I read this book about 13-Jun-2014. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1973. This note was last modified Saturday, 28-Jun-2014 15:03:49 PDT.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
We start right up in the introduction with the Malthusianism (for want of a better term).
Also, just what does he mean by "by the twenty-first century...our race was capable of doubling its numbers three times each century"? That seems to suggest we were getting faster at it. There'd be a small speed increase due to decreased infant mortality and mother mortality, of course, but not as much as you'd think. I don't think our ability to breed ourselves into oblivion really changed that much over historic time.
Also, why "7 × 109 × 268"? Why mix powers of 10 with powers of 2? He doesn't make anything of it later that I can find, it's not some future style.
"Prelude" begins "as the door of the suite dilated...". Referring to his own famous "the door dilated" in Beyond This Horizon.
Lazarus doesn't "believe in" anything, but he knows a few things. Not, however, the Nine Billion Names of God, capitalized like that. Which is a lovely Arthur C. Clark story, and I'm quite sure the reference is deliberate. ("Belief" interferes with learning.)
Galahad and Ishtar (not their names at the time, actually) commit to "seven hours of ecstacy" without knowing their respective genders. But the effect is kind of spoiled by their expressing surprise and pleasure when they unsuit and discover them. I guess the point is that they don't have fully balanced sensuality but are flexible, though.
Lazarus is not up to speed on transgender issues, though. He refers to "turning inadequate males into fake females", and calls them monsters (p. 103). And then he brings up the story of Johann Sebastian Bach Smith from I will Fear no Evil.
Three main sources of income in a bordello, but no drugs, since they spoil the three main sources. One of those main sources is alcohol. The process by which "drugs" was defined to exclude alcohol and tobacco continues to confuse me. Do you suppose marijuana will soon become not a drug?
Galahad's joking about women doing all the work doesn't seem very sensible in a sane culture 2000 years in the future. It's heavily based in bad attiudes about household responsibilities from the 19th century, which woul shock him (p. 139 for example).
On page 239 Minerva notes that any space trip could be a time trip. Why, though, didn't anybody notice until now? Minerva is a fully trained pilot, a computer, and at that point has never actually piloted a jump, that combination may be relevant. Or it may just be a hole the author left lying there.
There are four incest stories in this volume—stories that violate or test our incest taboos. Setting aside cultural preference, I see two issues around incest: First, that we don't want to make too many defective babies, which is significantly more likely with some of the couplings forbidden by incest taboos (siblings and parent/child at least). Second, we don't want people with power over children to exploit them sexually. I think Heinlein doesn't consider the second point nearly enough, which weakens his examination of the landscape.
The first case is Dora, the child put into his hands by her dying father on New Beginnings. He and Helen Mayberry raise her to adulthood, and she then convinces him to marry her (and they tackle hopeless pass as a way to get around some taboo-related issues plus his identity as a Howard). There's no genetic objection to their pairing. However, since he raised her from a baby, and is several thousand years more experienced than she is, there's a major power imbalance issue. Heinlein never discusses it, but does show Lazarus resisting Dora's advances for quite a while. He also shows it as highly successful (this is fiction). They never talk about the issue, and Heinlein never talks about it to us. This is not very useful discussion of the topic; at worst it can be used to justify exploitation.
Another case is the twins who weren't, diploid complement genetic experiments that Lazarus buys as slaves on Blessed. Again, no special genetic risk. In their case, by the time he got them they were thoroughly programmed to be a breeding pair, and in fact to love each other, and he decided he can't try to break that without risk of hurting them horribly. In this case, they were "made" as a breeding pair and raised to be one, so arguably a highly immoral interference with their autonomy has been committed—but not by Lazarus. He's stuck with the outcome, and does what he thinks is his best (and seems very reasonable to me) to set them up to have a decent life. But there's no mention that the training that made them a "breeding pair" was morally questionable (or, if you prefer, downright abhorrent). Again, the issue of the abuse of power is not mentioned.
Another case is his clone twin sisters Lapis Lazuli and Lorelei Lee (from memory!). No genetic issue due to the technology on Tertius. He raised them from infants, and is The Senior and runs the colony and is thousands of years more experienced, so there's a huge power imbalance, but as the story is told he doesn't use his power to train them to want sex with him, and he resists their advances when they're adult enough to make them. And eventually gives in to them. We don't see much future of that, so it's not particularly shown whether the outcome is good or bad. And, again, the real issues are not discussed.
The final case is with his mother on Earth. No genetic issue since she's already pregnant. I say there's no real power issue; she doesn't know he's her son, or the Senior, and while he knows she's his mother (Heinlein is rather Freudian), his being raised by her was thousands of years ago, and he hasn't seen her for most of that time (she's been dead from his point of view). So, no particular power imbalance and no at all current history of power imbalance between them. And, again, the possible power imbalance aspect isn't discussed at all, just the genetic issue and the cultural taboo.
In addition to incest laws and cultural norms, there are additional attempts to deter exploitation of children by the more powerful. Age of concent and statutory rape laws exist mostly for tha treason (how effective they are would be another discussion). These sometimes come into conflict with allowing children some room to experiment with their sexuality; this is somewhat recognized when statutory rape laws use not just a single age line, but also an age difference rule, so that two 15-year-olds wouldn't be guilty of statutory rape for having entirely consensual sex, but a 25-year-old would be with a 15-year-old, say (laws vary by state). Sometimes these laws lead to bizarro situations like sex being legal for a couple up until midnight one night, and not again for 5 years, say. Our society is, in general, completely insane about sex, especially when children are involved. None of this is mentioned in the book at all. So, as any kind of intellectual exploration of the incest taboo and the question of childrens' sexuality, I'd have to rate this book fairly poorly. He brings the issue up over and over again but never discusses the important or difficult issues.