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After the fall of the American Ayatollahs as foretold in Stranger in a Strange Land and chronicled in Revolt in 2100, the United States of America at last fulfills the promise inherent in its first Revolution: for the first time in human history there is a nation with Liberty and Justice for All. No one may seize or harm the person or property of another, or invade his priv After the fall of the American Ayatollahs as foretold in Stranger in a Strange Land and chronicled in Revolt in 2100, the United States of America at last fulfills the promise inherent in its first Revolution: for the first time in human history there is a nation with Liberty and Justice for All. No one may seize or harm the person or property of another, or invade his privacy, or force him to do his bidding. Americans are fiercely proud of their re-won liberties and the blood it cost them: nothing could make them forswear those truths they hold self-evident. Nothing except the promise of immortality...


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After the fall of the American Ayatollahs as foretold in Stranger in a Strange Land and chronicled in Revolt in 2100, the United States of America at last fulfills the promise inherent in its first Revolution: for the first time in human history there is a nation with Liberty and Justice for All. No one may seize or harm the person or property of another, or invade his priv After the fall of the American Ayatollahs as foretold in Stranger in a Strange Land and chronicled in Revolt in 2100, the United States of America at last fulfills the promise inherent in its first Revolution: for the first time in human history there is a nation with Liberty and Justice for All. No one may seize or harm the person or property of another, or invade his privacy, or force him to do his bidding. Americans are fiercely proud of their re-won liberties and the blood it cost them: nothing could make them forswear those truths they hold self-evident. Nothing except the promise of immortality...

30 review for Methuselah's Children

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lyn

    This is classic, well written science fiction. Scaled down, lean and aggressive, bereft of the heavy, introspective reticence that weighed down Time Enough for Love, this is simply a good SF adventure with Heinlein's signature technical attention to detail. The origin of Lazarus Long and the adventure referenced in Time Enough For Love, including Andy Libby and the beginning of interstellar exploration. A must read for Heinlein fans. This is classic, well written science fiction. Scaled down, lean and aggressive, bereft of the heavy, introspective reticence that weighed down Time Enough for Love, this is simply a good SF adventure with Heinlein's signature technical attention to detail. The origin of Lazarus Long and the adventure referenced in Time Enough For Love, including Andy Libby and the beginning of interstellar exploration. A must read for Heinlein fans.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    Been slowly revisiting Heinlein lately, for the first time since I was a teen. This one confirms how I generally feel about his early period "adult" writings - that they are actually more like juvenile fantasies, while his "juvenile" works are often better at communicating adult themes. Full RTC, or perhaps I will just write a blog piece on early Heinlein at some point.

  3. 5 out of 5

    spikeINflorida

    Robert A. Heinlein's Future History is a collection of short stories, novellas and novels. Quoted as "One of the Greatest Achievements in The History of Science Fiction"...uh, NOT! I found the short stories to be wooden, clunky, and anticlimactic. However, this novel Methuselah's Children was just simple fun...and I enjoyed the hard boiled, get-er-done, kilt cladden main character of Lazarus Long. However, I won't be reading the other Future Hstory stories as my life is getting shorter and my TR Robert A. Heinlein's Future History is a collection of short stories, novellas and novels. Quoted as "One of the Greatest Achievements in The History of Science Fiction"...uh, NOT! I found the short stories to be wooden, clunky, and anticlimactic. However, this novel Methuselah's Children was just simple fun...and I enjoyed the hard boiled, get-er-done, kilt cladden main character of Lazarus Long. However, I won't be reading the other Future Hstory stories as my life is getting shorter and my TR pile higher. My favourite Heinlein master works are still The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and Starship Troopers.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    This is an important book if you're in to the Heinlein universe. It is the first good introduction to Lazarus Long who is the central character in many of Heinlein's later books. Unlike his later books, this one is a short, fun read. The basic premise is an oppressed minority fleeing before the public & government can get their greedy hands on them. There are some interesting looks at aliens & human nature along the way. This book has been included in a couple of his collections as it is really a This is an important book if you're in to the Heinlein universe. It is the first good introduction to Lazarus Long who is the central character in many of Heinlein's later books. Unlike his later books, this one is a short, fun read. The basic premise is an oppressed minority fleeing before the public & government can get their greedy hands on them. There are some interesting looks at aliens & human nature along the way. This book has been included in a couple of his collections as it is really a novella, although it has also been issued as a stand alone novel. I'm not sure if the novella versions are edited down as I've never read any.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Darth

    Finally a "CLASSIC" that live up to the billing. I had grown weary of the same old trite - "You HAVE to read"s - that just didnt live up to the billing. Having read a lot of Larry Niven, and now starting on the Heinlein series', I think it is safe to guess Niven grew up on Heinlein, as I see some pretty serious similarities between Lazarus and Louis Wu, but since I have loved the Niven, it follows I loved the Heinlein. I may have been aided in this by expecting to be let down after slogging thru th Finally a "CLASSIC" that live up to the billing. I had grown weary of the same old trite - "You HAVE to read"s - that just didnt live up to the billing. Having read a lot of Larry Niven, and now starting on the Heinlein series', I think it is safe to guess Niven grew up on Heinlein, as I see some pretty serious similarities between Lazarus and Louis Wu, but since I have loved the Niven, it follows I loved the Heinlein. I may have been aided in this by expecting to be let down after slogging thru the endlessly repetitive Fantasy of David Eddings that folks seem to eat up like crazy - dont get me wrong, I enjoyed the Belgariad, but everything after that just seemed to be a remake of the same story. But Methuselah's Children was what I expect good old fashioned hard Sci-FI to be. Men of Earth head out to the stars - without all the mind-numbing complications and needless enumeration of every potentially adverse event taking place over the course of the story (Sorry Ben Bova - but you are the worst at this) The almost scary part of this is that he wrote it in the 1940's (www.fantastic fiction.co.uk credits this at 1941) making it so ridiculously ahead of its time as to be either laughable or scary. At any rate - if you like hard sci-fi that doesnt get all bogged down in its own clever attempts to beat you to death with boring science, but still rings true enough to buy into, AND still maintains a level of human involvement - give this one a spin. It isnt perfect, but it is just what I was looking for.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Esther King

