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.