Time for the Stars

ISBN: 0765314932
ISBN 13: 9780765314932
By: Robert A. Heinlein

Check Price Now


Currently Reading Fiction Heinlein Sci Fi Science Science Fiction Scifi Sf To Read Young Adult

About this book

This is one of the classic titles originally know as the "Heinlein Juveniles," written in the 1950 and published for the young adult market. It has since been in print for 50 years in paperback, and now returns to hardcover for a new generation. Travel to other planets is a reality, and with overpopulation stretching the resources of Earth, the necessity to find habitable worlds is growing ever more urgent. With no time to wait years for communication between slower-than-light spaceships and home, the Long Range Foundation explores an unlikely solution--human telepathy.Identical twins Tom and Pat are enlisted to be the human radios that will keep the ships in contact with Earth. The only problem is that one of them has to stay behind, and that one will grow old while the other explores the depths of space.Always a master of insight into the human consequences of future technologies, this is one of Heinlein's triumphs.

Reader's Thoughts

Vernon Jettlund

Fascinating to read such a story written in another time. The feel is almost Victorian in the presentation of roles. The 50's were certainly different times.The story itself is typical golden age Sci-Fi, with a basic premise explored to its conclusion - this one being twin telepathy, and space travel.


I love old science fiction. Especially Heinlein's."Time for the stars" was published in 1956, five before Yuri Gagarin became the first man in space in 1961.http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004..."The basic plot line is derived from a 1911 thought experiment in special relativity, commonly called the twin paradox, proposed by French physicist Paul Langevin." - wikipediaThe twin paradox is where one twin goes on a journey in a fast rocket and then returns home to find the other twin has aged more. This theory has been proven - see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twin_pa... for more info.I don't agree with wikipedia about the twin paradox being the basic plot line. The twin paradox is an important part of the plot, but there is so much more. Tom and Pat are in their teens in a future earth where overpopulation has become so bad that families are taxed for having more than 2 children. They are recruited into a study on twins and discover that what they thought was just whispering to each other was actually telepathy. The purpose of the study is to find people who can communicate telepathically so that one can go on a long space voyage and the other stay on earth and have instant communication possible in spite of the speed of light limits and law of inverse squares that limit normal radio signalsThe purpose of the journey is to discover other earth like planets that humans can live on.So while the twin in space spends a few months on a 'torch ship' (nuclear powered rocket that constantly accelerates up to just under the speed of light and then spins around and decelerates until it stops near the target star to search for habitable planets) the twin at home spends years growing older.Pat is the slightly more assertive twin, and Tom (who is narrator - the whole book is his journal) feels that Pat always gets the better part of everything in life. (view spoiler)[Pat is the twin who gets to go into space - until at the last minute he has a skiing accident and Tom goes in his place. (hide spoiler)]This book is easy to read - you don't have to know the math or physics behind it. It is also fun to read. Highly recommended.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

Cheryl in CC NV

The science doesn't seem terribly dated. The pseudo-science is fun, as is the adventure. The politics are minimal; the sexism is horrible but clearly not malicious. I can't recommend it - but if you want to read it or remember it fondly, I support you.

Sean Meriwether

Heinlein’s work typically falls into two age groups: his early fiction is targeted for space-hungry boys and his later work is written for a mature (decidedly male) audience. “Time for the Stars” falls into the first category. The “gee whiz” optimism for space travel will grate on anyone older than 12, but I couldn’t dismiss this book as readily as others he wrote for this age group. Hijacking Einstein’s theory that a person travelling at the speed of light will not age at the same rate of speed as a person who remained on the earth, Heinlein documents the effect on a set of twins, Tom and Pat Bartlett. However, the focus is on the real (and still unsolved) hurdle of communication over interstellar distances. If people were sent hundreds of light years into space, how will they communicate with those back home when the speed of sound is restricted by nature? It would mean waiting years, even decades, to hear the results of the expedition. His solution is telepathy. The science may be bunk, but the question of communication needs to be resolved before anyone is launched on a Star Trek. Kudos for the question but he should go back to the drawing board for another solution to the problem.

