To Sail Beyond the Sunset

ISBN: 0441748600
ISBN 13: 9780441748600
By: Robert A. Heinlein

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About this book

Heinlein fans rejoice, for the science fiction master's most beloved characters here gather once more. Maureen Johnson, the somewhat irregular mother of Lazarus Long, wakes up in bed with a man and a cat. The cat is Pixel, well-known to fans of the New York Times bestseller "The Cat Who Walks through Walls." The man is a stranger to her, and besides that, he is dead . . .

Reader's Thoughts

Scott Holstad

On March 7, 2014 I reviewed Robert A. Heinlein's "I Will Fear No Evil" and gave it one star. It was a sex-obsessed orgy with little "science fiction" to offer. Realizing it was published in 1970 during the Sexual Revolution, I thought maybe it was a one off. I was wrong. I started "To Sail Beyond the Sunset" yesterday and the initial premise seemed good -- a woman wakes up in bed with her cat and an unknown dead man, and she doesn't know who she is or where she is. Sounds good, right? Wrong. The next umpteen chapters are flashbacks to nineteenth century Missouri where Maureen, the main character, learns about sex as a pre-pubescent from her father and proceeds to whore herself out to every possible boy and man available. And to make matters worse, the dialogue is simply unbelievable. Witness the exchange between 12 year old Maureen and her pervert father. She says, "...this is why your anatomy book doesn't show the clitoris. Mrs. Grundy wouldn't like it because she doesn't have one." Um, okay.... Then "Father, there is something here that doesn't make sense. Why is 'vagina' a good word while 'cunt' is a bad word? Riddle me that." Seriously, how many 12 year old girls talk about clits and cunts with their father??? And he's egging her on to lose her virginity too! Which she finally does when she's 14, and damn proud of it too. The book reads like a cross between the Penthouse version of Caligula and de Sade's "Juliette," but not as good. There's adultery, swappings, orgies, incest, etc., all over the place. I'm no prude, but Heinlein was a serious perv and he wrote this book in his eighties! Finally, the thing that kills it for me is there's little science fiction. Oh, there's time travel and alternate universes, but those hardly matter to the plot of Maureen getting laid as often as possible. It's a very disappointing book to read and since this is my sixth Heinlein book I've attempted, it's also going to be my last. He was a seriously overrated, perverted sicko writer with little to offer. Definitely not recommended.

Tori B

I have a new-found love for Heinlein, but this one put me off a bit- only, perhaps, because I read it out of sequence, having not yet read any of the stories about Lazurus Long or the Cat Who Could Walk Through Walls. This books reads like a biography of someone who should know, but don't- there are strange gaps in explanation that I must assume are supplemented by the other books in the collection. Also, the conceptions of morality and gender roles gets a bit murky at points- and its hard to distinguish whether or not its truely Maureen's viewpoint, or a message from Heinlein through the character. I suppose once I read more I'll have a better idea of the values Heinlein is pushing- but compared to Stranger in a Strange Land and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, this book is basically filler.

Jeff Yoak

As a huge Heinlein fan who has read many of his books several times, it was a delight to realize that I hadn't read this one at all. When I was younger and going through his novels I had a general dislike for the World as Myth later novels and I guess skipped this one entirely.I still dislike this aspect of the novel, but as I've become a diehard fan, it was a chance to spend some more time with characters whom I deeply love. Seeing Jubal, Lazarus and others again, and with a new story, made the experience.Nonetheless, I wouldn't suggest to anyone who isn't either a similar die hard fan or possessed of an intent desire to explore Heinlein's attitudes about sexuality. (The book serves as autobiography for Mama Maureen, and mostly details her century and a half of sexual exploits.)

John Meuser

I really like Heinlein Ra's Lazerus Long books (especially Time Enough for Love), but this book just didn't hold up. The life of Maureen presented just isn't very interesting. It's mostly a log of her sexual relationships described with a backdrop of world events in her timeline. The sexual taboos he addresses, while initially somewhat disturbing when he gets into having a positive view of incest, gets tedious and predictable after a while. The most interesting section of the book is the last couple of chapters, but doesn't make up for the drawn out tedium of the rest.

