Okay, I’ve finished reading this now except for the last few pages of notes, and rather than go into detail about Heinlein’s life as I did in my two earlier posts on this book, I thought I’d present some overall impressions.
First, the book is well written. Patterson’s technique is fine, and he allows a little of his own personality and opinions to show through, but not enough to obscure the subject. Second, it’s well-researched, and Patterson makes a great effort to separate his occasional hypotheticals, or the opinions of other Heinlein researchers and friends from the facts. This is even more clear in the notes.
I learned a lot about Heinlein from reading this book, and if I had to pick out one thing that sums it up, I’d say it’s that he was a much more emotional person that I would have thought from either his work or what’s been written about him in the past, or even from the brief times I saw Heinlein himself at the World Science Fiction Convention in 1976. Thing is, the man had learned through his life to conceal his emotions well, though it seems it was always a struggle. Now that I know that, I understand better why his writing appeals to me. The emotions are there, sometimes under the surface. All his characters feel things intensely, I think, as he did, even if they don’t always admit or even know it. This may be one reason why it’s hard to be indifferent to Heinlein’s writing; readers tend to either love it or hate it. Unlike many of his contemporaries such as Asimov, Clarke and De Camp, who kept some emotional distance and concentrated on creating a sense of wonder built on ideas, Heinlein was all about the human feelings and emotions beneath the ideas.
If you’ve any interest in the man and his work, this is a must read. Can’t wait for volume 2 (though it seems I’ll have to wait a few years), and now I want to reread all the early Heinlein work covered in this volume, and probably will do that in the coming months, when I have time. Be interesting to see if reading this biography will change my opinions about it.