Steven Brandt

Many science fiction writers have done stories involving space travel at near-light speeds, and/or human colonies on far distant planets. One of the common themes that goes along with stories of this nature, is the problem of communication between colonies and the home planet. As sci-fi fans know, this presents a problem because regular radio transmissions would take years to travel the vast emptiness of space. Different science fiction writers have come up with some different ways to overcome the difficulty, usually involving some very complicated scientific theories.Robert Heinlein on the other hand came up with a very simple solution. Good old-fashioned telepathy! In Time For The Stars , scientists have discovered that some humans have telepathic abilities, especially and mostly where twins are concerned. Through a lot of testing, they also learned that telepaths communicate with each other at more than light speed, providing nearly instantaneous communication between any two points, no matter how far apart they are. Of course, the obvious drawback is that the twins have to be split up, one on Earth one on a distant colony. Sci-fi fans will also realize that the twin traveling through space will age much more slowly than the one left on Earth. So, while the twins are in constant communication with each other, the one on Earth is getting older very rapidly, while the one traveling through space doesn’t seem to age at all. I wonder what kinds of psychological problems that might cause?Robert Heinlein’s novels are always classified as science fiction, but the sci-fi is usually just a platform for his commentary, whether political, religious, or social. Time for the Stars , on the other hand, is science fiction of the purest form. Interstellar travel, exploring new planets, encountering alien life; this is old school sci-fi and I loved every minute of it.Barrett Whitener did an okay job with the narration of Time for the Stars , but it was nothing special I’m afraid. It seemed like he struggled a little with foreign dialects, although there were only a couple of them in this audiobook so it wasn’t a fatal flaw.Steven Brandt @ Audiobook-Heaven