Robert Beech

Read this several years ago, and had forgotten most of it. Got the audiobook for a long car-trip, but didn't like it as much as I had remembered. However, it was interesting to hear Bernadette Dunne, who narrates Tamora Pierce's "Protector of the Small" series (a perennial favorite for our family and its tough-minded girls) do the voice of the very different main character in this book.

Brian Layman

This is Heinlein's final work. Even the title makes this clear. I really do think it was intended both to wrap up and explain the links between all of his books(/timelines) and to take one final opportunity to express his world view. Heinlein was doing his best to make the world a better place, from his viewpoint. Because of this, If you don't have a strong stance of your own on sexuality and religion, or if you are not comfortable reading opposing view points, it might be in your own best interest to avoid this book. Many find its content extremely offensive."To Sail Beyond the Sunset" actually reminded me in ways of Benjamin Franklin's autobiography. Intending to educate his son in his own world view, Franklin wrote down what was most important to him. Heinlein does the same in this book. From his views on religion (and most specifically Christianity) to his ideas on pedophilia, incest and free love, Heinlein argues with all the talent and skill at his disposal. Whether you agree with it or not, if you can view this book objectively, you must admit that Heinlein was an incredibly artful and incredibly skilled writer. Even in this book, his talent shows.


** spoiler alert ** I ended up reading this book because I picked up Methusala's Children a few months back for like 50 cents and because it didn't list any other related works from Heinlein. Little did I know, the main character, Lazarus Long, would turn out to appear in like 30 other works, so I'm on the slow trail to pushing through them.To Sail Beyond the Sunset is definitely science fiction, but nothing like what I expected (maybe I just haven't read enough Heinlein). More than the first half of the book was more rustic than scientific, more family than technology, etc. etc. Sure, I get it, it sets up the whole line of people for other books (this is where Lazarus is born, and the main character here is his mother).But man: sex, sex, sex. After successfully bedding nearly every male of a higher level of attractiveness including her son come-back-through-time and pretending to be someone else, Maureen (MC) ends on a mission to save her father, the one person she could never get to have sex with her, i.e. the biggest regret of her life.


Partly similar to Time enough for love, maybe a little bit more sexually liberal. In general, if you enjoyed TEFL, you will also enjoy reading this book. Expect less sophisticated plot and more straightforward stories. The book reads very easily and until very end of the book I didn't feel bored, not once.

Robyn Blaber

When my good friend Russel handed me this book to read I think he assumed that I'd read a LOT of Heinlein. I thought I had too, but apparently, there is a lot more to drink in from this prolific writer. To Sail Beyond the Sunset was drawn from all sorts of his previous works that you would think were disparate being in different times and basically different universes.It all comes together with the wife and mother of one of Heinlein's very common characters, Lazarus Long. Maureen is... difficult to describe; extremely sexually liberated by 2012 standards, but lived through the turn of the 19th century; biologically immortal (more or less); genius level I.Q. and fearlessly brave. Throw in incestuous, a polymath, a polyglot, a mother of dozens of children, and a righter of wrongs on several time-lines and... well it was an ambitious book. I recommend it only to people who've read more Heinlein than me.


So many other reviews both good and bad have written enough on this to get an idea- The one thing I would add - save this till last in your Heinlein shelf. As a standalone you'll be wondering why, over and over again. But if you're familiar with his multiple universes and his characters over the near 50yrs of his literary career, then I do believe you will like this end piece

Jay Daze

More late period Heinlein, well past his prime. Unfortunately books from this period mostly seem to have been published because of the genuine affection and admiration for his earlier books. Go look at Starship Troopers, A Mooon is a Harsh Mistress and other books from the 60s and earlier. (A Stranger in a Strange Land was a favourite when I was a teenager but I'm afraid too pick it up because Heinlein was transitioning into his more bloated later period by that point.) I don't mind that his ideas are sexist or rightist or just not my particular way of thinking, that can be fun to argue with as long as there is a good story and characters, but I just get the sense that past a certain point Heinlein believed everything he wrote was gold and there was little or no editing.Anyways this is a review based on my hazy recollections of reading the book when it came out. Unfortunately, or fortunately, books like this from aging sf authors was part of what sent me out into the wider world of books. I've come back to sf and fantasy since then and thanks to greatly improved critical eye I've found many rich, well crafted stories within the field.


