I first read RED PLANET when I was twelve or thirteen and a couple of times since then, though it had been many years since the last time. When R.T. covered this one in last Friday’s Forgotten Books, that was my first inclination that a different version had been presented to the reading public. I knew some of Heinlein’s books had been edited before, probably most of them, and I knew I wanted to check this one out.
R.T. provided a link to an article about the editing that gave us an indication of the cuts and the reasons for them. I know it was considered a juvenile and the biggest buyers at the time were libraries. So some things had to go. I get that. And I don’t get it at the same time. He also does a much better job of describing the plot HERE than I ever could.
In rereading the tale, I saw nothing that would have seemed inappropriate for a younger reader. But then I’m speaking from an adult perspective and sixty years further down the road. Mores change as time goes by. Just watch any comedy on TV and realize how shocked folks of the fifties would be watching this stuff.
When I was twelve, this was just a rollicking good adventure. I don’t remember where in the line of Heinlein titles this one fell. TUNNEL IN THE SKY was the first and my first real science fiction.
I was just having fun reading these things and never saw the more serious implications: the pioneer spirit that has infused Americans ever since they set foot on this continent, the fierce independence against draconian rules designed to keep a populace in place, the will to stand up for one’s rights, the honesty in the face of deceit, and the willingness to stay true to one’s values until pushed.
Responsibility was a hallmark of Heinlein’s writings. One thing I noticed this time around was, in my mind, an analogy between the Martian race and native Americans. They tolerated humans on their planet until some of us got a little greedy, then they wanted us gone, to the point of violence if necessary.
I’m not sure if younger folks these days can appreciate his work. I have a great nephew on the verge of sixteen who’s a reader. His mother, my niece, says he’s a little me. With that in mind, one year for Christmas, I got him a set of the Heinlein juveniles, as well as STARSHIP TROOPERS, and the next year a set of the John Carter of Mars books. he says he liked them, but I don’t know. We don’t get much chance to talk as he lives in the next state.
I enjoyed getting reacquainted with an old friend, albeit one that had put on a little weight with the restored wordage. The 2006 Del Rey trade paperback is a beautiful edition with four reproduced pages from the original manuscript showing cuts and edits.