Pop culture is often dismissed as simply low culture – in contrast to the high art of opera or classical music or abstract expressionism. And there’s good reason: As long-ago scifi author Theodore Sturgeon once pointed out, “Ninety percent of everything is trash.”A simple tour through the cable channels, or spin of the radio dial, will prove Sturgeon right, and in the mass of modern pop culture it’s much harder to filter out the signal from the noise. In classical music, for example, the bad symphonies simply never get played because time has winnowed the field to only the best.But even if pop culture doesn’t always deliver quality, it does have something else to offer: a window on the modern world. Though movies, books and music take time to work their way from inspiration to dissemination, they still have a relatively brief gestation, and taken as a whole, they reflect and amplify some oftentimes hidden aspects of our culture.Since this is a science fiction and fantasy column, it’s pretty obvious what the focus will be, but the same arguments apply across a much broader spectrum – and the same insights emerge.Recently, publishers sent me a couple of books by writers from the so-called Golden Age (which shines much more brightly because, like classical music, the trash has been forgotten). The first, “The Voyage of the Space Beagle” (Orb, $14.95, 215 pages), by A.E. Van Vogt, holds up remarkably well, while Robert Heinlein’s “Time for the Stars” (Orb, $14.95, 244 pages) shows it age. Nonetheless, both share a quality that is almost always missing from modern scifi: optimism.In both books, there’s a sense that problems will be solved, both individually and collectively. The future is bright, human beings are capable (if not exceptional) and the triumph of progress (and thus the good) is inevitable. You can read far and wide in 21st century scifi (especially that with a serious intent) and not find much to bolster any of those beliefs.Two other veterans who worked in the 1950s (“The Voyage of the Space Beagle” came out in 1950, “Time for the Stars” in 1956) combined for a new book, “The Last Theorem” (Ballantine Books, $27, 299 pages). It’s not up to their best work, which is not surprising, but even so, that sense of optimism shines through. Human beings will still struggle and make mistakes but Arthur C. Clarke (who died recently) and Frederick Pohl not only acknowledge, but celebrate, humanity’s abilities.Most writers whose careers are firmly rooted in the 21st century have little truck with such sunny outlooks. At a surface level, the books are full of blood and pain. Authors make sure that their heroes fight realistically – the crunch of bone, the burst of blood, the tide of pain, are always meticulously recounted. But beyond that, there is an underlying despair that humanity will ever get it right. If it’s not environmental disaster, it’s the inability to control technology; if it’s not escaped microbes gone wild, it’s war with civilization-destroying weapons.And that, to this American who remembers when the United States did not invade foreign countries for no apparent reason (from Vietnam to Iraq), when the promise of technology was greater than the dangers of terrorism, when Mother Nature seemed to be kind rather than vengeful, is more than a little depressing. For if the light shone on modern culture by science fiction in particular and pop culture in general is so obscured by the grey fog of despair, does it mean that the 21st century world is on the way to giving up? If the heroes can’t solve the problems, or are turned into antiheroes who cannot find a way to glory without compromising their ideals and values, then who will stand up and lead? If these dark visions are correct, what will the world our children and grandchildren inherit really look like?Of course, every older generation always thinks the world is going to hell in a hand basket – and the phrase itself gives the lie to its prediction. I don’t even know what a hand basket is, which reminds me that the pessimism of the elders does not necessarily doom the young ones. And in fact, there are some science fiction authors who still cling to the old tropes, the vision of humans as problem-solvers and not carriers of a culture-killing disease.At the top of that list for me is John Scalzi, who has a new book out (“Zoe’s Tale” (Tor, $24.95, 336 pages)) that brings a different narrator to some of the events from the satisfying “The Last Colony.” “Zoe’s Tale” isn’t completely successful, as its depiction of its female teen-age heroine seems to me – someone who has coached teen-age girls for more than 20 years – impossible to credit, but it is still a book in which problems are solved, and positive resolutions are reached.The same is true Scalzi’s “Agent for the Stars” (Tor, $14.95, 352 pages), which he wrote more than a decade ago but is just now getting widespread distribution. “Agent for the Stars” is also funny, and not in a dark, vein-slicing way, which is another rarity as the young century wears on.A pair of writers – Gary K. Wolf and Archbishop John J. Myers – went all-out for the past with “Space Vulture” (Tor, $24.95, 333 pages), an unabashedly old-fashioned space opera with heroes, villains, coincidences, and all the trappings of old-time science fiction – and old-time westerns, as far as that goes. But simply re-working the old themes doesn’t make this book more than just a diversion, while the Isaac Asimovs and Clifford D. Simaks of the ’50s and ‘60s were reflecting the underlying positive attitudes of an entire culture.Scalzi echoes that optimism, but the vision of most of the writers working in this pop culture field is generally darker, more depressing and seldom ends well. Even when the heroes win, the scars take long to heal, and there’s no sense that the most serious problems will be solved, or that progress has been made. Usually, in fact, the protagonist is pretty much back where he started, after much pain and suffering, and more blows to any belief that the world can be made a better place.Of course, it’s not possible for scifi and fantasy writers, or anyone involved in pop culture, to truly shift the direction of the great mass of people, and if they are too far from the edge of the pack, they will simply be ignored. Nonetheless, the message that’s being sent – that the future is dark and getting darker -- is not one that should be ignored, as it’s just one more warning sign that the road the worldwide culture has been traveling does not appear to lead to many happy endings.


It's ok, but it's one of those sci-fi books where you think, this dude knew that women were going to be scientists and stuff but oh my god he still writes them like they're property. How the heck does he even hold both ideas in his head simultaneously???? It blows my mind out my ears.

