Starman Jones

ISBN: 1416505504
ISBN 13: 9781416505501
By: Robert A. Heinlein

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About this book

A classic novel from the mind of the storyteller who captures the imagination of readers from around the world, and across two generations Science Fiction Grand MasterROBERT A. HEINLEINSTARMAN JONESIt was a desperate time, when one's next meal and the comforts of home couldn't be taken for granted. Max Jones, a practical, hard-working young man, found his escape in his beloved astronomy books. When reality comes crashing in and his troubled home life forces him out on the road, Max finds himself adrift in a downtrodden land. Until an unexpected, ultimate adventure — as a stowaway aboard an intergalactic spaceship — carries him away...but to where? And when? And how could he ever get back? With the ship's pilot dead and his charts and tables are destroyed, Max must call upon all of his untested knowledge and skills in order to survive....

Reader's Thoughts


This is the book that got nine-year-old me started on a fifteen-year science fiction binge, until the genre started to get darker and edgier (and duller). I loved the fast-paced story-telling and the wish-fulfilment; farm boy becomes... well, I'm not going to spoil it but it's a great ride. On re-reading the book recently, I winced a bit at some of the attitudes towards women, but that was par for the course in 1953 and the female protagonist was a tough cookie, as were some of the other women. In short, I enjoyed it for what it is, and will doubtless read it again – though perhaps not enough times to make the book fall to pieces as I did all those years ago!

Carena Wood beimler

This novel is written towards boys who have not yet been twitterpated. And it's written well. As I am not the target demographic, being female and I've most definitely been twitterpated, this book doesn't follow along the natural paths I expect it to. However, it is still an amazing book.

Nils Jeppe

Hm. On the one hand, Starman Jones is a cool sci fi adventure, and was great escapism to me as a teenager who just wanted OFF THE PLANET. On the other hand, the climax is kinda dumb (the alien planet they visit), and Jones himself has just a little bit too much luck.As usual for Heinlein books, the characters aren't all that great, but this isn't a character study, it's an adventure novel, so that's OK. No weird Heinlein notions like incest or sex with minors either. I recently re-read Starman Jones and I still enjoy it; I thought it aged fairly well.There are a few cool tidbits here and there in the book. Earth seems to be an Empire, not a democracy, for example, something that I never picked up on as a teenager.Overall, I'd recommend this book, if you can suspend your disbelief a little more than average. And it's a hell of a lot better than Avatar. ;)


Nutshell: bucolic twerp with plot-significant eidetic memory defrauds his way aboard spaceship, flirts with rich girl, has a big adventure, &c.YA and pulpy, but moves quickly, with characteristic heinleinian asides regarding law, politics, and science. Some nifty geeking out on the science of FTL travel.Some have said that the text lays out a critique of labor unions, which may be the case. But it's not unambiguous, as the setting involves less unions than guilds, a significant distinction. The main guild under examination is the astrogation guild, which purportedly restricts access to the knowledge of astronautical navigation. As one character describes it, though, "there are no 'secrets' to astrogation," which "isn't secret; it is merely difficult" (97). The implication is accordingly not that labor power has joined for the purpose of collective bargaining, but rather that possessers of knowledge have restricted general access to important information. The critique, then, runs less toward the Wagner Act and more to the Copyright and Patent Acts. Recommended for phlegmatic crustaceans, real four-dimensional chess players, and large louts who arouse the eternal maternal.


None of these editions seem to be the one I read.The hero of this Alger-esque story has an identic memory. Whatever he reads, he remembers. He's told not to rely on this, as what matters to an astrogator (read: astronautical navigator) is knowing how to do (and check) the calculations. They have records, but to use said records without knowing how to check them is to perpetuate errors.Turns out that the eidetic memory is not (quite) irrelevant, after all--but the initial advice was good, as the reason for the need is a low-probability, high-impact event. In the long run, it's better to be able to do the math.There are some charming elements in the book--the talking spider-puppy, the levitating trains, etc. There are also some silly anachronisms (for example, even by the time the book came out, hobo culture had nearly died out). Generally, though, this is just a relatively mundane book--which is kind of an odd thing to say when what you're talking about is space travel, but there you have it.