    This was a good, hard sci-fi piece, but it seemed to be missing a bit of emphasis and context. I’ve read so much other stuff from this genre and era, and there just seemed to be a bit of a gap here. It wasn’t quite what I hoped for, so a little more social discourse would have gone a long way.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kat Hooper

    Originally posted at FanLit. Methuselah’s Children introduces us to Lazarus Long, a popular character in several of Robert A. Heinlein’s books. Lazarus, who wears a kilt (but there’s guns strapped to his thighs!) and can’t remember how old he is, is descended from one of several families who, long ago, were bred for their health and longevity. Lazarus and his extended clan live very long lives — so long that they must eventually fake their own deaths and take new identities so that others don’t g Originally posted at FanLit. Methuselah’s Children introduces us to Lazarus Long, a popular character in several of Robert A. Heinlein’s books. Lazarus, who wears a kilt (but there’s guns strapped to his thighs!) and can’t remember how old he is, is descended from one of several families who, long ago, were bred for their health and longevity. Lazarus and his extended clan live very long lives — so long that they must eventually fake their own deaths and take new identities so that others don’t get suspicious about their supernatural abilities. This has become a problem, however, as technology in the United States has reached the point where people are identified by their DNA and it will soon be impossible to hide. So some of the family members are experimenting with a new plan; they’re outing themselves — telling their friends and neighbors about their longevity and hoping for a good response. Unfortunately, this has backfired. The government doesn’t believe that genetics is the cause of their longevity; they think the families are hiding information and techniques that anyone could use to delay death, and they see this as treason. The families are now on the run. They plan to hijack a spaceship and escape the planet before they’re all rounded up for examination. Then they’ll cruise the universe, looking for some other world where they can live happily ever after. Methuselah’s Children is short (7 hours on audio) and mildly entertaining. The book, originally published in 1941, has aged fairly well and deals with the topics of class warfare, civil liberties, personal property, privacy, freedom, and the need for meaningful work. Further features include some dull meetings, some aliens who remind us that humans are pretty weird, and a trite resolution to the whole affair. At the end I was left wanting to see more of Lazarus Long, and wondering if Heinlein has written any books for adults that don’t include incest. Brilliance Audio’s version was narrated by MacLeod Andrews. He has a really nice voice and, judging by his photo on the back of the audiobook (which I enjoyed looking at much more than I liked looking at the cheesy cover art for Methuselah’s Children) I thought he looked too young to pull off a convincing 200 year old Lazarus Long. Wrong! He was really good.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Methuselah's Children is an early sci-fi novel by Robert A. Heinlein. It originally appeared in three parts in the magazine Astounding Science Fiction, in the July, August, and September issues of 1941. In 1958 it was published as a full-length novel, expanded somewhat by Heinlein. I don't know what was added or changed, but it can't have been that much, because it's still a very short novel, despite there being enough plot to fill a 1,000-page epic. The story involves a group of "families" who en Methuselah's Children is an early sci-fi novel by Robert A. Heinlein. It originally appeared in three parts in the magazine Astounding Science Fiction, in the July, August, and September issues of 1941. In 1958 it was published as a full-length novel, expanded somewhat by Heinlein. I don't know what was added or changed, but it can't have been that much, because it's still a very short novel, despite there being enough plot to fill a 1,000-page epic. The story involves a group of "families" who enjoy incredibly long life thanks to selective breeding. When news of their longevity is revealed, the rest of the world goes mad wanting to know their "secret formula," which doesn't exist. So they hijack an interstellar cruiser called New Frontiers and go in search of more hospitable planets. The fact that they find more than one habitable planet and make contact with more than one alien race is why I said there's enough plot to fill a book much, much longer than this one. As it is, it's an enjoyable read, but the descriptions feel sketchy at times, and Heinlein employs more than one deus ex machina to move his characters around. Your enjoyment of this book will probably depend on your enjoyment of Heinlein's wacky ideas. I'm not totally sold on his worldview, but I enjoy reading about it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Craig

    I read the Signet paperback (with the inappropriate Gene Szafran cover) of this one many years ago and have just revisited it via my excellent local library's audio selection. I was surprised to have remembered it quite well; Lazarus and Andy and Mary were all quite well and waiting for me, just as fresh and thought-provoking as I remembered and not at all as distressing as I'd feared from my last memories of Time Enough For Love. If there is such a thing as an overlooked classic by Heinlein, I I read the Signet paperback (with the inappropriate Gene Szafran cover) of this one many years ago and have just revisited it via my excellent local library's audio selection. I was surprised to have remembered it quite well; Lazarus and Andy and Mary were all quite well and waiting for me, just as fresh and thought-provoking as I remembered and not at all as distressing as I'd feared from my last memories of Time Enough For Love. If there is such a thing as an overlooked classic by Heinlein, I suspect that this is it. It's also a cornerstone of his future history series.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Yoak

    I just loved this book silly. It's early Heinlein packed with adventure and excitement. Two of my favorite characters, Lazarus and Libby are front and foremost in this story, and it provides a lot of color and background for the Howard families. I read this story after others that are chronologically prior in the Future History, and it works either way. This would be a great starter book for new Heinlein exploration. 2015: I finally got around to reading this one with the kids. It really hooked t I just loved this book silly. It's early Heinlein packed with adventure and excitement. Two of my favorite characters, Lazarus and Libby are front and foremost in this story, and it provides a lot of color and background for the Howard families. I read this story after others that are chronologically prior in the Future History, and it works either way. This would be a great starter book for new Heinlein exploration. 2015: I finally got around to reading this one with the kids. It really hooked them... enough that I'm going to try Time Enough for Love with them even though I had previously planned to wait until they were much older.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Ideiosepius