David Ivester

**SPOILERS**I have read Time for the Stars probably six times since I was twelve years old. This time I have read it more carefully than I have ever read it before, with a new eye for meanings missed in past readings, and I think I have seen more than I have seen before.The book is Heinlein’s Time for the Stars, a story in which Einstein’s twin paradox plays a role as a major plot point. One issue that immediately presented itself which I of course recognized but never appreciated to a great depth is the fact that the book is a diary book, an account being written by the protagonist at the behest of the ship’s counselor on a star ship seeking habitable worlds beyond the solar system. The psychologist, in trying to help in dealing with the boy’s depression, suggests that he begin a diary of his life from as far back as he cares to go to the present time. As the story proceeds, the diarist relates past events to the point where he actually reaches the present time and begins to relate events from the day or the immediate past. It was this feature of the book in particular that had never impacted me as deeply as it has this time.Further, the boy relates a romantic interlude, a first kiss with a girl, which goes awry. I did not recall, but obviously recognized in previous readings, that the reason the encounter went wrong was attributable to the girl’s twin sister, with whom she is linked telepathically. The sister does not “like” the protagonist, and therefore spoils the tender moment between the protagonist and the girl. Later in the story the boy includes just a line or so that seems to indicate a romantic liaison with a woman older than himself, indicating possibly that he is no longer a virgin, even though he came aboard the starship as a teenager, and had no appreciable life experience beyond the interactions with the other members of the crew. This was a plot point that I had missed entirely in previous readings of this book. It occurs thusly: a female member of the crew comments that she could like but never marry a man who could not best her in the utilization of mathematics, which was her field. This book was one of a series commissioned by Scribners from Heinlein intended for a young adult audience, and is normally termed one of Heinlein’s “juveniles.” In the final count Heinlein wrote a series of twelve novels for this audience, and they are some of my favorite Heinlein novels. And this is my favorite of the group.


A research institute discovers that some twins are able to communicate with telepathy between each other. It's not limited by the speed of light and offers a great chance for space exploration. One twin stays at home and the other is on board of a spaceship to explore new worlds.Characterization has never been Heinlein's strongest point and it shows here again but he is extremely good at writing believable adventure stories. I liked that the protagonist is no hero, he is selfish and still has to learn how to deal with his own problems and with other people. That's a big difference to Heinlein's later books where the protagonists cynically show off their superiority and bypass normal ways because they know the ropes. Not so here! Actions and values are carefully evaluated from different sides. There were some minor things I didn't like. The twins have strange relationships, not the deep emotional bound that I assumed they always have. This allowed some plot twists that otherwise wouldn't have been possible. I also found it strange to tell someone straight into his face that you don't like him. Heinlein touches interesting topics that never grow old. I can recommend this book to every SF fan and especially to young readers. Read Citizen of the Galaxy first and then this one and you will understand why the author is still held in high esteem.

Kat Hooper

Originally posted at FanLit:http://www.fantasyliterature.com/revi...Time for the Stars is one of my favorite Heinlein Juveniles, and I like his juveniles better than his books for adults, so I guess that makes Time of the Stars one of my favorite Heinlein works. It’s got everything that makes his stories so much fun to read, especially for kids. Likeable heroes, sweet relationships, real emotions, a touch of romance, a bit of physics, spaceship travel and exploration of distant planets. (And also, as usual, there’s a hint of incest — romance with a cousin — and a few complaints about taxes. It is a Heinlein novel, after all.)In Time for the Stars, twins Tom and Pat join an experimental scientific study to see if telepathy might be a viable way for Earth to communicate with her exploring spaceships. It’s thought that if telepathy could work for anyone, it would be identical twins. Tom and Pat are excited to be involved, but they know this means that one of them will get to explore space while the other one has to stay home to be the other end of the telepathic line. This fact has a lot of ramification for the brothers. First of all, the boys have to decide who gets to go. Second, the one who leaves will probably never see his family again. Third, the boys will now age at different rates because of relativity, so even if the one who leaves ever comes back, he will be much younger than his twin.All of this gives Time for the Stars an emotional texture that makes this story feel weightier than your average YA SF adventure. Also, Time for the Stars is not just a story about exploring space — it’s about family, friendship, loneliness, love, guilt, and the power of the human mind. In fact, I think Heinlein spends more time exploring the brain than exploring distant galaxies.Time for the Stars is an entertaining and moving YA space adventure that will probably please most adults as well as kids. I listened to Barrett Whitener narrate Blackstone Audio’s version. I thought his voice, tone, and cadence were perfect for this emotional story.


