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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

The Counterfeit Heinlein

Reviewed: September 12, 2006
By: Laurence M. Janifer
Publisher: Wildside Press
184 pages, $16.60

For fans of the late Robert A. Heinlein, this book will bring back a lot of fond memories. For those who don’t know the work of the man once called the Dean of American S.F. Writers, this book may inspire you to go out and find some of the real thing.

There’s a lot of crossover between the science fiction and mystery genres, and Janifer manages this straddle very nicely with this caper story set in a far off future where mankind lives cheek by feather with some of the strangest aliens you might ever want to meet.

Gerald Knave’s job title is also a description. He is a Survivor. Normally he goes to new places in the loose galactic setting called the Comity, and figures out how to survive in them. In this novel however, he functions more as a detective, almost an Archie Goodwin to his friend/mentor, Master Higsbe.

On the planet Ravenal, a place dedicated to learning and knowledge, a manuscript has been stolen. The MS itself is an oddity, since it is a known forgery of a  Robert A. Heinlein story, “The Stone Pillow”, a story which RAH included in the grand outline of his Future History Series, but which he never wrote because, as he said, he disliked the central character, Nehemiah Scudder, too much.

The MS was nearly perfect, and discovered in an archeological dig that seemed to render it a true find, and yet any RAH scholar would have known it had to be a fake.

Why, then, would someone go to great lengths to make it seem like it was the real thing and then go to even greater lengths to steal it from the great library of Ravenal?

These are two of the mysteries which Knave is hired to uncover, and he does a pretty fair job of working his way through the layers of what is, essentially, a locked room mystery at one end, and a break and enter caper on the other.

I enjoyed this book greatly. In many ways it read like a minor Heinlein story, and the two pages of “The Stone Pillow” which Janifer created for Knave to read are uncannily like the real thing.

Don’t take my word for it, however. Here, I’m borrowing of the Amazon.ca review posted by Spider Robinson, the Vancouver based SF writer iwho s is one of RAH’s biggest fans and was recently hired by the estate to complete an RAH novel from an outline his hero left behind.

“Larry's two-page Heinlein imitation is VERY well done, and I speak as someone who has just been hired by the Heinlein Trust to complete a Heinlein novel from his outline.”

I read this as an e-book, but it is available in paperback from the publisher indicated above.

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