    Just re-read this one after a long time and was amazed at how well the writing, world building, plot and characters stood up to the test of time. While many things have dated quite badly based on the the time in which they were written, Heinlains vision of humanity is still as cynical and interesting as when I first read it. Also never quite realised how many of the early Heinlein books were meant to be part of a continual storyline, though of course I got the connection of Lazarus Long here and Just re-read this one after a long time and was amazed at how well the writing, world building, plot and characters stood up to the test of time. While many things have dated quite badly based on the the time in which they were written, Heinlains vision of humanity is still as cynical and interesting as when I first read it. Also never quite realised how many of the early Heinlein books were meant to be part of a continual storyline, though of course I got the connection of Lazarus Long here and in future books.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    Yet another of my collection of "S-F from long ago." This one is from the mid-50's, and tells the story of a clan (the Howard Families) who tend to live a LOOOOOONNNNNG time), and who garner a LOT of negative attention from those who DON'T live a long time. The main character, Lazarus Long, is the oldest of them all, having lived some 375 or so years. Well, these people are given a choice: Be tortured until they give up their secret(there is none, it's just in the genes) or go off onto another p Yet another of my collection of "S-F from long ago." This one is from the mid-50's, and tells the story of a clan (the Howard Families) who tend to live a LOOOOOONNNNNG time), and who garner a LOT of negative attention from those who DON'T live a long time. The main character, Lazarus Long, is the oldest of them all, having lived some 375 or so years. Well, these people are given a choice: Be tortured until they give up their secret(there is none, it's just in the genes) or go off onto another planet.They choose the latter,and half of the book entails their journey to find a home. I found some of the "how do we do this here interstellar drive" stuff somewhat boring and irrelevant to the main story, but the rest is pretty interesting, and I'd recommend it (No,I WON'T give the ending away!) NOW! What is MORE interesting is that this book is only a part of a much larger oeuvre by Heinlen dubbed "future history," which documents not only the longevity mentioned here, but also a long downfall of society's morals. This collection, from the first story (1939) through "Methuselah's Children," is in a gargantuan tome titled "The Past through Tomorrow." I just read the first story in it, and I'm hooked! The time line for the stories is given in a chart towards the front of "Methuselah's Children," and goes from about 1940 through the 3000's. I actually wish I had discovered "The Past Through Tomorrow" first, would make my enjoyment deeper. Anyway, will give you a review of that one in a few months. (oops, forgot this part) The preceding is concluded in his 1973 magnum opus, "Time Enough for Love" (interestingly, one that is in my "old S-F books" collection referred to ad nauseam. Chronicles the further adventures of Lazarus (living ) Long.Gonna dig that one out of the musty books after I finish "The Past Through Tomorrow." Cool.

  13. 5 out of 5

    F.R.

    Utopias in fiction are always supposed to fail. They’re either illusionary or they collapse on their own contradictions. Indeed the only successful utopia in fiction I can think of is the one Willy Wonka had going, and we have to face the unpalatable fact there that it was based on slave labour. No, the entire purpose of drama is conflict and so everyone living perfectly in a perfect world wouldn’t do much good. Just as Othello becomes a very dull play if the central character doesn’t exhibit an Utopias in fiction are always supposed to fail. They’re either illusionary or they collapse on their own contradictions. Indeed the only successful utopia in fiction I can think of is the one Willy Wonka had going, and we have to face the unpalatable fact there that it was based on slave labour. No, the entire purpose of drama is conflict and so everyone living perfectly in a perfect world wouldn’t do much good. Just as Othello becomes a very dull play if the central character doesn’t exhibit any signs of jealousy, so utopias have to fail to make the drama work. The opening of Methuselah’s Children finds a utopia in action on Earth. After some devastating wars in the past, peace now prevails and racism is a thing of history and everyone lives a happy existence. But of course strife isn’t far away. There’s a group amongst society called The Howard Families who as far back as the Victorian times were embarking on experiments to prolong life and now they routinely live hundreds of years. The fact of their existence causes those of us condemned to a normal lifespan violent resentment, and The Howard Families are forced to flee to the stars to find a new perfect home. I actually thought the second less cluttered half was better than the first, but it’s the opening of the book which is the more thought provoking. Contemporary audiences (this was originally written in 1941) would no doubt have seen echoes of fascism in the persecution of those who were different, But I think modern readers may get more from it – both when it comes to eugenics and the subject of how we actually deal with an ageing population. Robert Heinlein is a writer I’ve never picked up before, but this is smart and compulsive science fiction, that demands the reader pays attention right from the start but rewards with a gripping read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Felix Dance

    Yes, I do love Heinlein. I know, I know, super-right wing nutcase that he is. But this book seemed a bit of a mess – lurching between a hyper-intelligent and immortal sub-group of seemingly normal humans (almost all Heinlein’s books involve a secret group of super-men destined to become a new species of human, gradually finding each other and then scoffing together at the inferiority of the rest of humanity – it appeals to one’s sense of superiority, but is just soooo elitist), global persecutio Yes, I do love Heinlein. I know, I know, super-right wing nutcase that he is. But this book seemed a bit of a mess – lurching between a hyper-intelligent and immortal sub-group of seemingly normal humans (almost all Heinlein’s books involve a secret group of super-men destined to become a new species of human, gradually finding each other and then scoffing together at the inferiority of the rest of humanity – it appeals to one’s sense of superiority, but is just soooo elitist), global persecution of said race, sudden interstellar travel whose methods are not satisfactorily explained, meetings with new worlds and cultures, then a just as sudden return home. It was quite inexplicable, and some of the characters, like Lazarus Long, seemed to be exiles from other books (some are featured in spin-off novels I hope to read to clear things up a bit). Some good concepts (especially one where they meet a race of domestic animal aliens thinking they are the master-race – and are in for a shock) but I can’t escape the conclusion that Heinlein can be hit and miss, with this being a miss. It was good fodder for my Bukit Tinggi hotel in central Sumatra, though, having bought the book in a bonanza science fiction section in a Pangandaran bookshop back in Java.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Red Siegfried