Earth is over-populated, families are only allowed three children and the Long Range Foundation is a non-profit with the goal of finding planets that could support human life so some of Earth's population can be exported. The Bartlett family had decided to pay the tax for having an extra child but the fourth birth produced twins. With the tax and two extra mouths to feed, money was tight. Pat and Tom, the twins, are smart, inseparable but competitive (they share a girlfriend but she likes Pat better) and as it turns out, can communicate telepathically. The Long Range Foundation's plan includes sets of telepathic twins, one to stay on earth and receive reports of the planet finding mission from the other out in space. Telepathy is instant and overcomes the problem of communicating between two points that are light years apart. After some brotherly tricks and one upmanship, Pat and Tom get accepted. Clever ideas, no? And they open the door to a story that includes all kinds of Einsteinian data about time and relativity, not to mention that while the twin in space ages slowly, his telepath on earth must eventually be replaced because of the discrepancy in time. This is the opposite to the way time behaves in the "multiverse," where children go to Narnia, for example, live for decades and come back to find that no time at all has passed. I liked the book though the science got a bit over my head and the author did too much preaching. I forgive him because he is such a good storyteller. I think this is the first science fiction to take up the question of time differences scientifically; at least it is a first in my chronological reading system.

Max Ostrovsky

Over a year ago, I read some pulp Heinlein that completely turned me off from his pulp - even when I have greatly enjoyed his vast oeuvre of pulp. It was that bad. So a friend of a friend, a Whovian - so they have my attention, recommended this book and practically shoved his copy into my hands. I happened to have just finished a book recently so this made a great immediate next. And I was surprised with how good it was. With each turn of the page, I was immersed more any more, and for unbelievable sci-fi, it was surprisingly believable. Heinlein has always written hard sci-fi that can be backed up by physics, but this dealt with some serious and difficult emotional issues. This book is disguised as sci-fi, but in reality it is about human relationships and the fragility, resilience, and growth of them. Two twins, separated by space flight, age at different rates and the reader gets to look in on how they change and grow and not necessary from the twin that ends up being older. This is a book that I can not just have as borrowed - it has to be one that I own and is part of my collection.

Tory Anderson

My books of choice as a young reader and then a teen reader were science fiction. I'm not talking fantasy here. I'm not talking science fiction/fantasy mix. I am talking about good old pure science fiction where it was all about the science, or should I say the "possible" science. The characters were never very complex and the plots never very deep. But the imagination toward the future burned as bright as the sun. I would go out at night and stare up into the sky and almost bring myself to tears to experience space travel and aliens and the wonders of the universe as I read it in the books. Eventually I read all of the science fiction that the Burley Public Library had on their shelves and I moved on to other genres. It's been thirty-five years since I have immersed myself in science fiction. Just recently I have looked up a couple of books I read as a child. One of them was "Farmer In the Sky" by Heinlein. I enjoyed reading (listening to) this book perhaps even more than I did as a child. Recently I finished reading "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" and was looking for something different to read. After checking out various reading lists the science fiction genre came to mind. I looked for "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" for my Kindle, but it was not available. I did come across "Time for the Stars" which was available. I purchased it, downloaded it, and was immediately hooked.1950's Heinlein isn't for everyone, that is to be sure. Perhaps it is only for old fans like me. I may try reading it to my children and see what they think. Anyway, in the 1950's science represented the unexplored country. It was the hope of mankind. For many it may have replaced God. In this book I feel the unadulterated excitement stemming from science and the good possibilities it brings. From Heinlein I once again felt his intelligent, but happy-go-lucky, charm. The book has us seeing through a young telepathic twin's eyes. He ends up on a starship (one of the first) while his twin stays on the ground. They will be used to communicate between ship and Earth since telepathy is instantaneous and radio waves are useless at those distances. Heinlein explored the twin's relationship a little and it is interesting. But he explorers the effects of traveling at the speed of light even more and that is very interesting as the space twin ages four years to his brother's seventy years. Some may find the 50's mannerisms and culture quaint, but I found it refreshing. Relationships were slower and more vibrant then those represented today. A kiss was special. There were self-appointed chaperones on the ship helping the younger crew members stay out of trouble. A kiss was special and didn't lead immediately to sex. The ennui of today didn't yet exist. The ending has been said to be bittersweet. I found it more sweet than bitter, but it was mildly thought provoking. I enjoyed the book thoroughly and got through it far too quickly.

