Post #47: Rocket Ship Galileo

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Rocket Ship Galileo by Robert A. Heinlen

Post number forty-seven is for Robert A. Heinlen’s Rocket Ship Galileo, which was another required reading for my History of Children’s Literature course. I needed one more reading response journal to complete my requirements for the course, so went ahead and wrote one up on this book. You can read it below.

Spoilers follow.

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I was not too sure what to expect when I first started reading Rocket Ship Galileo by Robert A. Heinlen. I had never read any of his other works, and knew nearly nothing about his writing aside from the fact that he writes Science Fiction. While I am a fan of Sci-Fi shows/movies like Stargate: SG-1, Star Trek and Star Wars, to name a few, I do not usually read Science Fiction books. What little I have read hasn’t been all that enjoyable for me, so I was interested to see if the same would hold true for Rocket Ship Galileo. And for the most part, unfortunately, it did.

I found significant chunks of this book to read very slowly. There seemed to be an extremely large part of the prose dedicated to the scientific know-how of how to construct rockets and rocket ships. I found all of this very dull, and had to keep myself from skipping ahead to the dialogue. One passage that struck me in particular was toward the end, where it said, “Cargraves had him hold it at two g‘s for five minutes and then go free. By that time, having accelerated at nearly 64 feet per second for each second of the five minutes, even with due allowance for loss of one-sixth g to the pull of the moon at the start, they were making approximately 12,000 miles per hour” (pg. 313 in the large print version). Considering that they never tell us what “g” is, I was guessing that it meant gravity, but wasn’t sure, and honestly didn’t think all the mathematical equations were really necessary; they could have just said that they were making approximately 12,000 miles per hour and been done with it. The same goes for the actual construction of the rocket ship itself; there was so much math thrown around, and scientific terms used in the speech of the characters, that I spent a large part of the beginning of the book very confused. I suppose that Heinlen did this to make it all seem more authentic, but it honestly didn’t help me with that at all.

There was also a line that I felt very crass and inappropriate, considering the magnitude of the atomic bombs that the US dropped during WWII and the aftereffects: “the test had been made so long before that the grim lake was almost certainly as harmless as the dead streets of Hiroshima” (pg. 93). This is pretty unnecessary; I understand that the US felt that dropping the bombs was the best way to end the war, but this kind of seems like a slap in the face to those who were affected, and I just felt it was in horribly bad taste, especially considering that this book was only written two years after the fact.

I usually don’t have any trouble suspending my disbelief, but the idea of Nazis having a base on the moon was just … ridiculous, for lack of a better word. I don’t think there’s any way that anyone could have accomplished this – and used an American rocket ship! – without the US knowing about it. However, it was pretty prophetic of Heinlen to mention that Russia may have the first people up in space; this was written well before the Space Race, but he at least did have an idea of what he was talking about on that one point, at least.

The best parts of the book were the actual excitement surrounding the possible intruder on the complex grounds, the flight to the moon, and the subsequent battle with the Nazis. The second half of the book was by far much better (absurd plot line aside) than the first, at least for me personally. As far as my overall opinion of the book, I’m afraid I didn’t really enjoy it all that much. Apparently this is a genre that is just not for me!

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