A 1953, classic science fiction from the grand master Robert A. Heinlein is about a Ozark farm boy who travels to the stars when he is forced to run away from home. A not easy feat to accomplish because entering the trades is tightly controlled. You must pay large amounts of money and for an astrogator you must be recommended. Max Jones has learned from his uncle and his eidetic memory doesn’t hurt either. He becomes a stowaway on board a intergalactic spaceship. The pilot dies and the charts and tables destroyed. The survival of the ship will depend on Max. This series called, Heinlein juveniles series, is easy to read because it is written for young boys and the book reads as a stand alone book. The book may be written for youth but the author folds in an adult theme of labor unions. Max is triumphant because he has noble character even though he has misled to obtain a place on the ship, he later confesses. The computer is an important part of space travel but in the book still dependent on man to run them unlike computers we have now. The computer was just making is debut and it was big and chunky. There is also mathematics in this book with the explanation of congruence (like a folded scarf) as a way to go from one place to another that is many light years away.

Terry Gates

Sharman JonesSharman JonesOnce again Heinlein crosses boundaries of culture and all each society practices. It's a coming of age with high adventure. Heinlein manages to create characters that are believable even recognizable in each readers life. There is hope and reward for having and using proper virtues. And he does it without resorting to vulgarity and over done sex merely for stimulation. Don't get me wrong I like sex and it is an important part of me and my wife of 34 years. It just ain't always necessary to tell a story.

Mike (the Paladin)

I like this dated novel. A human civilization that was pictured or imagined before our present level of computer and electronic technology was even imagined. A young man "inherits" somewhat informally a set of "astrogator's" texts and then sets out to get "sponsored" to get into the Astrogator's guild", the only way to become an astrogator, someone who plots the course of starships through deep space. One of Heinlein's so called teen novels and a good read. It dates back to 1953 and as I said is very dated, but in an odd way that adds to the book, much as some of Verne's books are. I checked Amazon and saw a few used copies, it may not be easy to track down, but I'd say you might find it worthwhile. If you can track it down it might just be worth a read.

Steve Moseley

Farm boy Max has dreams to grow up and be an astrogator (astronaut) like his uncle, but since he is a run-away with no money, and no credentials to get him into space; he must con his way in with the help of con-artist friend whom Max meets on the run named Sam.This is a classic coming of age story, with enough twist and turns to stay interested in it. I especially like that the story contains some elements of redemption for its main characters, especially Sam.For a Science Fiction book written in 1951, it holds up with time amazingly well, although the characters sometimes write on stylists with paper. I can remember the last time I wrote something down on a paper :)Sometimes I found the story a bit rushed and maybe it could have been a bit longer, but overall it was good read.


I really liked this book. A lot of modern sci-fi themes and ideas can be traced back to this book; warp speed, possible parallel universes, etc. Good story and characters, geared toward young readers because it's more or less a coming of age story, but I loved it and I'm nearly 40. Hard to beat.

Sbulf Jones è una favola. Il pubblico a cui è rivolto è piuttosto un pubblico adolescenziale. La storia è semplice e senza troppe pretese. Max Jones è appunto un adolescente che scappa di casa per fuggire dalla matrigna e dal patrigno cattivi, dopo che anche il padre è passato a miglior vita. C'è un po' di tutto nel libro. C'è un'astronave che solca lo spazio districandosi nello spazio-tempo, c'è una mezza storia d'amore, c'è il cattivo di turno e poi ci sono gli alieni (cosa che si intuisce dalla copertina). Già, gli alieni. Gli alieni qui descritti sono un po' troppo simili a quelli letti in un altro libro di Heinlein, "I figli di Matusalemme". Non fisicamente, intendiamoci, ma ricorre una certa caratteristica che è presente anche nel libro che ho citato, e cioè quella che l'autore definisce "schiavitù simbiotica". Evidentemente Heinlein aveva il pallino fisso. Tutto sommato è un libro che si fa apprezzare. Se lo avessi letto qualche anno fa gli avrei dato sicuramente una valutazione migliore.