Definitely not my favorite Heinlein. Other reviewers pointed out an apparent preoccupation with sex in this novel, I would tend to agree. I enjoyed Cat Who Walks, Harsh Mistress, Methuselah's, et. al. which dealt with the some of the same characters, more than Beyond Sunset, and it seemed to serve more as something which met the author's 'need to express' than it did to round out the Heinlein universe.Some years back I read a personal letter from the author in response back to a friend, in which Heinlein debunked all the claims that his works were analogies or metaphors for events in real life, politics, etc... something it seemed he would repeatedly strongly disclaimed; their only purpose was to entertain. I found it hard work to plow through this book, the entertainment factor was a bit thin for me.


** spoiler alert ** Oy. I should have quit while I was ahead with this series.Well, "series" is a misnomer. Heinlein wrote several books in a row which were connected through both characters and concepts, but they were disjointed in their style and focus. But no matter what you call them, this book is the last one. I think. I am willing to be corrected.It tells the whole saga of Lazarus Long and The World as Myth all over again, but this time through the eyes of his biological mother, Maureen.And one of his wives, Maureen. Same lady.Look, I'm not a prude. I swear. But at some time in the series/non-series I felt badly that I was still squicked over the concept of incest. Oh, I understand that the technology was sufficiently advanced to guarantee no genetically screwed-up children... and I understand that their society was sufficiently advanced enough that there was no such thing as jealousy and everybody could love and sex-up everyone else and be one big happy family no matter if the one you were sexing up was your daughter or grandmother or son or whomever. Fine. But ... I can't get over my personal feeling that incest is a step too far; that the protective, nurturing relationship between parents and children should not become sexual. And I felt like an awful, close-minded, backward, prudish jackass for STILL feeling that way after I was done with the books. They all sort of hit one over the head with that message: you ARE an awful, close-minded, et cetera if you don't think it's a beautiful thing that one of the child-producing couples in the huge, multiple-partnered, immortal Long family is a mother and son.While a lot of the book was interesting, though-provoking, and well though-out, and while I always love Heinlein's writing (hence the three stars,) the interesting and engaging story kept being interrupted by incestuous orgies through the ages. At one point, I just flipped through the middle of the book and read a sentence randomly. It was a father in the 1910's deflowering his daughter. Whee.If you're interested in this sort of thing, or have read the rest of the books in the series, I would recommend this book. I love many of the characters, and the multi-universe concept is simply beautiful. Just remember you have to wade through siblings porking each other to get to it.


When choosing shelves, I of course looked for science fiction first, Heinlein being the 'Dean' of the genre. But then I spotted the label 'Social criticism' and I must admit that it fits this book even better. Still more than in his other novels, Heinlein promotes his libertarian and promiscuous world view.As an excuse for his ramblings, Heinlein invents the story of Maureen Johnson, a human female who by rejuvenating techniques has lived through many centuries. She wakes up on a strange planet, in a bed with next to her only the cat Pixel and the body of a dead man whom she does not remember.Might become an interesting murder mystery, but it doesn't. Instead, Maureen starts to talk in flashbacks about het childhood and her several husbands and children. Given her age, that can take a while. She starts out shortly after the American independence and discusses political history throughout the twentieth century and onwards. About het personal life we get a promotion of adultory and the preachings of her good father, who encourages her to have sex with as many partners as possible, as long as she uses the occasional French purse.Now I am pro adultory and against narrow-minded morality myself. But when reading this novel, I couldn't help but thinking: "That is all very intersting, Robert. But what about the murdered man and the cat?". Only once every fifty pages does Heinlein return us to the frame story, with which he deals quickly in just a few sentences and then another flashback of a many decades starts.So after a while it becomes clear that the frame story is just a fraud, an excuse to keep us reading while Heinlein beats around the same bushes and puts many of his favourite characters from other novels on the stage. But it is just too little to keep readers interested. Heinleins ideas are fine, but this is no longer a novel.


Wish I hadn't bothered; this book is terrible. The thesis (oft-repeated) seems to be "Maureen is an amoral wench," and this is backed up by pages and pages of her sexual exploits. In between the incest and polygamy is nonsense about alternate timelines and an assassination squad. All this is tied back into other novels like Time Enough for Love, and since it's told from a different perspective (Maureen's), hard core Heinlein fans will enjoy some of it. But ultimately it's only a few excellent paragraphs on the folly of "warm body" democracy, paper money, and bad parenting that make up the book's redeeming qualities.

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