One of Heinlein's best-loved works, The Rolling Stones follows the rollicking adventures of the Stone family as they tour the solar system. It doesn't seem likely for twins to have the same middle name. Even so, it's clear that Castor and Pollux Stone both have "Trouble" written in that spot on their birth certificates. Of course, anyone who's met their grandmother Hazel would know they came by it honestly. Join the Stone twins as they connive, cajole, and bamboozle their way across the solar system in the company of the most high-spirited and hilarious family in all of science fiction.... It all starts when the twins decide that life on the lunar colony is too dull and buy their own spaceship to go into business for themselves. Before long they are headed for the furthest reaches of the stars, with stops on Mars, some asteroids, Titan, and beyond. This lighthearted tale has some of Heinlein's sassiest dialogue - not to mention the famous flat cats incident. Oddly enough, it's also a true example of real family values, for when you're a Stone, your family is your highest priority.
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Heinlein's juveniles have always been among my favorite SF - I liked a lot of them more than some of his later novels written for adults. I read The Rolling Stones so long ago I barely remembered it, but some of it came back to me as I listened to it again as an audiobook.
Alas, the years have diminished my fondness for this light-hearted space romp somewhat. While it was a fun adventure about a wisecracking, hyper-competent family of adventurers seeking their fortune (and something adventurous) out in the solar system, there isn't much to impress the modern SF reader about flying a rocket ship to Mars, Venus, and beyond.
The Stones consist of Castor and Pollux, trouble-making teenage twins always scheming to get rich and prove they're the smartest people in any room, who drive most of the adventure with their original idea to buy an old mining ship. Somehow their parents are talked into this harebrained scheme, with a little manipulation by Grandma Hazel, who is a crusty old survival of the Lunar rebellion in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and can continue to hold her own with anyone a fraction of her age. The Stone family is rounded out by teenage daughter Meade and their little brother.
As in most Heinlein stories, everyone is super-competent: the twins have what nowadays would be considered a graduate-level understanding of mathematics, which their father, the moral center and patriarch of the family despite, by his own admission, having the lowest IQ, demonstrates isn't nearly good enough. Mrs. Stone is a doctor, Grandma Hazel is... well, Grandma Hazel, and even Meade, who does little more than fill in the "girl" box in the story, is smart and accomplished in a few domains.
The Stone family is a quintessential upper-middle-class white family circa 1952, when this story was written, flying out into space under the wise and benevolent leadership of Father Knows Best. And while Heinlein works out starship physics and planetary travel in great detail (gotta love those slide rules that always make an appearance!), making this story the sort of crunchy, "believable" hard SF that would have thrilled young would-be space pioneers back in the 50s, obviously to us in the 21st century, the idea that people will ever be jaunting about the solar system in private spaceships the way pioneers used to go west with little more than a mule and a pack of supplies certainly seems naive.
As an introduction to Heinlein's juveniles, with very little that is challenging or novel, but much to excite a young reader who's into space and adventure, I do think this book holds a worthy place in the canon of Golden Age science fiction.
NINETY FIVE INDEED, LAST WEEK YOU WERE EIGHTY FIVE. IT'S BEEN A HARD WEEK 2009 IS THE RENEWED COPYRIGHT. The original copyright was 1952 and there was a condensed version in Boy's Life. I mention this, because I believe this should be a Sci-Fi Classic not a Contemporary. It is a great book, written before Heinlein got into Free Love and when he thought Family and learning were important. There is a lot of math and science in the book, but it is not a dry book. The math and science should encourage children of even today, to take their studies serious. It is also full of lots of humor. No laugh out loud funny, but funny anyways. It has a half way decent story and some great characters. Talk about women's lib, the mother is a doctor and the grandmother a engineer. The grandmother was my favorite character. The father is smart, but the least smart in the family. He knows it, but he has lots of common sense.
HAND ME THAT SLIDE RULE It is dated of course, but still a fun and enjoyable book today. A book good for all ages and all genders. It includes slide rules, Boy Scouts, and Adventure Serials. AS LEGAL AS CHURCH ON SUNDAY.