Actor Lorenzo Smythe (Laurence Smith) knows a spaceman when he sees one. Down to his last coin, Lorenzo offers his services to teach the spaceman how to blend in, but it’s Lorenzo who is offered a job in mimicry. Not until they are underway to Mars does Lorenzo learn he’s impersonating John Joseph Bonforte, leader of the Expansionist party and the Solar System’s most important politician.
Winner of the 1956 Hugo Award for Best Novel, Double Star is surprisingly light in tone despite the serious nature of the story. It’s really fun compared to Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress or Starship Troopers, mostly due to the first person character story. Double Star is a short and tightly plotted journey of a prejudiced erudite actor’s transformation into an arrogant cowboy politician. You may find the metamorphosis is from self-centered failure to noble hero of the underprivileged, but maybe Lorenzo also sacrifices his true self, his love of art for power and fame.
Even with rocket ships and Martians, the science isn’t the center of the story. If you like a good political drama complete with long-winded monologues with a dash of scifi, this is a solid choice. Heinlein’s critique of modern politics is obvious, but combined with an intimate conclusion of ultimately idealistic characters, the story leaves you with the feeling that all the pomp and circumstance are worth it in the struggle to forge new alliances and promote equality.
Let go of the poor characterization of the only female, headstrong secretary Penny, who both loves Bonforte and cries/faints a lot, and enjoy this classic scifi award winner!
“Before my revered father died he made me promise him three things: first, never to mix whisky with anything but water; second, always to ignore anonymous letters; and lastly, never to talk with a stranger who refuses to give his name.”