    Heinlein details the exodus from Earth of the Howard Families, long-lived individuals who suddenly find themselves persecuted for not revealing their non-existent secret of longevity. Lazarus Long gets a lot of action here as the Howard Families hijack the the starship New Frontiers and look for a place to live out there ... they find that the galaxy is going to be a more challenging and ultimately, more rewarding place to live for this new breed of human. Much more will be revealed in Heinlein' Heinlein details the exodus from Earth of the Howard Families, long-lived individuals who suddenly find themselves persecuted for not revealing their non-existent secret of longevity. Lazarus Long gets a lot of action here as the Howard Families hijack the the starship New Frontiers and look for a place to live out there ... they find that the galaxy is going to be a more challenging and ultimately, more rewarding place to live for this new breed of human. Much more will be revealed in Heinlein's other Future History novels.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Livingston

    I tried to read this one because I heard it was good. I think I'm just not a Heinlein fan so it's not fair for me to rate it. The writing was okay, the story was okay though it didn't really grab me. The characters were okay. The concept was good but the overall story seemed very dated. If you're a Heinlein fan, read it. If you're not, don't. If you're not familiar with Heinlein, give it a try, you might like it or you might not.

  17. 5 out of 5

    W. Lawrence

    Going way back here, Methuselah's Children is a short novel by the dean of scifi and introduces one of the coolest cats in science fiction: Lazarus Long. The Howard family becomes infamous for "hiding" the secret of longevity, and thus begins their trek. Worth a read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Johnny

    The 1962 Signet Edition of Methuselah’s Children pulled me into its orbit at the used bookstore I frequent. The last time I remember seeing a copy of Methuselah’s Children was in the library when I was in high school, and that, must have been a hardbound as I recall. I’d never seen this cover before. On the cover, in classic Astounding magazine style, was the long, cylindrical rocket ship one presumes is the New Frontiers landing on a planet populated by an autochthonous civilization of seven-to The 1962 Signet Edition of Methuselah’s Children pulled me into its orbit at the used bookstore I frequent. The last time I remember seeing a copy of Methuselah’s Children was in the library when I was in high school, and that, must have been a hardbound as I recall. I’d never seen this cover before. On the cover, in classic Astounding magazine style, was the long, cylindrical rocket ship one presumes is the New Frontiers landing on a planet populated by an autochthonous civilization of seven-to-eight feet tall humanoids that, amazingly, wasn’t overrunning the planet. The cover either errs by landing on the planet, even though p. 102 clearly says that the ship couldn’t do that and maintain structural integrity. In the text, the scouting expedition lands using a ship’s boat (p. 105) and the image doesn’t look like my conception of a ship’s boat. But the important part of Methuselah’s Children is its message on people who are different and the paranoia, resentment, and discrimination (usually with cruelty) they unwittingly inspire. First published 20 years after Goebbels’ Kristallnacht (where the Nazis rounded up the Jews, destroyed or stole their property, and either killed or sent most of them to concentration camps), Heinlein takes a theoretical genetic phenomena (incredible longevity extending lives well beyond any normal life-cycle) and turns it into science-fiction version of a pogrom and relocation camps. 16 years after the U.S. rounded up its citizens of Japanese descent and placed them in ill-considered, overcrowded, and poorly maintained internment camps, Heinlein publishes a novel where people are persecuted because of their genetic heritage. Think it can’t happen here? Heinlein’s novel begins in Chicago. As the book begins, we are introduced to the families with this genetic privilege of longevity and the extent to which some go to keep their heritage a secret: using metabolic treatments and other “biotechniques” to reduce the slower-acting, but real, visual aging effects (p. 17), simulated deaths and relocations (p. 9), and reluctance to submit to identification laws (p. 14). But eventually, the so-called “Masquerade” couldn’t be contained. The short-lived resented the long-lived (p. 14) and believed they were keeping the secret (which didn’t exist) from them (p. 22). And that’s where the proverbial waste met the bladed breeze generator! So, the first half of the book offers high-speed vehicle chases using and fooling technologies which still don’t exist in our world, covert fugitive disguises, secret deals, the afore-said concentration camps (in Oklahoma as per the end of the “Trail of Tears” in the 19th century when Native Americans were herded there by Andrew Jackson’s orders), and a daring act of piracy. That would be pretty good as it stands, but there is so much more to enjoy and think about. Early in the second half of the book, the survivors (pioneers, explorers, pirates, whatever you think is appropriate) decide that they need to change the minds of most of the population. And, as their experts on semantics and psychology begin to speak, it almost seems like this novel written in the 1950s was prescient enough to eavesdrop on the leaders of today. “The truth of a matter has very little to do with its psychodynamics. The notion that ‘truth will prevail’ is merely a pious wish; history doesn’t show it.” (p. 93) And, since I’ve already indicated that the novel involves space exploration (if one couldn’t deduce that from the rocket ship and strange humanoids on the cover), let me just share that I found it ironic in the light of Pluto’s demotion from a “planet” in recent years to read a line more appropriate to when I was learning astronomy: “…between them and the stars lay nothing but the winter homes of Sol’s comets and hiding places of hypothetical trans-Plutonian planets.” (p. 98) The second half of the book deals, as one might expect, with extra-terrestrial life-forms. The cultures described by Heinlein aren’t quite as well-developed as those in the work of Jack Vance, but these are different enough to be fascinating. And there’s that word again, different. At this point, the question is how to relate to other cultures with different ideals and concepts and whether to be assimilated into an alien culture. The result does not occur by acclamation, but the conclusion wasn’t something I was expecting. But most of all, Methuselah’s Children takes the conceit of the existence of extraordinary longevity in, particularly, the character of the appropriately named Lazarus Long and uses it to explore the meaning of life. “Men--our kind of men—Earth men—never have had enough time to tackle the important questions. Lots of capacity and not time enough to use it properly. When it came to the important questions we might as well have still been monkeys.” (p. 160) It’s a fascinating idea, but it refects a higher opinion of humankind than that of this reviewer. Nonetheless, I truly enjoyed this masterpiece which has stood the test of time—having an ironic longevity.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Paul Weiss

