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

Paul Hancock

The engaging story of Max, a farmer boy who has his sights on space travel, and his shonky friend Sam who shows him how to get what he wants. The blurb on the back of the book pretty much covers 80% of the story line so you don't really feel much of the drama in the story until you pass this mark. The last 20% of the story seemed to be a little out of place but was a rather creative diversion from all the space travel. In the end i was left wanting more, but no necessarily in a bad way.There are a few points that were woefully dated. For example, using logarithm look up tables and programming computers with binary switches, all whilst traveling close to the speed of light.All in all I enjoyed this story despite the above, and would recommend it as an entertaining story.


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.


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.

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. ;)

Tiffany Robbins

This was a great book of star exploration as seen from a mid twentieth century writer. He’s very specific about the ships cockpit along with long hand math calculations and analog print outs. I appreciated it purely for its vintage sci-fi feel, though the story was grand as well.I found Jones to be a very typical Heinlein hero – abused boy running off to make a better life for himself. Of course, he finds a girl in his explorations and for some odd reason she’s into him. He’s into her too, but only incidentally. His true love is to be an astrogator though it is impossible for him to become one until the whole universe is turned upside down.I loved the alien life found on the unknown planet. His explanation of them and the planet I felt was some of Heinlein’s best work as a writer that I’ve read so far.I must say, “Well done, Mr. Heinlein. Well done.”

Kenneth Flusche

How did I miss this one, written 1953.. I started Heinlein in 1963 age ten with "Have space Suit will Travel" and thought I had read them all some like "Moon is a Harsh Mistress" more than 5 times... Any boy from ten to 100 will love this and the Navy Chain is true based on 1973 memories.

M.G. Mason

Starman Jones is one of the lesser known of Heinlein's work. Coming in at a mere 200 pages, it tells the story of a stowaway on board a starship who has always dreamed of being a navigator. When he is caught and his obvious talent spotted, he becomes part of the crew and soon finds himself on command deck when his family tie is revealed.Sometime later the chief 'Astrogater' dies and the ship is seemingly lost in uncharted space. The Captain cannot cope. They land upon the nearest habitable world but it is already occupied by centaurs. When a fight amongst the crew ensues, Max ends up the only Astrogater and he is soon taken hostage along with his friends Sam and Ellie. Max must escape his incarceration and lead the crew off of the planet.Overall this is a pretty unremarkable novelette and there has been some suggestion that it was a sort of autobiography for Heinlein whose early life is reflected in Max. There is also a moral tale here. Max is a very noble character who stands up against many of the injustices he can see within the crew. I wasn't surprised to learn later that this is aimed at children simply because it lacks a lot of subtext of his previous works and the strong sense of doing what is right.Most adults will have grown out of this sort of thing but as a short novel it won't waste too much of your time.See more book reviews at my blog


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.

Jon Cantrell

Dated in ways but thoroughly enjoyable. Improbable story about a talented farm boy beating the odds. Sure things happen in convenient coincidences, if not it'd be a dull story. Entertaining and compelling but not earth shattering.

Glenn Schmelzle

** spoiler alert ** Plot Summary:A kid from a lower-class family with a love for space, Max runs away from home with his Uncle's astrogation (star navigation) manuals. He fakes his way aboard a passenger-liner starship. He finagles a job as steward's mate third class, but because of how he got onto the ship, because he's not part of a guild and not a college graduate, he has no hope of becoming a ship officer. With a eidetic memory, he's able to absorb the tables in uncle's books and recall the coordinates the ship for course corrections made at precise times during jumps through hyperspace. The upper-crust command crew sometimes let him on the deck, but they only know him as a congenial boy; they know nothing of his aspirations. Once during an astrogation calculation, he's overheard muttering the exact coordinates, without looking at a manual. He's soon promoted to an apprentice under Assistant Astrogator Simes, a move that's resented by the sinister senior officer. Simes transposes some astrogation figures on a routine transition; Max does the calculations in his head and detects the error. The aging captain doesn't heed his appeals and lays in the wrong coordinates, taking the ship so far off-course, they can't locate any known stars to guide their way back home. The error devastates the captain so badly, he has a nervous breakdown and dies shortly after. With almost zero chance of finding their way back, the crew set down on an uninhabited world (so they think) and release the passengers to colonize it. Unfortunately, they learn that the planet is controlled by centaurs, who capture Max and his girlfriend, but thanks to ingenuity they eventually get back to the ship. Upon his return, Max learns that Simes had hid the astrogation manuals to make himself indispensable and then tried to illegally take command - he was killed in the struggle. Max is the only remaining astrogator, and as his the highest ranking guild beneath captains, he's promoted to captain, and he must get the ship off the planet and try returning to known space by reversing the transition. Thanks to his photographic memory, Max succeeds and gets the ship and its passengers back to known space.Comments:The main flaw with the book is that it's too dated. The most anachronistic part is the ship's computer, which can't add basic numbers. Heinlein has based shipboard technology on 1950s computers, so he grossly under-his predicted the pace of computer progress. We end up story set a hundred years or so in the future that relies solely on mathematicians (Astrogators) adding in their heads. So be ready to suspend disbelief. I think the book is also tied in too tightly with 20th century work ethic or military command-control structure. I don't think folks today would be wowed, like Max is, by his ascent through the hierarchy of a ship's crew.Heinlein was (as usual) good at creating problems that his characters must work their way out of. But I had a problem with the explanation of how they were stranded on the planet, because they could simply reverse the calculations that took them off course. And that's how they ended up getting back. Most of the characters are well done. There's an Artful Dodger character called Sam, a robber with a heart of gold, who helps Max in several places throughout the book. I liked how he made most of the adults reasonable; making good role models for Max. Again, with the exception here: his mother, who is lazy and resents having him and book alludes that she doesn't know who Max's dad is. While Max does well navigating through the adult world, think he's exposed to too many negative aspects of adulthood (wealthy/poor dynamic, elderly women nosing into his affairs). Think this overpowers the science in the book, which (suspending disbelief) is pretty intriguing.

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.


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.

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.

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.

Michael Pryor

Gloriously old-fashioned 'juvenile' SF. Yes, the technology outlook is laughable (using books of tables to navigate a starship by) but the heart of the book is a young man's growing up through hardship and challenges. I read this first when I was a teenager, and it was one of the books that made me a committed SF fan. Sense of wonder? Check. Strong narrative? Check. Careful backgrounding of future scenario? Check. Great stuff.

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