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Double Star

Ó Robert A. Heinlein 1956

"After what seemed like days—but was not, since the whole ceremony times exactly one ninth of Mars’ rotation—after an endless time, we ate. I don’t know what and perhaps it is just as well. It did not poison me.

After that the elders made their speeches, I made my acceptance speech in answer, and they gave me my name and my wand. I was a Martian.

I did not know how to use the wand and my name sounded like a leaky faucet, but from that instant on it was my legal name on Mars and I was legally a blood member of the most aristocratic family on the planet—exactly fifty-two hours after a ground hog down on his luck had spent his last half Imperial buying a drink for a stranger in the bar of Casa Manana.

I guess this proves that one should never pick up strangers."

The Solar System is governed by a constitutional monarchy headed by Willem, Prince of Orange, Duke of Nassau, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Knight Commander of The Holy Roman Empire, Admiral General of the Imperial Forces, Adviser to the Martian Nests, Protector of the Poor, and by the Grace of God, King of the Lowlands and Emperor of the Planets and the Spaces Between. The Imperial Capital and the seat of the Parliament is located in Luna at New Batavia.

Non-humans are not allowed to join in the government and John Joseph Bonforte, leader of the Expansionist Party and former Supreme Minister has as one of his goals to bring the non-humans into the government. As part of this, he has arranged to be adopted by the most influential of the Martian Nests.

Extremists in the opposing party, the Humanity Party, have kidnapped him in an attempt to prevent the adoption from taking place. Not only would this be a blow to Bonforte’s goals, but could result in the death of all humans on Mars. Martians take adoption very seriously.

Bonforte’s associates have rushed to Earth to find someone who can impersonate Bonforte at the adoption ceremony. They find Larry Smith, stage name Lorenzo Smythe, or as he prefers to style himself, The Great Lorenzo, an actor down on his luck who matches Bonforte’s physical appearance, but moreover, possesses the skill and talent to pull off the impersonation.

The story takes us through the adoption ceremony, an audience with the Emperor and an election campaign which puts Bonforte’s party back into power.

Full of the details of campaigns, governments and the workings of political teams, this book is considered to draw heavily on Heinlein’s own experiences in the political area from the time that he ran, unsuccessfully, for state assembly in California.

In the end, Lorenzo finds that things never turn out to be as simple as they look and he is forced to grow not only in the role that he has undertaken to play, but as a person himself.

It is interesting to note what appears to be a difference, at least on the surface, in philosophies between this book and one of Heinlein’s most controversial books, _Starship Troopers, written just 3 years and some months later than this one. Compare the two quotes below, read the two books and judge for yourself.

"I suddenly got a glimpse of what Bonforte was driving at. If there were ethical basics that transcended time and place, then they were true both for Martians and for men. They were true on any planet around any star—and if the human race did not behave accordingly they weren’t ever going to win to the stars because some better race would slap them down for double-dealing.

The price of expansion was virtue. "Never give a sucker an even break" was too narrow a philosophy to fit the broad reaches of space."

And from starship Troopers:

"But does Man have any "right" to spread through the universe?

Man is what he is, a wild animal with the will to survive, and (so far) the ability, against all competition. Unless one accepts that, anything one says about morals, war, politics— you name it—is nonsense. Correct morals arise from knowing what Man is—not what do-gooders and well-meaning old Aunt Nellies would like him to be.

The universe will let us know—later—whether or not Man has any "right" to expand through it."