Time for the Stars

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

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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

Jeff Yoak

I had forgotten about this Heinlein juvenile completely thinking I was reading it for the first time, but part way in I realized that I had read it before. The human race has finally created a source of propulsion for ships that can offer constant boost and carry its fuel. That means it's "time for the stars." Population pressure and the sort of intrepid adventurousness Heinlein always so brilliantly portrays drives our heroes out in ships pushing the speed of light knowing that relativistic effects will have them return eventually to earth after many decades have passed leaving their world immeasurably changed.As light years stack up, both transmission time and the energy required for transmitting become intractable. This provides a way to have our heroes cut off and return to strangeness. Instead, in Time For The Stars, Heinlein allows communication by positing telepathic abilities that are instantaneous between some identical twins. The Long Range Foundation pays high fees to incent twin pairs to split up, one going on ship and one staying home. This sets the scene for taking two teenage boys who are as close as any are likely to be and first putting a spike in the relationship by offering just one the dream of a lifetime, being among the first to get to explore the stars, provided the other stays home, and then have them linked and maintain their relationship over a few years for one and a long lifetime for the other. You get to see the relationship evolve as one member of the relationship lives out his teen years and the other has great-grandchildren.It's a gripping story, full of action like all the Heinlein juveniles, but also has touching relationship components, sometimes missing from those stories. I enjoyed it thoroughly.


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.


Lots of interesting thoughts here about time and relativity. Still unsure whether I'd rather be left home to age or go exploring and lose all connection with Earth as it changes with the passage of time. Both seem rather lonely but a great opener for your next sci-fi book discussion group.


6.5 hoursnarrated by Barrett WhitenerRobert A. Heinlein’s Time for the Stars is a true bit of science fiction history and, in a way, embodies all of the “cool” stuff that made me such a fan – a bit of physics, adventure, young people off to explore unseen worlds, and some newfangled technology.Heinlein (1907-1988) first published Time for the Stars in 1956, during a time period when he had a contract with Scribner’s to produce books that were young people friendly. They were aimed at young adults, although I enjoyed it as well. It is the memoir of the space travels of Tom Bartlett, who is also one half of a very talented set of twins.The premise of the book is simple enough. The Earth is too crowded and a research corporation called the Long Range Foundation has invested in several ships to seek out new planets that humans can inhabit. There are already colonies throughout the solar system but they are too expensive and can only hold a limited number of colonists. The Long Range Foundation’s specialty is making investments in things that no corporation or government will invest in because the pay-off will be too long in coming to justify the investment. In this case, these spaceships will explore for decades and may not find anything useful.The trick with all of these ships will be communication. The ships and their radio waves will travel slower than the speed of light and the process of finding a new planet, describing its location and the requirements to colonize it will take entirely too long. Instead, the Long Range Foundation has found that some very few people, especially twins, are actually telepathic and can be trained to speak to one another with their minds. They have also discovered that this telepathy is instantaneous – it is faster than the speed of light and the communication problem has been solved.Pat and Tom Bartlett have this telepathic ability and are chosen to participate. One twin gets to go and one has to stay behind to relay the messages to the Long Range Foundation here on Earth...Read more at: http://dwdsreviews.blogspot.com/2011/...

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.


