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

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.)


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.

Megan Baxter

I find reading Heinlein to be such a strange experience. His books are always fun, even this strange "world as fiction" stuff he gets further and further into later in his career. They're enjoyable. I reread them ad nauseam. Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook


Although I've been reading sci-fi for forty years, I was never a Heinlein reader. Not sure why, he was just not someone I had discovered and followed. But of course I was familiar with him. And so, in the late '80's I read The Cat Who Walked Through Walls and had picked up this book, a follow-up (and Heinlein's last) novel. This has been on my shelf all these years and I finally got around to reading it. And I'm sorry that I did.My perception here is that as he was ending his career and life, Heinlein became a dirty old man. There is nothing in this book other than a great deal of sex, described in moderately good detail, though rather clinically (ie boring) so.I'm hardly a prude, and the sex itself didn't bother me (though the incest and the rape, handled so cavalierly, strikes me as morally wrong), but I saw no purpose to the sex. It's character-defining, sure, but 400 pages of character and no plot is just, frankly, dull.Although this is an homage to many of his previous books, I would still never recommend this to anyone.

Delicious Strawberry

I really enjoyed the narrative of Maureen Johnson and the details of her childhood. While the earlier talk about sex (losing her virginity, for one) was enjoyable, the later talk about sex (orgies, incest, etc) felt a bit too much. Nonetheless, her story (especially the part with her stuck in the alternate universe) was a very good read, and a lovely addition to the Long Family/World as Myth books. The alternate realities thing was also a good device for the narration.One good function this book serves is to show the Howard Foundation in its early stages. Maureen Johnson was second-generation which is very early, and lifespans for them were shorter than the lifespans of those in 'Methuselah's Children', which can be seen as the next story in the Howard Families 'saga' that is a story of its own within the World as Myth/Long Family/alternate universes/Pixel the cat series. (yes, long name for a series, I know!) Overall a must-read for any fan of the saga, just be forewarned of gratuitous sex.


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.

Simon Mcleish

Originally published on my blog here in September 1998.To Sail Beyond the Sunset was Robert Heinlein's very last novel, published just before his death. Like his other late novels (I think this applies to every one published after Job: A Comedy of Justice), it brings together many of his favourite characters. It is a sequel to The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, though you will have needed to read several other Heinlein novels to really understand what's going on (notably The Number of the Beast and Time Enough for Love; there is a full list of characters and the novels they come from at the end of the book.)To Sail Beyond the Sunset is a first-person account of the life of Maureen, the mother of Woodrow Wilson Smith, otherwise known as Lazarus Long and the hero of Methuselah's Children and Time Enough for Love. She is apparently supposed to be autobiographical, but she reads more like a twelve year old boy's dream of what women should be like. This is a characteristic of many of the women in Heinlein's later books, and no doubt explains the popularity of these books with teenage boys.


Arminzerella's recommendation. Pretty good so far, albeit a tad confusing.About halfway through now. This book should be subtitled "A Time Traveler's Guide to Eugenics Through Multidimensional Incest."I guess it shouldn't be a surprise after reading Starship Troopers that any of Heinlein's other works should be head-bludgeoning social commentary thinly guised as science fiction.I'm tempted to say this is proto-Mary-Sue-by-proxy... or maybe not by proxy, I don't know enough about Heinlein to be sure. Still, it's entertaining, if you can get past the multi-generational parallel-reality incestuous orgies every few pages.Or, depending on what gets you off, maybe that's the entertaining part. I can remember a time not long ago when this book would have elicited a monthlong erection from me... guess I've mellowed some.So, yeah. Finished. Interesting in parts, but... nothing really happened. Nobody was ever in serious jeopardy. I never would have thought that the memoirs of a time traveling red-headed nympho would be so... dull. I mean, stuff happens AROUND her all the time, but very little of anything interesting happens TO her. The parts that ARE interesting are brief vignettes, mostly flashbacks. The part where she has to fight some of her kids who have gotten out of line (altho what "out of line" means for a completely amoral family is questionable on its own) might have been interesting, if, say, those kids had turned out to be the ones working against the Time Corps to change reality. Hell, maybe they did, in one of the six or seven other books set in this multiverse; but I'm not terribly inclined to follow up.Sorry =

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.


