Denver Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Club

Double Star Del Rey cover Double Star (1956)
1956 Hugo Award Winner

current Del Rey paperback 
243 pages
cover art by Barclay Shaw (left)

1957 Signet edition
1st paperback printing
cover art by Richard Powers (right)

Double Star 1st paperback edition

From the Del Rey paperback back cover:
       One minute, down and out actor Lorenzo Smythe was - as usual - in a bar, drinking away his troubles as he watched his career go down the tubes.  Then a space pilot brought him a drink, and the next thing Smythe knew, he was shanghaied to Mars.
       Suddenly he found himself agreeing to the most difficult role of his career: impersonating an important politician who has been kidnapped.  Peace with the Martians was at stake - failure to pull off the act could result in interplanetary war.  And Smythe's own life was on the line - for if he wasn't assassinated, there was always the possibility that he might be trapped in his new role forever!

From the Signet 16th printing (below) back cover:
       A jobless actor in the year 2100 cadges a drink from a space pilot and find himself shanghaied to Mars for the most important and dangerous role of his career.
       THE ROLE - Doubling for a missing leader who is the most loved and most threatened Earthman on the planet.
       THE RISK - Quick death if Martian foes detect the ruse, or lifelong pretense if the politician never reappears!

Read for group discussion on February 25, 2009

Double Star Signet 14th printing More Book Covers:

Double Star

Signet 14th printing
$1.25 cover price (left)

Signet 16th printing
$1.75 cover price (right)
Double Star Signet 16th printing

How we each rated this book
Dan - Amy 6.5 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 -
Jackie - Ron 5
Jennifer 6

Aaron's Commentary  Robert A. Heinlein - Double Star

Double Star is entertaining, moves along at a brisk pace, and tosses in some predictions that are impressive in hindsight, such as the death of communism.  Still, I don't rank it with Heinlein's best, even if it won a Hugo Award.  The Prisoner of Zenda story doesn't do much for me.  While the protagonist is an amusing rogue, I did not find him sympathetic enough to worry much what happens to him.  And the political machinations can't carry the story because Heinlein waits until too late in the novel to identify what's at stake - compare the Zenda-inspired film Dave, which manages to get the viewer believing from pretty early on that the protagonist needs to strike a blow against political corruption.  Double Star makes for easy but not absorbing reading.

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
-- Starman Jones  in October 1999
-- Friday  in January 2002
-- Citizen of the Galaxy  in October 2006
-- Have Spacesuit, Will Travel  in April 2008
-- 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 Starman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein
Our book club's page for Friday 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