    A must read for any true sci-fi fan! Simply outstanding! Selective breeding and carefully planned marriages with subtle financial encouragement from a secretive group called the Howard Foundation carried out over the last 150 years have resulted in a group of humans that have the extraordinary trait of extreme longevity - Lazarus Long, the patriarch of the Family, born Woodrow Wilson Smith, carries his two hundred plus years quite well! When pressed for his true age, he's either not telling or he A must read for any true sci-fi fan! Simply outstanding! Selective breeding and carefully planned marriages with subtle financial encouragement from a secretive group called the Howard Foundation carried out over the last 150 years have resulted in a group of humans that have the extraordinary trait of extreme longevity - Lazarus Long, the patriarch of the Family, born Woodrow Wilson Smith, carries his two hundred plus years quite well! When pressed for his true age, he's either not telling or he won't admit that he truly doesn't know himself! In 2125, a series of events result in the global administration and the remainder of earth's population discovering the Family's existence. A frenzy of enraged jealousy erupts as a maddened, frustrated world seeks to discover the secret fountain of youth they are convinced the Family is guarding for their own use. Hounded by the threat of murder, torture, brainwashing and ultimate extinction by their shorter lived neighbours, the Family flees earth on an untested starship. The discovery of two planets and alien races that pose threats and challenges even more imposing than those from which they fled plus an overwhelming loneliness for the way of life they left so far behind lead them back to earth for a second try. In Methuselah's Children, Heinlein has crafted an exciting novel, a message, a screenplay and the movie script all at once. Descriptive passages, while compelling and very cleverly written are sparse and infrequent and the plot is almost exclusively driven by razor-sharp dialogue. Heinlein's method of conveying the story through his characters' mouths has got wit; it's got dialect; it's got humour and intelligence; it's got sensible science; it's got humanity and it's got credibility. Their expressions and manner of speaking firmly place the origins of the story in the 1940s USA but somehow Heinlein has managed to inject enough charm to leave it timeless. For those like me that frequently read for the thrill, the entertainment and the pure joy of a story without looking for any subliminal message or morality tale, Methuselah's Children succeeds in spades. Hard sci-fi runs rampant through every page and fleshes out a superb story line - "refreshers" (think Star Trek's sonic showers), private space yachts, hydroponics used for mass food production, psychometrics (no doubt, first cousin to Asimov's famous "psycho-history"), extreme enhancement of longevity through selective breeding, elimination of national boundaries and the implementation of a global administration, inter-stellar travel at relativistic speeds, super-luminal warp travel "in the dark" reached with instantaneous acceleration, cryogenics and suspended animation for long-term space faring, lunar and Venerean colonies, orbital construction of spaceships, blasters, aliens, communication in an alien language, telepathy, high speed bio-engineering, and lots more. Although Heinlein didn't use the word "replicator", he may well have been sitting on the script team for a Star Trek episode when he had Lazarus order up a customized kilt: "He sat down in a sales booth and dialed the code for kilts. He let cloth designs flicker past in the screen while he ignored the persuasive voice of the catalogue until a pattern showed up which was distinctly unmilitary and not blue, whereupon he stopped the display and punched an order for his size. Ten minutes later he stuffed the proctor's kilt into the refuse hopper of the sales booth and left, nattily and loudly attired." For those that wish to dig a little more deeply - don't despair - Heinlein has got much to say that will keep many a party conversation going on a variety of topics: the psychology and, oftentimes, fear of aging and death; mob psychology; prejudice and the abnormal fear of something that is different than we are; the importance of work, activity and a feeling of contributing as a part of the human condition. This book was more than exciting - it was fun and entertaining in the bargain! Paul Weiss

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mel

    What happens when the world of "mortals" discovers that there is a minority of individuals who easily live 2-3 times as long as the rest of us? They aren't going to believe it's heredity. They're going to want the SECRET, and a milk toast population where civilized behavior and altruism are the core of everything will throw away all of their pretenses to get it. (Or kill or sterilize their targets so no one can.) Cue a 200+ year-old space pilot and a clever conspiracy. I have pretty much read th What happens when the world of "mortals" discovers that there is a minority of individuals who easily live 2-3 times as long as the rest of us? They aren't going to believe it's heredity. They're going to want the SECRET, and a milk toast population where civilized behavior and altruism are the core of everything will throw away all of their pretenses to get it. (Or kill or sterilize their targets so no one can.) Cue a 200+ year-old space pilot and a clever conspiracy. I have pretty much read these books in reverse order, so Lazarus Long's first appearance was in the book I read last (this one), and I was almost in tears when I realized I was done. I recommend reading Revolt in 2100 before this, to get a feel for the world and meet one of the characters. It's not essential, but it adds flavor. It's the only thing I did "right" in all of my Robert A. HeinleinHeinlein reading. Actually, If you haven't started reading Heinlein yet, or haven't gotten to the World as Myth books, I highly recommend checking out some suggested reading orders*. . If you have read Time Enough for LoveTime Enough for Love, The Cat Who Walks Through WallsThe Cat Who Walks Through Walls or The Number of the BeastThe Number of the Beast, but not this one, it's a great introduction. *I'm in no way an expert. I'd recommend: (Stranger in a Strange Land), Revolt in 2100, Methuselah's Children, Time Enough for Love, The Number of the Beast, (The Moon is a Harsh Mistress), The Cat Who Walks through Walls, (To Sail Beyond the Sunset**). Books in parenthesis are peripheral but related. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a favorite of mine and I definitely recommend reading it before The Cat Who Walks through Walls. YMMV. There may be more I haven't read. **Not for the faint of heart. Told conversationally, so it bounces around, and squicky subjects are addressed, but you find out what happens to the trio from the end of The Cat Who Walks through Walls.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Campo

    Lazarus Long is always a blast. I’ve already read other books relating to him and this was like coming back home. Reading about Lazarus and his way of doing things is never dull... more of a good refreshing of the mind. That type of mindset is sometimes needed in this times. The plot is basic but serves as a introduction of the Howard families and of that grand character that is Lazarus Long.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    3.5 stars. I was pleasantly surprised by this. Not being much of an RAH fan, I was not expecting much beyond his using the story as a thin veil for his political rantings and ravings. To be sure, there was some of that, though it mostly took a backseat to a genuinely fun, engaging story with minimal kitsch and some interesting, unexpected twists. The story, and much of the science it expounds, holds up, in my inexpert opinion, quite well today, many decades after it was first published in 1958.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sean Randall