Holy frack, what the hell did I just read? I don't know whether to be app[alled or impressed… so maybe I'll be impalled?Anyway. So yeah. This is all about the life of Maureen Johnson, the mother of Lazarus Long. There's a flimsy frame story that might have been interesting except it largely gets lost in Maureen's memoirs. Also random characters from Heinlein's other works show up, too.So. I don't quite buy Maureen as a woman, but I found her oddly engaging. Even when I wanted to throw my book against the wall--not advisable considering I was reading it on an expensive electronic device--I truly wanted to keep reading. Maureen was fascinating, and I was drawn to her story.That said… there was a lot of WTF to wade through between good parts. My major issue with Time Enough for Love was that Lazarus Long had a crush on his mother when he went back in time to meet her in the last book. Now we see that the incest theme continues. Maureen has an unrequited crush on her dad, two of her kids insist on shacking up, and everybody ends up in some weirdly incestuous group marriage at the end of the book. But while Heinlein is totally blasé about incest, he's just short of homophobic and there's a point at which he's like, "People who use whips and chains should be locked up and kept away from the rest of us." Dude, you can't have it both ways. Either don't judge your fellow freaks or keep your mouth shut.I don't really know how to rate tis. When Heinlein wasn't talking about Maureen wanting to boink both her dad and her son, it was a delightful read. But the WTF squick factor brings it down a lot.


The biography of an immortal, time traveling red headed babe.Entertaining, but you really need to have read some other Heinlein books to get what he's doing here, as it doesn't stand on it's own very well, as he uses this book to retell some parts of other books from a different POV.Enough humor and interesting 'debates' on life, sex, politics etc to keep you from realizing not much is happening and it's taking a lot of pages for nothing to happen.This book and 'The cat that walked through walls' were basically used to tie all his other books into one big 'Heinlein-verse'. Entertaining for fans, but rough going if this was your first Heinlein book.


Because this is Heinlein's last book, it is worth a look, however, the writing doesn't hold together, and it seemed more of an opportunity for him to present his quasi-Libertarian ramblings within the format of a novel. This is the final 'Lazarus Long' book, and Heinlein further elaborates his thoughts and feelings on time travel, parallel dimensions, free love, incest, and a grab-bag of other culturally or politically discouraged subjects. He refers to his doctrine as, 'World as Myth', but I didn't think that the plot-line supported his intellectual flights of fancy, and the weak story-line sank his oddball conjectures.I have always felt that Libertarians are Republicans who wish that they could change the drug laws so that they could smoke pot, and Heinlein's Libertarianism seems to advocate an easing of sexual prohibitions to enable an acceptance of a kind of 'polymorphous perversity'.Sections of the novel were interesting due to his unusual viewpoints, but the story was needlessly too hard to follow, not concise or focused, and comprised of too many characters.Obviously, telling the tale did not seem to be his foremost concern.


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.


Sometimes this ties for fave with Stranger in a Strange Land, but most of the time this one wins. It's actually a pivotal book in the Lazarus Long series, because it deals with his mother and his origins. Frankly, I find Maureen, his mom, about a million times more interesting than Lazarus himself. This book was really forward thinking in portraying a smart, capable woman who really, truly pursued what she wanted in life, and was kind and even-handed in doing it. Maureen is a real role model in a lot of ways. The one downside into recommending this (or any other Heinlein book for that matter) is the sheer amount of sex in them. He doesn't write sensual books; all the situations are described obscurely or used to illustrate something else but they are undeniably sexy and sometimes very forthrightly. This book also deals with the idea of polygamy, open relationships, and incest, all in very positive terms (Heinlein tends to use human biology and science to explain his position on open, honest sexuality and commune-like communities). In this book, the sex is actually a major plot point, in that it is a theory of encouraging people genetically disposed to long life to marry and procreate to extend the human lifespan over generations. Perhaps with current science it seems a bit simplistic but it's very believable in the book. It also, like all his books, deals with time travel as well. Really a fascinating read.

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.

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