Fred D

This was THE book that introduced me when I was young to the concept of Time Dilation, first discovered by Albert Einstein in his Theory of Relativity. That is, as an object accelerates to near-light speeds, time slows down in relation to other objects in the universe. Heinlein explored what the consequences of this would be for human relationships in the future when humanity starts engaging in interstellar travel. Tom & Pat were identical twins, and one stayed behind on Earth while the other explored the galaxy in a starship. When the ship returned to Earth, 80 years had passed on Earth for one twin but only 4 years had passed for the star traveling twin. Two brothers who had grown up together were now separated in age by 76 years. One was close to the end of his life and the other was still young. The whole idea horrified me when I read this when I was young. I figured there had to be a better way for our descendants to explore the stars without such horrendous side-effects. Another good series of sci-fi books that dwelt extensively on this topic was Orson Scott Card's Ender Series.

Clark Hallman

Time for the Stars was written by Robert Heinlein for juvenile readers in the 1956. However, it has continued to remain in print for over 50 years and it is certainly being enjoyed by adults. This reader was totally captivated by its very interesting premise, and by Heinlein’s excellent writing and story-telling skills. The tale takes place in the future when Earthlings had traveled beyond our solar system attempting to find “Sol-type solar systems” with “Earth-type planets” suitable for colonizing to relieve Earth’s desperate overpopulation problem. Large space ships (torch ships) that accelerate gradually to extreme (but sub-light) velocities carry a large crew on these long journeys. Radio communication between these space ships and Earth is impossible because radio waves travel too slowly. However, a unique program to use telepathic twins, who can communicate with each other instantaneously at any distance, was adopted to solve the communications problem. Several pairs of twins were used by each ship to ensure a continuous communication link with Earth. One twin from each pair would stay on Earth, while the other twin from each pair would serve on the space ship. The telepathic pairs would transmit any and all necessary information between the ships and Earth. Of course space exploration is concomitant with difficulties, consequences and dangers. The journeys last for many years, but due to the relativity effects resulting from the extreme travel velocities of the torch ships members of the crew age more slowly than people age on Earth. Therefore, the twins on board the featured ship in this story age about 4 years during their journey, while their siblings on Earth age about 70 years. Exploring the potentially habitable planets also proves dangerous because of toxic environments or dangerous inhabitants. The book initially focuses on one pair of twins, who have just graduated from high school. Then the story follows the twin that is chosen for the voyage, and the reader is treated to his amazing adventure through space and several solar systems. Eventually, the brother who stays at home grows old and feeble, and maintaining their link becomes difficult. Heinlein gives the reader a feel for life on ship and the environments of the planets that are explored. He also does a nice job with the science of the ship and space travel, without overburdening the reader. Yes, the details sometimes pull the reader back in time, such as the mention of microfilm for records, which certainly would not be used in this future time frame. However, it is should be no surprise that Heinlein presents a very interesting and very satisfying story for the reader. I recommend this novel to anyone who likes science fiction. Hey, we should all read these classic gems.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *