Robert A. Heinlein
Double Star (1956)
Winner of the 1956 Hugo Award for Best Novel.
I liked this novel from the first few pages on. I often find it difficult to exactly put my finger on those qualities that made me enjoy a particular book, and Double Star is no exception. Just as you would expect from Heinlein, it is expertly crafted, an engaging, lively story, rather straightforward but not too simple, with a delicate sense of humor. Certainly the books is dated in several respects; there are no Martians, the only woman character in the novel is a 1950s stereotype, and computers are lacking almost entirely in Heinlein's future; but none of this really deters from the immense readability of this book.
Lorenzo Smythe, né Laurence Smith, is a seedy actor, without engagement, reminiscing about better times while drinking away his last money, when he meets a spaceman who makes him an initial offer he can't resist. Quickly drawn into intrigues far too large to disentangle himself from, Smythe is about to play the biggest role of his life: with interplanetary peace at stake, he is to serve as a stand-in for a kidnapped politician. The actor must impersonate what may be the best known face in the entire Solar System.
The protagonist starts out as thoroughly apolitical as possible, but a Heinlein book without politics? As he makes one of his characters put it: "Brother, until you've been in politics you haven't been alive." Like others of his books, notably The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Double Star unobtrusively packs a lot of the advice and experience collected in Heinlein's earlier handbook for the political amateur, Take Back Your Government!, along with a not so subtle message about personal responsibility.
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