Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

Starman Jones current cover Starman Jones (1953)
A science fiction adventure juvenile

current Del Rey paperback
cover art by Rick Sternback (left)

1975 Ballantine paperback
cover art by Lee Rosenblatt (right)
both editions 252 pages
Starman Jones 1970s cover

From the back cover of Del Rey edition:
       Where were they?  In fact, when were they?  And how could they get back?
       It's easy to stow away on an intergalactic spaceship, if you're a smart lad like Max Jones.  But it's quite another thing when the spaceship touches down on an unknown planet after passage through a time warp...perhaps in an unknown century.  Especially when the spaceship's pilot dies, and his charts and tables are destroyed.  Now survival was up to Max...

From the back cover of Dell Mayflower paperback (below):
       "That's not any sky I ever saw before..."  He finally looked up from the charts with a face greenish white.  "Not a word to anybody," he said.  "That's an order - and I'll bust any man who slips.  I'll be in the Captain's cabin."  He went below to tell Blaine that the Asgard had come out in unknown space - was lost.

       Max Jones inherits his uncle's library and an intense determination to follow in his footsteps, but the Astrogator's Guild is restricted to hereditary membership, son following father, and Max is denied acceptance.  Stunned and angered by this rejection and by the confiscation of his precious books, Max runs away and gains illegal entry on board the Asgard, scheduled for a long space voyage.  But this spiteful action results in more than he bargained for as the ship becomes lost in space and faces a forced landing on an unknown star.

Read for group discussion on October 13, 1999

Starman Jones 1968 Dell Another Book Cover:

Starman Jones

1968 Dell Mayflower paperback
cover art by Berkey (left)

How we each rated this book
Dan - Amy 7 stack of books 10   Wow! Don't miss it
8-9  Highly recommended
7    Recommended
5-6  Mild recommendation
3-4  Take your chances
1-2  Below average; skip it
0    Get out the flamethrower!
U    Unfinishable or unreadable
-    Skipped or no rating given
Cheri 7 Barb -
Aaron 6 Cynthia 5
Lars - Jackie -
Kerry 6 Lindsey -

Aaron's Commentary  Robert A. Heinlein - Starman Jones

This is a fun rags-to-riches story.  It's easy to cheer for Max, an honest, down-to-earth guy who wants only to leave the earth.  The shipboard details are laid out so carefully they seem believable despite being so dated.  The idea of doing intricate calculations by pencil then applying binary conversions from a printed book before entering the calculations in the computer is silly in hindsight, but the blood, sweat, and tears on the bridge ring true.

Unfortunately, many elements of the story do not work.  Most importantly, Heinlein totally botches the aborted love story between Max and Ellie.  This leaves little to absorb a young reader of today, who won't be wowed by the idea of going into space as a 1950's reader might have been.  Heinlein's plot also has a gaping hole in that he doesn't explain why, when the Asgard gets lost, they don't try to turn around and go back through the new congruity right away.  I can't believe everyone would instead immediately seize on the idea of permanently settling an unexplored planet.

What do you think? Your comments are welcome. Please send them to

Our book group has also read the following books by Robert A. Heinlein:
-- The Moon is a Harsh Mistress  in February 1995
-- Stranger in a Strange Land  in August 1998
-- Friday  in January 2002
-- Citizen of the Galaxy  in October 2006
-- Have Spacesuit, Will Travel  in April 2008
-- Double Star  in February 2009
-- Time Enough for Love  in March 2009
-- The Star Beast  in April 2009

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) was a US science fiction writer, perhaps the all-time most important writer of science fiction.

(note: he wrote many important works before the major SF awards were created)
1956 Hugo Award for novel Double Star
1960 Hugo Award for novel Starship Troopers
1962 Hugo Award for novel Stranger in a Strange Land
1967 Hugo Award for novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

He began publishing SF short fiction in 1939. His pre-eminence in the field from 1940 to 1960 was unassailable.

Some of his early works fit in his loose Future History such as the story collections The Man who Sold the Moon (1950), The Green Hills of Earth (1951), Revolt in 2100 (1953), and the novels Methuselah's Children (1941, revised 1958), and Orphans in the Sky (fixup 1963).

Published first under pseudonyms were Sixth Column (1941, a.k.a. The Day After Tomorrow), and Beyond this Horizon (1942).

Heinlein made an major contribution to young adult SF.  Many SF fans today grew up reading these Heinlein juveniles: Rocket Ship Galileo (1947), Space Cadet (1948), Red Planet (1949), Farmer in the Sky (1950), Between Planets (1951), The Rolling Stones (1952), Starman Jones (1953), The Star Beast (1954), Tunnel in the Sky (1955), Time for the Stars (1956), Citizen of the Galaxy (1957), Have Space Suit -Will Travel (1958) and Podkayne of Mars (1963).

Novels for grownups Heinlein wrote in the 1950s include The Puppet Masters (1951) an invasion tale; Double Star (1956) about a failed actor who impersonates a politician; and The Door into Summer (1957) which involves suspended animation ("long sleep") and time-travel.

Starship Troopers (1958) was originally written as a juvenile, but was rejected by his publisher because of its violence.  It is the first book in which Heinlein strongly voiced his opinions.

Stranger in a Strange Land (1962), probably Heinlein's most well known novel, involves a commune, free love, and a new religion.  It was a cult-book for students in the late 1960s.

Glory Road (1963) is a sword and sorcery fantasy.  The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966) is about a revolution by Moon colonists.

Many of his later works are long rambling opinionated novels about extended families, such as Farnham's Freehold (1964), I Will Fear No Evil (1970), Time Enough for Love (1973), The Number of the Beast (1979), The Cat Who Walks Through Walls (1985) and To Sail Beyond the Sunset (1987).  The last four books revolve around immortal Lazarus Long.  The Notebooks of Lazarus Long (1978) is extracts from Time Enough for Love.

Other later works are Friday (1982) and Job: A Comedy of Justice (1984).

Additional Heinlein story collections are Waldo and Magic, Inc (1950), Assignment in Eternity (1953), The Menace from Earth (1959), The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag (1959, also called 6 X H), Three by Heinlein (1965), The Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein (1966), The Past Through Tomorrow (1967), The Best of Robert Heinlein (1973), Expanded Universe (1980), and Requiem (1992).

Grumbles from the Grave (collection 1989) edited by Virginia Heinlein includes letters.  Tramp Royale (written 1953-4, published 1992) is a travel memoir.

For Us, the Living (2003) was published posthumously, it was the first novel he wrote in 1937.

Variable Star (2006) by Spider Robinson was written from a 1955 outline by Heinlein.

Our book club's page for Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
Our book club's page for Friday by Robert A. Heinlein
Our book club's page for Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein
Our book club's page for Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein
Our book club's page for The Star Beast Star by Robert A. Heinlein
Arrastra SF: Robert A. Heinlein - The Door into Summer
Robert A. Heinlein - Wikipedia
Quotable Heinlein

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This page was last updated March 03, 2009