Heinlein's anachronistic elements are often recognized when dealing with technical issues. Other aspects are less obvious. I've lived in the Ozarks area (the boundaries between mountain ranges are necessarily nebulous). I was once lost in a state park. I made my way out by following excessively bright lights to a prison. That was some years ago, but things have gotten worse everywhere. There are no longer any places that get dark at night. (Possibly with the exception of Arizona, where the astronomers have a fairly effective lobby). Researchers on nocturnal animals worry that the excess light will contribute to the dangers to species often already critically endangered. But just try to FIND any research on the impact of excess light on circadian rhythms (and on photosynthesis, as well). And if you DO find any, please tell me about them.Heinlein's dystopian vision of a society controlled by hereditary Guilds seems to have been cut from whole cloth. I don't know of ANY source that even proposed such a thing. Other aspects of the galactic civilization are essentially not developed at all. The ship's navigational problems are used as a pretext to avoid examining the society--but there's not much discussion of it when the ship is on its normal course, either.One interesting note--Max's eidetic memory is quite rightly dismissed as a parlor trick. It turns out to be a useful trick with the loss of reference sources--but it has no greater utility than that. I disagree, however, with the notion that such parlor tricks are necessarily combined with autism. Heinlein even goes so far as to use the derisory term 'idiot savant', which is no longer used precisely because it's so dismissive and offensive. It's essentially a double whammy. People dismiss those who can't communicate well what they know (it's not really possible to determine what they DO know, because of the communications difficulties). Then when a few do find ways to communicate really quite remarkable abilties, they're doubly stigmatized.Many people with otherwise quite ordinary talents have these 'stupid human tricks' special skills. Too often, however, because they fear such stigmatization (and/or exploitation), they suppress or marginalize their skills. In the book, Max is abashed when he realizes that what he can do is considered extraordinary, and he quite rightly fears that he will be ghettoized on account of it. His luck at finding people who can see past the stigma to the whole person beyond doesn't mitigate the fact that the society as a whole can't get past the 'freak show' mentality.


I read a lot of Heinlein's juveniles when I was younger, but I missed this one and it was on sale from Audible, so it was nice to enjoy one of his earlier works, before he started getting old and wanky. Everything from Friday on was pretty much Heinlein getting his freak on, but his earlier novels are still sci-fi classics for good reason.Starman Jones is your basic boys' adventure story: Max is a kid from Earth who runs away from home when his stepmother marries an abusive bum. He meets an amiable drifter who turns out to be a not-so-good Samaritan, but he meets the man again when they're both trying to find a way off-planet, and the two of them lie their away aboard a spaceship. From there, Max's talent for math and his inherent good nature and sense of decency lead him from one position to another aboard ship, and when the ship gets lost, taking a bad "jump" to an unknown star system, Max of course is the one who saves the day.Obviously, this book was written for teenagers, but it stands up as pretty good adult SF even today, though it is a bit dated (it was written in 1951). The gender roles are pretty old-fashioned, and while Heinlein's FTL drives and beam weapons are standard sci-fi, you may chuckle when Max breaks out his slide rule to perform astrogation. Still, I think it compares favorably to any genre fiction written for kids today, and Heinlein did a much better job than most writers of bridging the gap between YA and adult fiction. I might not start with Starman Jones if you haven't read any of Heinlein's juveniles before -- it's pretty good, but it's not his best -- but if you're already a Heinlein fan, this will definitely be an enjoyable read.


Enjoyed this today as much as I did when I read it in middle school. Great book for showing kids the importance of science and math, plus hard work and honesty pay off. Granted the main character does break some laws to pursue his dream of becoming a space pilot, however; the laws were unjust in that only the children of current guild members were allowed to learn astronavigation. Eventually, the main character comes clean, and the fair-minded people give him a chance. So the lessons of taking risks, working hard, using your brain, and being a good guy are still prominent in this book. Downsides, this book was written a long time ago so (1) girls are treated as lesser-capable creatures, no where in sight on the space crew; (2) the way they navigate is hilarious -- reading logarithms out of books, translating them into binary, and using switches to enter the binary numbers into the computer -- but instructive on how computers do work.


Sometime one just needs a good dose of Heinlein to cleanse the literary palate. This book is so full of wrong science and computer technology but it still is a fun read. Perhaps I have a soft spot for it because it was the first Heinlein novel I read. Whatever the reason, reading it was like visiting an old friend I hadn't seen in many, many years.

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