    I have a vague memory of reading this before my Goodreads days, and of course that's quite possible. Heinlein has been on one bookshelf or another for longer than I care to recall, and very deservedly so. This one didn't strike many chords although it was good to see some familiar faces.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Here’s the latest in my re-read of Heinlein’s Future History series. This one is slightly different, in that it is more of a novel than a short story, which is what the previous elements have mainly been. The background is that Methuselah’s Children was first a long story published in Astounding in 1941, but, like some of the other elements of the Future History, was revised and expanded into a novel in the late 1950’s. However, this is, at least in its updated form, perhaps the most retrofitted i Here’s the latest in my re-read of Heinlein’s Future History series. This one is slightly different, in that it is more of a novel than a short story, which is what the previous elements have mainly been. The background is that Methuselah’s Children was first a long story published in Astounding in 1941, but, like some of the other elements of the Future History, was revised and expanded into a novel in the late 1950’s. However, this is, at least in its updated form, perhaps the most retrofitted into the timeline created by Heinlein. There are more connections here between Methuselah’s Children and the other stories than anything previous, even more than the other rewritten story in the series,The Man Who Sold the Moon. The story is in two parts. The first begins at a rapid pace with Mary Sperling deciding not to marry Bork Vanning, despite him being “a prime catch”. (Once again Heinlein creates a positive female role model, with, I suspect, a little help from wife Leslyn in the 1940’s and/or Ginny in the 1950’s.) The reason for this soon becomes apparent as we discover that Mary is one of the Howard Family and is one-hundred and eighty-three years old. The story broadens, so that we realise that the plot is really about the Howard Foundation, a group who through selective gene manipulation have extended their natural lifespans to live much longer than normal, more than 150 years. A programme known as ‘The Masquerade’ relocates family members to other places before their youthfulness becomes noticeable. Nevertheless, by 2136 and in the time after the ‘Crazy Years’, the group mainly live in secret, due to ‘normal’ humans feeling that the family are withholding the secret to longer life. They are instead hunted by proctors and the ruling body known as The Covenant of the Western Administration (see Revolt in 2100), determined to extract from the Family, by fair means or foul, the secret of the Fountain of Youth. The second part is what happens to the Founders after they leave Earth. They travel to a planet with Earth-like characteristics to find that there is already intelligent alien life there. When the humans are encouraged to meet what appears to the natives is a god, but is probably a higher order of intelligence, the meeting does not go well. The humans are bundled up and transported to a new planet in a fraction of the time it normally would have taken. On the second planet there are more aliens but ones who are more understandable than those on the first planet. The Family enjoy their lifestyle, but eventually become bored, feeling rather like lotus-eaters and whiling their time away doing nothing of importance. Led by Lazarus, the majority decide to return to Earth and, using further-developed technology, are able to return to Earth in three weeks. There the returning Family decide to resettle now that a genuine solution to longevity has been developed. Lazarus decides to buy a space-yacht and make his own way back into outer space. From the book’s strong start, an action-romp fit for an adventure story, I was rather expecting to enjoy this one. However, by the end I was less enamoured, for a number of reasons. (This may also explain why it has never been high up on my most-remembered Heinlein tales, though I felt that it should.) Unlike some of the other material rewritten to fit the Future History, there were parts of this that clearly fitted 1940’s sensibilities and other elements that were more in line with where Heinlein was in the 1950’s.  This can also be said for The Man Who Sold the Moon, but there the contrast is much more jarring. It also doesn’t help that I had issues with the character who becomes the centre of this story, the eldest Family member of them all, Lazarus Long. (And yes, those issues even go with the annoyingly, smugly appropriate name.) Lazarus is that Heinlein character that I eventually decided I disliked – loud, boorish and opinionated, who calls everyone “Bud” or “Sister”, speaks and acts like someone from the gangster movies of the 1930’s & 40’s and yet is still trusted to make big decisions by the majority. He steamrollers through decision-making and anything he objects to, convinced in that overbearing self-confidence of his that he is always right – the so-called “competent man” so beloved by Astounding editor John W. Campbell. In the bigger picture of Heinlein’s complete work, perhaps what annoys me most is that he is the prototype of other hectoring characters, not a million miles away from Delos D. Harriman, Jubal Halshaw or perhaps even Heinlein himself, exuding self-belief and spouting home-grown tautologies like a machine gun as if they are gospel. For example, (one of many) try “…. a committee is the only known form of life with a hundred bellies and no brain.” There are others – many, many others – which will take centre stage in Heinlein’s later writing, to its detriment, I feel. Even Lazarus’s near-obsession with wearing a kilt (occasionally whilst others are naked) is a questionable throwback, something the author clearly feels is highly important. I’m sure that Heinlein would talk of the rebel heritage, and the fact that the kilt is a symbol of independence and tradition, but to me it’s as outdated as the cape, so freely worn in other science-fictional tales of the 1940’s and 50’s. For me, as the reader, it generated a big “so-what”?, a symbol as vacuous and meaningless as Lazarus’s endless pontifications. And then there’s the plot itself. Boiled down to essentials, the ultimate point of Methuselah’s Children is “there’s no place like home,” that in the future Mankind manages to travel light-years from their point of origin to find that aliens are odd and scary and therefore want to go back to their home planet, not for the benefit of the human race but because they are homesick. Not exactly frontier-ownership! Let’s finish my criticism on a positive, though. Fans of Heinlein’s work, or at least regular readers, will appreciate the fact that this one is firmly connected together Heinlein stories in the tradition of a Future History. Where this one scored most for me was in its use of many elements mentioned in the previous stories. There are many, but most noticeable to me was that Lazarus is assisted in this novel by mathematical genius Andrew Libby, last seen in the short story Misfit (see Revolt in 2100) who invents an inertialess space-drive for the Foundation to use. Delos D. Harriman is mentioned, with Lazarus remembering his first Moon rocket. Coventry is also mentioned (see Coventry in Revolt in 2100 ) as is ‘the Crazy Years’ (see Revolt in 2100).  There’s mention of telepathic ‘sensitives’, who have appeared in some of Heinlein’s other work (such as Stranger in a Strange Land or Time for the Stars.) There are others, but part of the fun of reading this is spotting them.   The next book in the Future History series was a fix-up novel named Orphans of the Sky, which combined two novellas, Universe and Common Sense. It was published as a novel in 1963, although the two stories are much older – Universe was first published in Astounding Magazine in May 1941, whilst Common Sense was published in October 1941. Set on a generational spaceship, the stories begin with a prologue summarising the story of the Howard Foundation. There is one more distant connection between this and the Future History. In its rewritten form, Heinlein had, at the request of his publisher, intended to write more about the Howard family and Lazarus Long in particular, in a story/novel initially named ‘Da Capo’. This did eventually end up being written, but in a very different form from that initially proposed, as part of Time Enough for Love (1973). Lazarus is clearly a character that Heinlein liked, for good or bad, and is a source of inspiration in many of the author’s later work - The Number of the Beast (1980), The Cat Who Walked Through Walls (1985) and his last novel, To Sail Beyond the Sunset (1987). I have yet to decide whether to reread these novels – they are very different to what is here. In summary, Methuselah’s Children is a book from a simpler, less indulgent time, and in my opinion is all the better for it. Let’s not get too carried away, though - as you may have gathered from my comments above, in my opinion the book is conflicted in its message, it has dated, and is definitely not without its issues. Despite all of this, there’s much to like here, especially at the beginning. I might even say that, for its age, it is unexpectedly good. Most surprisingly, it is noticeable that, unlike the later tales of Lazarus Long, it is a short story filled with ideas rather than a few ideas padded out to a novel. I’m just surprised how much it encapsulates Heinlein’s strengths, and some of his later weaknesses, even in his early days of being published - from 1941, don’t forget! Even when I don’t entirely agree with what is portrayed as his views, there’s a lot to get from a writer who writes with a lot to say. Methuselah’s Children was the winner of the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award for the Best Classic Libertarian Sci-Fi Novel in 1997. Copies of the original magazine version are HERE, HERE and HERE.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Haines

