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The Counterfeit Heinlein
Laurence M. Janifer
Wildside Press, 180 pages

The Counterfeit Heinlein
Laurence M. Janifer
Laurence M. Janifer was born in 1933. His novels include the Psi-Power trilogy (That Sweet Little Old Lady (1962), The Impossibles (1963) and Supermind (1963)) all written with Randall Garrett and published under the pen name of Mark Phillips. Other notable fiction includes Survivor (1977), Target Terra (1968), Reel (1983) and 2 collections: Impossible? (1968) and Knave & the Game (1987).

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A review by Rick Norwood

The Counterfeit Heinlein is mildly entertaining fan fiction. I read it for two reasons. First, Heinlein is one of my favorite writers (though on the few occasions where I have tried to live according to the maxims set down in his books the results has been disastrous). Second, Spider Robinson gave the book a rave review.

The book is sufficiently lacking in noteworthy qualities that it was enough to lower my opinion of Spider Robinson by a notch.

I call the book fan fiction, because it reads like fan fiction, even though Laurence M. Janifer is a professional writer. It is too cute by half, and the occasional insights: "There are types of motion you learn to notice -- precision and economy, in a way -- that signal the real marksman anywhere" are offset by the use of too many words in almost every sentence. Note how much better the sentence I quoted reads if you drop "in a way" and "anywhere". And for every firecracker, there are half a dozen duds: "Was there really an author named Spider Callahan? Alfred Blishter?"

The constant references to "prespace" civilization are silly, unnecessary, and intrusive. It is as if a character in a contemporary novel constantly dropped references to Elizabethan England into his chit chat -- and the other characters got every reference. A few anachronisms may be necessary in a novel set in the future, in order to explain things to the reader. But the references I am talking about do not explain anything, nor do they contribute anything to the story. At one point, the hero says, "verrry interesting" and comments that the other character got the allusion. Come on! Laugh In is already unknown to anyone under the age of thirty. To suggest that it will be remembered in a future where the spelling of "Uta" (Utah) is forgotten -- that is dumb.

There is a page of counterfeit Heinlein that is supposed to be good enough to pass as real Heinlein. Everybody gushes over how good it is. It does not sound like Heinlein at all. I'll quote just one line: "You sail too close to the wind of heresy, Frad Golden." Heinlein would have known that to sail close to the wind is to sail speedily, but not necessarily dangerously.

I'll still read Spider Robinson's fiction, though he suffers from some of the same flaws as Janifer, but I won't read any more books he recommends.

Copyright © 2001 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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