of Mr. Kiku’s wits to negotiate. I’m very glad that I gave this book a chance and I expect I will be reading more Heinlein in the future.

I received a copy of this audiobook at no cost from the publisher (viaAudiobook Jukebox) in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Paul Michael Garcia did a really good job with this book. He had the perfect voice for young John, who is on the cusp of manhood. I also loved his little girl voice for Lummox. Once I learned Lummox’s true intelligence, it gave me a giggle. I also loved his steady Mr. Kiku, the raging Mrs. Stuart, and the ambitious Betty. All around, a great performance.