Once again, the “classics” are leaving me cold.
I’m not done with what is arguably Heinlein’s best-known work, and I’m not sure I’ll finish. Oh, the first two parts are interesting enough. V. M. Smith and his interactions with the people of Earth hold one’s attention well enough, covering a lot of the ground that the C.J. Cherryh “Foreigner” series would later examine in excruciating detail: “Aliens and humans don’t think alike!” Yep. We established that, alright. And let’s be honest, there’s vast and fertile storytelling ground in that concept.
Too bad we’ve spent half the book so far centered on one word: Grok.
All of these clever humans Michael ends up surrounded by, and they can’t find the words in English (or presumably any other language) to approximate this Martian term… that Heinlein conveyed moderately well several times in that same stretch of the book. In, you know, English. Ahem. Well, we wouldn’t want the characters to be as clever as the author, would we? Hey, let’s hit the readers over the head with “grok” a few more times! Some of the conversations late in the second section are interesting, but most are absurd from overuse of grok this, grok that, grok you.
But that’s not where the book has lost me. I can roll my eyes and get past all of that, especially for the sake of the solid sociopolitical theater in the Jubal arc, but I’m perplexed at the Digby And Foster Show. I’m barely into the book’s third section and… all of a sudden, after all of Jubal’s ranting and railing about religion, now we’re peeking into the Heavenly Bureaucracy? For laughs? And the crazy love grokbirds have taken on a tattooed evangelist, and that’s going to be played seriously? Um.
It was the second appearance of Digby And Foster: Angels In Heaven that pulled me out of the book completely. I looked at the time (a bit later than I should’ve been awake, but not too late), firmly closed the book and turned out the light.
I don’t know if I’m going to finish this thing. So, dear readers, I ask you: Is it worth it?