The basic reason for writing this book seems to have been to introduce the idea of a 'long range foundation', which ignores the short term, and pumps resources into things that (probably) won't show results for decades or centuries. An interesting idea, but there don't seem to have been any takers. The premise of the telepathic twins is interesting, but it's basically a McGuffin to allow Heinlein to send a juvenile (several, really) on a starfaring mission, Really, however, the mission is not really described. The relations of people on board ship and their homebound partners becomes more important--the planets examined are mostly unmemorable. One interesting point is the question of whether you must necessarily love those you're related to. You must, of course, at least as long as you're coresident. If you didn't love them, there'd be a lot higher incidence of fratricide--and intrafamilial violence is already at too high a level. But that needn't mean you have to like them. Or keep a relationship with them once you're separated at adulthood. In this case, the telepairs MUST keep a relationship after separation, for the purpose of maintaining communication between their comrades (though exceptions develop later, as the communication network is broadened). This creates a conflict that's not easily resolved. The solution is unpracticed and clumsy--but it would have to be in an unprecendented situation, wouldn't it? The atemporal aspect of telephathy (as proposed here) is somewhat similar to LeGuin's 'ansible' except that it inheres in people rather than devices. The argument is that since telepathy is virtually instantaneous, this implies that faster-light-travel is possible. It doesn't necessarily follow, but it's not clear whether Heinlein knew enough physics to recognize this. Early in the book, a physicist is quoted as if he did not know that a light-year is a unit of distance, not time. Heinlein had a tendency to give himself airs, and to mock such pretensions in others. It's an interesting psychological observation that people tend to accuse others of what they believe to be true about themselves. Of course, they may be mistaken about themselves, but it's a form of self-revelation that could cause some people to be reluctant to make accusations, lest they inadvertently reveal rather more about their own fears than they're willing to.

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.

SciFi Kindle

When one looks past the dated dialogue that identifies this as being authored in 1956, the concepts of time dilation at relativistic speeds has some fantastic possibilities for drama. "Don't look so dang sourpuss," and "Gee, that's swell" are actual lines, but it is almost as if Heinlein anticipates the linguistic drift that would occur in the decades to follow publication when his protagonist, removed from his descendants by decades spent traveling the stars at light speed, encounters difficulties deciphering the euphemisms and vernacular when he speaks to those of the younger generations. The discoveries and marvels encountered on the voyage are really secondary to the human drama of inter-generational strain as lives proceed at two different paces, forcing divided families to adapt.

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.

Glenn Schmelzle

Plot summary: Young twins Tom & Pat are called by an institute called the Long Range Foundation (LRF). Testing reveals that, like many twins, they are telepathic and are ths perfect candidates for the space program. One goes on board the ship, communicating their discoveries back to the one on earth in real-time. When they get to the Tau Ceti system, which had a placid Earth-type planet on it they called Constance. They then went to Beta Hydri, where many dies from a plague. Then they went to a water planet called Elysia outside Beta Ceti, but once their ship 'landed' on the ocean and their crew set out in boats, they were attacked by sea creatures and lost their helicopter and many men. They were helped by a ship from Earth, where Faster-than-light speed technology had been achieved. Soon they were on their way home, where twentysomething Tom re-integrates, not only with his 89 year-old brother, but with his brother's telepathic great-neice who he ends up marrying.Comments: There's a lot of Government redundancy here. There are a dozen exploration ships heading to different systems. Their ship is manned with multiple sets of twins. We find out that LRF's purpose is to pick sites for colonies and they don't expect many ships to survive the expedition. This is a little cruel of them, but compared to the relationships they'll lose back on earth and the constant dangers of space travel, I guess they're not that bad. Like the late Hal Clement said when ased why his stories had no villains, "The universe is antagonist enough." The book's focus is on the crucial need for the twins in space. As the twins replaced all communications equipment, they are used to transmit the morning paper and relay crew messages to loved ones, they also talk with twins on the other exploration ships so even if the twin on earth dies, the ship can relay messages back through a sister ship. But the relativistic effects mean that the one in space hardly ages while decades roll by for the one on earth. Heinlein poses some interesting twin-telepathy situations: we see what happens to one when the other goes under anaesthetic for an operation, waking them up via long-distance, doing it with the aid of hypnosis, discovering its hereditary qualities, etc.Tom's a nice kid. He has a small love interest on the ship but it's nothing serious. I like how Tom sees adults working together and acting intelligently on board ship. I'd recommend this book to kids over age 10 as it provides a balance between 'buck rogers' action and thoughtful consideration of human issues.

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.

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.

Mary JL

The review above pretty much says it all. This books has been reprinted time and time again for over fifty years. It is one of Heinlein's better juveniles.I recommend Heinlein's "juveniles" for every sf reader--I personally feel they represent some of his best work. They can be read and enjoyed by adults; except for the age of the main characters, this books is as good as many adult novels published today.

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

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.

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