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Between Planets cover Between Planets by Robert Heinlein

Published by Ballantine Books

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

One day Don's pleasant life at a boarding school in the American Southwest came to an abrupt end when he received a letter telling him to take the next rocket to Mars to rejoin his family. Suddenly he was on a wild ride with some nasty hints that the government did not like or trust him.

When a brutal government interrogation causes the death of the man who had been his guide to New Chicago, Don makes a firm resolution not to let anyone shove him around again. However, that proves a little easier said than done when rebels from Venus take over the space station that handles all transfers between planets.

But Don stands firm and eventually wins a place on the rocket going back to Venus. That bit of intransigence proves to be his salvation, for Earth defenses panic and blow the shuttle out of the sky when it returns with the rest of the station crew and travelers.

In this book Venus is a wet world (this novel was written long before the first probes to that world found it to be a hell world of incredible temperatures and pressures), endless swamps permanently shrouded in clouds. There he finds himself some temporary accomodations and tries to contact his parents and arrange passage to Mars.

However, Earth is now about to let its rebel colony slip free so easily. A brutal conquest fleet arrives and forcibly retakes the capital city. Don narrowly escapes capture and flees into the misty swamps of the Venusian back country, where he joins up with a team of rebels.

Then comes the day when he is summoned away from his unit by the command of a noble of the Venusian native people, the "dragons." This proves to be the same one Don had helped in his trip up from Earth. The dragon wants the ring Don received when he left Earth. However, Don is not about to give it up without getting a lot of questions answered first. Questions that soon tell him that he may well be holding the secret to the liberation of the solar system in his hands without ever knowing it.

Yes, the science is dated in this novel, but it remains one of the classics of Heinlein's early juvenile work. It's still fun to read, and it arouses a certain nostalgia for a time when we really believed our own solar system to be teeming with life, that fellow intelligences might actually be a rocket voyage away instead of unknown light-years away in other star systems, if anywhere.

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This review posted June 2, 1999

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