    This is more than just a science fiction novel. It explores human nature in ways not commonly found. It raises interesting questions. I will leave it at that so I don't write any spoiler. Read the book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Roddy Williams

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 'The ‘Howard families’ were the product of a genetic experiment, an interbreeding program which had produced one hundred thousand people with an average life-expectancy of a century and a half. Now, at last, their existence was known on Earth, and the entire world demanded to share the ‘secret of eternal youth.' Blurb from the 1971 New English Library paperback edition. Originally serialised in a shorter form in ‘Astounding’ in 1941, ‘Methuselah’s Children’ has an interesting premise, in that in th 'The ‘Howard families’ were the product of a genetic experiment, an interbreeding program which had produced one hundred thousand people with an average life-expectancy of a century and a half. Now, at last, their existence was known on Earth, and the entire world demanded to share the ‘secret of eternal youth.' Blurb from the 1971 New English Library paperback edition. Originally serialised in a shorter form in ‘Astounding’ in 1941, ‘Methuselah’s Children’ has an interesting premise, in that in the Nineteenth Century, Ira Howard, obsessed with the concept of longevity, set up a Foundation whose trustees were instructed to use the money to actively pursue the lengthening of the human lifespan. Unsure of how else to proceed, the trustees sought out individuals who had four living grandparents and informed them of a substantial settlement should they choose to marry one of a number of other individuals in the same position. This odd and improbably successful initiative produced what was to become known as The Howard Families; a group of one hundred thousand people, living secretly within human society and interbreeding amongst themselves, many of whom were by now over a hundred and fifty years old. Their calamitous decision to announce their presence to the general public results in the families being arrested and forced into a reservation, drugged and tortured to reveal what the public at large believed was a secret immortality drug. To this point, despite some rather dated characterisation (Heinlein was never too good at anticipating social change, although his notions of future fashions were reasonably prophetic , since many of the men wear kilts and public near-nakedness is acceptable in some circumstances) the novel moves along solidly, but loses its way when Lazarus Long, a two-hundred plus year old maverick tough guy, masterminds the hijack of a new space-craft and escapes with the Howard Families in search of a new home on a new planet. Putting aside the logistics of getting a hundred thousand people onto a ship, along with supplies, once the escape is effected the tension of the plot is lost. In their quest to find a new home, the Families at first encounter a planet of benign humanoids who turn out to be nothing more than intelligent pets of a vastly more intelligent race. Moving on to the next planet they meet a race of highly advanced telepathic gestalt beings who create a paradise for the humans to live in. The lesson is learned that humans deteriorate without the stimulus of challenge, and the ship heads back for Earth where, in the interim, the secret of longevity has been discovered, and all humanity is now part of the Howard Families. Had Heinlein confined the story to Earth or at least The Solar System, and concentrated on the theme of persecution within one’s own culture, this would no doubt have been a more consistent and important book. For some, it is one of Heinlein’s best, and despite the disjointedness and the rather cliched alien races, it is an enjoyable read. Interestingly, Lazarus Long mentions having once met Pinero, the protagonist of Heinlein’s first published short story ‘Life-Line’, who attempted to establish the date of Long’s death, but finding the answer absurd, refunded Lazarus’ money.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lucas Beechinor

