The Door into Summer • 1956 • SF novel by Robert A. Heinlein


The story – silly technician looses his garage corporation predictably to greedy woman and former business partner – wasn’t very good with all that implausible back and forth through time and hibernated sleep. RAH rode that SF trope but didn’t motivate it well enough; a lot of less riskier and far easier solutions to the protagonist’s problems lay on hands. Especially his second hibernation was ridiculous.
Some of his sexual liberation stuff was needlessly included, especially the nudist camp, and I gnaw on those hints with the 11 year old girl.

As SF, this one didn’t transport well into our times – which is a sharp contrast to other works from RAH, e.g. Starship Troopers, mainly because of his sloppy world-building with implausible anchoring of technology in society.
Concerning computer technology, he wasn’t at the scientific height of the time of his writing, e.g. he didn’t mention high-level programming languages (plan calculus or FORTRAN); magnetic core memory was well established, even the first mass produced computers were available with the IBM 650. I’m a sucker for nostalgic views at computers, and I think it would make perfect sense to visit a computer museum alongside reading this novel. As it goes, the inventor of computers, Konrad Zuse, had his labs some 10 miles from my home and the community founded a museum there – sorry, folks, its all in German. Fascinating stuff!

I understand that hibernation was a thing back in the 50s but I didn’t like RAH’s discussion of managing the legal parts. And a 70% survival chance would be an absolute no-go for me.

Lots of his extrapolations of technology of the years 1970 (which was 14 years near-SF at that time) and 2000 were funny to read. Humanoid roboters are a thing in this novel and some of them start to come true in our days, e.g. half-autonomous cars or cleaning roboters. It is interesting that it is far more complex to get legal issues cleared than getting the technology working, but RAH didn’t dive into that one enough. Speaking of it, I like the concept of Pepper who is designed to “read emotions”.

But really devastating were his social and political predictions of the world’s state of 2000. Only thrown-in were facts as “England as a Canadian colony” or constructs like “Greater L.A.”, a “6 week war” or a French monarchy. Why, oh why? It would have been very interesting to find out motivations for this settings, but RAH concentrated more on his time travel and hibernation roundtrips. Which I didn’t like.

I liked it far less than my previous RAH reads of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Starship Troopers, or even Stranger in a Strange Land.

Sorry, only 2 stars – 1 of those for Pete the cat which I found quite funny and realistic as a character but very strange for a SF story.


Meta: isfdb. SF novel published in 1956.


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