Tag Archive: mars


“Double Star”540500
by Robert A. Heinlein
Read By Tom Weiner
Published by Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Running Time 5 hours and 31 minutes

There have been many stories written with the plot centering around mistaken identity or swapped identity, “The Importance of being Earnest,” “The Prince and the Pauper,” and more. Sometimes the identity swap that happens in the story is accidental but there are many cases where the identity swap is intentional. There have been movies, books and stories written where a person has been hired to impersonate someone in power, in order to protect that person in power. This book slides right into that genre but with a little twist.

Down and out actor Lorenzo Smythe sits in a bar day after day drinking away his sorrows and troubles. His career has not gone the way he has wanted. He has not become as famous as he feels he should be. That all changes when a space pilot offers to buy him a drink. The pilot offers him the role of a lifetime, quite literally as it turns out, in which the great Lorenzo Smythe finds himself agreeing to the most difficult role of his career, impersonating an important politician who had been kidnapped. Peace with the Martians is at stake. If Smythe fails pull off the act it could result in interplanetary war.

This role places Smythe at, not only risk of losing his life, but losing his identity as well. I will not give any spoilers in this revie because I strongly believe that this story deserves to be heard or read. The twists and turns in the story create a surprise ending that will leave the listener/reader cheering for the arrogant Smythe.

The politician Smythe must impersonate is John Joseph Bonforte. Bonforte is the leader of the Expansionist coalition on Mars and is currently out of office but with a good chance of changing that at the next general election. Smythe and Bonforte are the most opposite that can be found when it comes to political views, making this even more of a challenge for Smythe.

Bonforte has been kidnapped by his political opponents, and his aides want Smythe to impersonate Bonforte while they try to find him. So to confuse the opposition Smythe must make public appearances as Bonforte.

Bonforte is rescued, but he is in poor health due to the treatment inflicted on him during his imprisonment thus forcing Smythe to extend his performance, even to becoming temporary Supreme Minister and running in an election. The central political issue in the election is the granting of the vote to Martians in the human-dominated Solar System. Lorenzo shares the anti-Martian prejudice prevalent among large parts of Earth’s population, but he is called upon to assume the persona of the most prominent advocate for Martian enfranchisement. Smith takes on not only Bonforte’s appearance, but some aspects of his personality.

In this story the martians are looked down upon as disgusting vile creatures, while in reality they are supremely intelligent. One of the things Smythe must overcome is the urge to cringe when in a Martian’s presence. This aspect of the story is a great comparison to race relations still going on today.

Tom Weiner delivers the story in this audiobook with great characterization, especially when it comes to the transformation between Smythe and Bonforte. Vocally Weiner creates the two characters superbly. This already must read Heinlein story becomes a must listen audiobook thanks to the talents of Tom Weiner.

“Between Planets”
by Robert A. Heinlein
Multicast performance
Produced by Full Cast Audio
TRT: 7 hours

It’s time for some classic science-fiction and you can’t get much “classicer” than Robert A. Heinlein.  Yeah, I know I made up a word but when it comes to Heinlein you know you are in store for some sci-fi that is rich in all things that make good sci-fi.  From the author of “Starship Troopers” and “Stranger in a Strange Land” this book is no exception to the excellence that goes into and comes out of a Heinlein story.  He writes the full story.  He doesn’t just write a space adventure, he also creates a political and social culture around and throughout the story that keeps the story on pace.

“Between the Planets” was originally published as a series in “Blue Book” magazine in 1951 under the title, “Planets in Combat” and was serialized in “Boys’ Life” magazine in 1978 as a monthly cartoon series.   Scribner published the hardcover version in 1951.  Knowing it appeared as a cartoon series in “Boys’ Life” is a hint that, yes, this is a young adult readers book.  With that in mind, I can think of no one other than one of the champions of YA books than Bruce Coville to take command of turning this fun piece of sci-fi into an audio book.  Coville is an author of young adult and children’s stories and novels, especially some really fun scary stories.  He is also the founder of Full Cast Audio.

Full Cast Audio takes a nice approach to creating an audiobook, using a full cast of performers and keeping the productions family-friendly and with age appropriate casting.  Full Cast Audio also throws in some original music for the chapter separations that make this a fine listening experience.  I will admit that some of the younger voices weren’t as honed in the acting craft as some of the others, but that was easily forgiven due to the fact that the voice matched the character.  All in all I’d say, a job very well done in bring this Heinlein story to life.

Don Harvey is about to graduate from his Dude Ranch type High School on Earth when his parents, who are living on Mars send for him to come to Mars before graduation.  They also leave him with the mysterious message to be sure and see a family friend, Dr. Dudley Jefferson, and to bring the package that Dr. Jefferson gives him to Mars.  At this time in Earth’s future, there is an uprising from the Colony on Venus who want to end Taxation without representation.   Not being born on Earth, Don has yet to declare whether he is a citizen of Earth, Venus or Mars and all the powers that be treat him with suspicion.

Dr. Jefferson dies mysteriously after giving Don a ring to take to Don’s father.  Don then blasts off for the orbiting space station which is the launching point to all the planetary colonies.  The problem, Venusian rebels have taken over the station and are directing residents of Venus to Venus and those of Earth back to Earth.  Don can’t get to Mars so He goes to Venus, knowing that there is something he needs to do with that ring.

A coming of age story in which Don Harvey learns to make life-changing decisions and those trying to keep secrets learn that Don is not the “kid” they think he is.   With Venusian Dragons, and military coups this book will keep you on the edge throughout and with the very nice production from Full Cast Audio, the story will come to life putting you “Between Planets.”

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