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

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.


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.

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.

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.


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.


I've been trying to find a book to engage me for a while. I was sent home several months ago with several bags full of my father's SciFi books hoping to find something to fill the order. I gave To Sail Beyond the Sunset a try and half way through realized that this was not the book I was looking for. I find Heinlein's voice heavy handed. One other reviewer put it more succinctly then I, "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.... [The book] is apparently supposed to be autobiographical, but [it] reads more like a twelve year old boy's dream of what women should be like...."Trying to read an older man point of view of a woman's sexuality got silly, then annoying then outright irritating. I put it down and I wont be picking it back up unless I've nothing else to read. Life's too short and there are much better books out there.


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.

Stewart Harding

** spoiler alert ** This is a weird book. I love Heinlein's "classic" sci-fi and this has some interesting elements of it. However, it's a bit of a shame that every single character is exactly the same. Brilliant polymaths, with a ludicrous libido and a bizarrely libertarian attitude to sex, incest and paedophilia. Sex is easily his favourite subject, and despite never describing it specifically, everyone is always thinking about it or doing it.The main character Maureen Johnson is an extreme 60s male idea of what a feminist is. She has 17 children and takes all of her pride in being a housewife and a babymaker. Well, everyone does. As I said all the characters are the same. I counted at least 20 characters with the same motives, wants and dialogue. There's a very particular Heinlein dialogue, usually between men and women, that is used heavily in this book as it is in all of his other books which use the same characters in the same universe.Saying all that, and I could go on, I quite enjoyed it. It's basically the life story of Momma Maureen mixed with her 'current' situation which is briliantly described in the first lines of the book."I woke up with a man and a cat. The man was a stranger. The cat was not."Heinlein fans will love it. Anyone new to his style will find it bizarre. The best example of this is in the line:"I liked to surprise men with the strength of my vaginal sphincter"I laughed out loud.

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


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.

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.

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.)


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 =


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.

Robert Magness

Heinlein is always interesting to read. And his whole concept of "the past through tomorrow" is always entertaining. I love that he veers wildly left and right with his ideals and beliefs; there's he's so far off the middle yet there's nowhere else to put him...I kind of look forward to meeting a woman like Maureen Johnson, but if I did that would most likely mean she would bed me and then admit that she is my kin from another dimension/era. The only thing holding back the fifth star is the incest. There's a point to it and a meaning, but it's still a little much for me at times. And I really don't want to say "maybe that will change as I get older" because that really would just make it worse. With that, I hope I've enticed you enough to read it.

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