    1. It’s good, clean, science fiction fun. In stories like Methuselah’s Children, a reader can read into the book as much as he/she wants to and still walk away from the story feeling good about the whole experience. The book will challenge readers in its ability to make them think critically about a society’s will to accept change, and accept differences. It takes a stab at political authority under mob rule, but it also shows how differences can be reconciled without hella (yes, I said hella) bl 1. It’s good, clean, science fiction fun. In stories like Methuselah’s Children, a reader can read into the book as much as he/she wants to and still walk away from the story feeling good about the whole experience. The book will challenge readers in its ability to make them think critically about a society’s will to accept change, and accept differences. It takes a stab at political authority under mob rule, but it also shows how differences can be reconciled without hella (yes, I said hella) bloodshed. Is revolution the answer to needed change? Is it fair to force individuals (under pain of death) to “serve” mankind if they are capable? On the other hand, the book can be read at surface level, and the reader can smile and laugh, or get goose bumps along with the characters experiencing some pretty messed up situations. 2. There is a nod (agree to disagree if you must) towards Lovecraft-style horror. In spite of the novel being pretty short, and the storytelling not overly-descriptive, Heinlein will draw you into a world filled with a sense of deep time, and the reality of man’s insignificance in the cosmic realm. Man, in spite of all his humanistic achievement, is a speck in comparison to the beings who have existed long before mankind was an idea. This brand of sci-fi is one of our favorite’s at SpireHouse. And don’t you forget it. 3. Lazarus Long is P-I-M-P This guy is so cool, he seriously doesn’t even know how old he is, because he forgot, because he’s got way better things to do than remember his birthday. Need to move 100,000+ people across a galaxy? Call Lazarus. He’ll single-handedly hijack a city-sized spaceship for you. He’ll also buy you a fleet of ships to smuggle these people off earth and ferry them to the mother-ship, but he probably won’t tell you until after he’s done. Lazarus is so hot, he has to turn away his own family members who want to do the nasty with him. He also wears a kilt and has a gun holstered to his thigh at all times. In short, we want to be just like him. Kilt included. Please go out right now and read this book. It is the start of a great series of stories from Heinlein all readers of sci-fi should explore. I couldn’t locate an electronic edition of the novel, so I was forced to purchase a printed edition off Amazon. If anyone out there can find an e-version, I will offer a handsome reward, Lazarus Long style . . .

  28. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Heinlein returns to writing for adults here with the expansion of a story originally serialized in Astounding Science Fiction in 1941. The Howard Families are descended from a man who got rich during the California Gold Rush and left his money to be used for research into the prolongation of life. This goal was realized by his trustees providing financial encouragement to the grandchildren of long-lived persons to marry and have children. By the 22nd century, descendants have a life expectancy of Heinlein returns to writing for adults here with the expansion of a story originally serialized in Astounding Science Fiction in 1941. The Howard Families are descended from a man who got rich during the California Gold Rush and left his money to be used for research into the prolongation of life. This goal was realized by his trustees providing financial encouragement to the grandchildren of long-lived persons to marry and have children. By the 22nd century, descendants have a life expectancy of 150 years, but their existence is a secret from the rest of society. Great plot set up, because of course when they decide to reveal their secret all hell breaks loose and the Families must escape Earth in search of other galaxies and a new planet. The remainder of the story concerns their adventures in space and the events surrounding their attempts to live on two different planets. Heinlein covers contact with alien races, mad scientists, beleaguered administrators, telepathic mutants and questions of time in deep space. I liked the men who wore kilts (yes, really) and the many hairs breath escape scenes. I thought of Greg Bear's Darwin's Children and The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. Now we also have Embassytown by Mieville. All of these later books riff on some of the key elements in Methuselah's Children. Also detectable were ideas that will show up in Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), which answers the question I had in my review of Have Spacesuit, Will Travel. Best of all was renegade hero Lazarus Long.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alex Sarll

    Reading old science fiction generally involves a certain disconnect - you've got people hopping back and forth to the Moon, yet still behaving in many ways like your grandparents' generation. Even beyond that, though, this one has problems. The premise: among normal humanity there live, semi-secretly, the Howard Families, who through selective breeding have massively expanded their lifespan, and spend those long lives at an age of their choosing. When the short-lived majority find out, they reac Reading old science fiction generally involves a certain disconnect - you've got people hopping back and forth to the Moon, yet still behaving in many ways like your grandparents' generation. Even beyond that, though, this one has problems. The premise: among normal humanity there live, semi-secretly, the Howard Families, who through selective breeding have massively expanded their lifespan, and spend those long lives at an age of their choosing. When the short-lived majority find out, they react poorly, insisting the Families must have some secret which the rest of humanity can share, and suspending civil liberties in their hunger for that secret, even at the risk of a new Holocaust. OK, if you set that now, or in the near future, it's far too plausible; I can picture the tabloid headlines now. But Heinlein feels obliged to include it in a future history he already had underway. Where, after a second American Revolution, the promise of liberty for all is meant to be properly enshrined. Why give yourself a hypothetical setting which contradicts the main thrust of your story? That aside, it's a fun little romp, so long as you don't mind Heinlein's underlying assumption that Striving and Being Human is a better gig than just chilling forever on a paradise planet. And, well, I disagree hugely, but I can respect his point of view so long as he doesn't get dictatorial about it, which he doesn't.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    I must admit there is something reassuring going back to an old favourite. Robert Heinlein was one of the authors I branched out in to in my early days of reading (let alone reading science fiction). Some years ago I had the lucky pleasure of working just outside London and spent every available weekend scouring the city looking for new titles (before the days of internet and Amazon). I spent most of my time hunting down the rare and obscure books from Heinlein's bibliography. Periodically I go b I must admit there is something reassuring going back to an old favourite. Robert Heinlein was one of the authors I branched out in to in my early days of reading (let alone reading science fiction). Some years ago I had the lucky pleasure of working just outside London and spent every available weekend scouring the city looking for new titles (before the days of internet and Amazon). I spent most of my time hunting down the rare and obscure books from Heinlein's bibliography. Periodically I go back to my Heinlein shelf and pick up something new - and that is where I found myself recently trying to choose between this and Glory Road (watch this space I am sure that will follow soon enough. Anyway I am glad I have read it as it introduces one of those characters I had seemingly forgotten but quickly got re-aquainted with - Lazarus Long. The book itself is divided in to two sections- the first is sociological thriller (ok set with 50/60s view of the future) but the second half - then becomes a stock science fiction yarn of wanderers exploring for a new home (but with a very much Gulliver's Travel feel to it - travelling from one strange civilisation to another finding that in fact none are quite right) - only to go full circle and come home again. it has a nice twist at the end of it too - but that I shall leave for you to discover.

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