Matt’s Reviews: The Green Hills Of Earth by Robert A. Heinlein

Book Cover: The Green Hills of Earth by Robert A Heinlein

  • Publisher:             Rivercity Press
  •  Publication date: 1978 (reprint)
  •  Copyright Year:   1951
  •  ISBN:                   0-88411-881-9
  •  Author:                Robert A. Heinlein
  •  Original Magazine Story Copyrights:  From 1941 – 1949

The Green Hills Of Earth by Robert A. Heinlein is a collection of stories written by the Grand Master of Science Fiction and published in various magazines during the 1940’s.  They were collected into this book and originally published in 1951. 

Some of these stories are a bit dated, especially in how they portray women.  Women are often ditzy housewives or objects of desire, but little else.  Perhaps the surprising thing though, is that not all of his depictions of women written 80 or so years ago are so stereotyped. There is the communications officer in “Delilah and the Space-Rigger”, the working wife in “It’s Great To Be Back” and the woman orchestrating most of the project in “__ We Also Walk Dogs”.   In these ways, and many others, Heinlein was ahead of his time.   I have to admit that I’ve been reading Heinlein for over 50 years now.  I’ve read almost everything he wrote and he is still one of my favorite authors.

As you read through his books and stories, you need to realize they were a product of the times, but also ahead of their times much of the time. As an ex-engineer, he tends to be very precise in his technology and science, at least to the extent that it was known at the time.  He was also very prescient in many of his predictions of inventions and how technology might proceed. He was also wrong a bit too, but there is ‘fiction’ in science fiction at least as much as there is ‘science’.   Enough of my fanboy attitude for Heinlein in general, how about the specific stories.

Delilah And The Space-Rigger

When the back up communications officer needs replacing on the project to build the new space station, the misogynistic foreman of the project is worried that a female worker will upset the balance of his all male crew.  This one is a product of the times when it was ‘known’ men could not control themselves in the presence of an attractive woman.  A little over the top and silly, but folks learn a lesson.

Space Jockey

A story of an intrepid space jockey pilot on a commercial flight to the moon with a helpless wife waiting at home. This is one of Heinlein’s many stories of the ordinary man who rises to a challenge.  In this case the challenge being brought on by the rich and powerful being unable to control their children, and folks kowtowing to their every request.

The Long Watch

I really love this story.  Again, this one is about a common man thrust into an impossible situation and rising to the challenge at great cost to himself.  The military commander on the moon has decided to hold the Earth hostage with his arsenal of nuclear weapons, and he’ll get their attention by eliminating a target somewhere on the planet to start.  Lt. Dahlquist has a decision to make to join him or not.

Gentlemen Be Seated 

A fun little tale about being stuck on the moon in a tunnel under construction with the air leaking out after an accident.

The Black Pits Of Luna

Another common Heinlein theme where the teenage boy has to show those adults that he can help.  In this case, how to find his lost little brother somewhere on the surface of the moon in a maze of rock formations.  The wife/mother in this story is a caricature of the ditzy housewife, but if you get by that the rest of the story is good.

It’s Great To Be Back

A man and his wife can’t wait to return to Earth after living on the moon for the last three years.  While the wife is fairly subservient, she at least has a career and such.  They find the Earth is not exactly the paradise they remembered.

“__We Also Walk Dogs”

This is another of my favorite stories. It has a strong female lead and it is just a lot of fun.  A company that does everything from walking dogs to organizing interplanetary conferences has a unique challenge. How can they alter gravity itself?  Grace is a very capable lead of the project as well as being a beautiful woman (Heinlein liked beautiful women).

At one point, Grace converts to a blonde to try to influence someone whose help they need.  “His weakness is blondes”, and later “I wasn’t the blonde he was weak for, but I found the one he was interested in.”  I suspect this throwaway line was Heinlein’s suggesting his later support for LGBTQ rights (though much before they used this acronym).   Merely a suggestion, and this ‘other blonde’ may have nothing to do with a gay liaison, but I suspect that was his thought when he wrote it, slipping in some live-and-let-live philosophy before its time.

Ordeal In Space 

A great tale about living in fear and the positive power of cats and kittens.

The Green Hills Of Earth 

Another story of the poor common man rising to meet the challenge.  A really good one.

Logic Of Empire

A cautionary tale of drinking and slavery, and how one could lead to the other.  Also thinly veiled commentary on how the pressures of economic and human expansion leads to the exploitation of the weak, poor and powerless.

These tales are all parts of Heinlein’s Future History stories.  The future history is not a series in the way we think of series today.  All of these stories stand on their own.  Generally, you don’t have to read any other stories to enjoy any single Heinlein story, but most of them fit together into the overall universe of his tales.  If you do read them all, you will notice callbacks to earlier tales or foreshadowing of things that take place in his ‘future’ stories.  These enhance the experience, but are not required to enjoy the individual tales.   The Green Hills of Earth is as good a place to get started as any…enjoy.

* Note that the cover art above is not from the version I read, but that book had no cover art and this image looks better than blank green book (I do think I owned this paperback, back in the day). The info is from the edition from my local library that I did read.


A different type of science fiction story that I think RAH would approve of:

Plastivore by Matt Truxaw

Book Cover: Plastivore by Matt Truxaw


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