Book Review – Time Enough For Love by Robert Heinlein

Title: Time Enough For Love
Author: Robert Heinlein
Format: Paperback
Written: 1973
Published: 1975

Time Enough For Love is a chunky science fiction novel about a man who has lived for more than 2000 years. It is set in a futuristic universe, and details his life and accumulated wisdom from the centuries. A variety of storytelling techniques are used, and the common theme of the various passages is an exploration of what it means to love another.

This book came highly recommended to me, which is the only reason I slogged it out. I kept waiting for it to get to the point. Any point. It is a frame narrative, playing with ideas of the Arabian Nights. Unlike the stories of Scheherazade, this one is lacking in thrilling cliff hangers that keep the pages turning.

Some of the incidents that are detailed in the book would be interesting as standalone stories. The chapters about Lazarus’s relationship with Dora are genuinely moving, and I am certain this is because it is one of the few times when the frame is distant enough that you are not reminded of it every two pages.

I was constantly irritated by the protagonist’s name. He changed it whenever he took on a new persona to hide his longevity, which was fine, but use of the chosen name was so inconsistent that I occasionally became lost about which person did what. The frame narrative would also impose on the individual narratives with alternative explanations and names as footnotes, which just confused things even more.

Because the theme of the book was love, the benefit of having such an old protagonist was severely curtailed. Two millennia is a long time to do a lot of amazing things. At one point the narrator was a slave, but we are only told this to justify why he intervened in a particular situation. Being pressed into slavery and escaping it would have been much more interesting than the story we did get about how he bought a young couple and then sold them a restaurant.

One of the best aspects of the book, due to its love theme, was the exploration of alternative family models. Many types of family were only alluded to in passing reference, but it was refreshing that our current cultural idea of the best family being the nuclear one was not supported in this text.

Aside from the occasional humorous passage, and Dora’s final scene, nothing in this book managed to stir more than a casual intellectual curiosity. I have no sense that my life has been enriched by reading it. I feel so little emotional resonance that I can’t be bothered hating it. If you have read this book, and understand why it was so highly recommended, please throw in your two cents in the comments below. Until someone convinces me otherwise, I am rating this book 1 out of 5 pages.

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