| First published in 1973|
Latest edition: 1994
Mass Market Paperback
Remember Mel Brooks' 2,000-year-old man schtick? He complained once that he had 42,000 children--and no one came to visit. Such is not the case with Robert Heinlein's 2,000-year-old man, Lazarus Long. Almost everyone he meets is descended from him--and many of them care for him very deeply indeed. When Long checks into a flophouse on the planet Tellus Secundus under an assumed name, wishing to die at last, his children find and sequester him in an attempt to persuade him to keep on living. It is this search for something to live for that occupies humanity's oldest representative throughout the rest of Time Enough for Love.
Lazarus Long is perhaps Heinlein's most popular character with fans. He made his first literary appearance in the 1940s, in the novella Methuselah's Children, which told the tale of the founding, persecution and diaspora of the Howard Families--a group of people artificially selected for their genetic tendency to long life. (Long, at the age of 300-plus years, is their senior member, and it is he who saves the Howards from genocide.) In Time Enough for Love, Long reappears some 1,700 years later, long after humanity has spread out among the stars, and long after the Howard Families' safety has been assured. Ancient and weary, Lazarus Long is intent on dying, and even his descendants' persuasion fails to move him.
At least at first. Ensconced among his geneticist descendants, Long agrees to a Shahrzadelike scheme of storytelling to fend off death--only it is he who tells the tales to his family--while they heal him and help him search for a truly novel adventure. As a result, Time Enough for Love takes the form of the classic frame story; an account of Long's rejuvenation and formation of a new extended family constitutes the framework in which his tales of remembrance are told. The tales themselves are of novella length ("The Tale of the Adopted Daughter" may well be the most moving of Heinlein's works), and all of the stories in this lengthy masterpiece center around themes of love, happiness and childrearing--in essence, those things which sustain a fruitful, satisfying life. And who better than a man with two millenias' worth of lifetimes to hold forth on what comprises a good life?
It turns out that Long still has one more adventure in store for him, as he embarks on a journey through space and time to the where/when of his youth: the Kansas City of the early Pendergast days. Set down by his space yacht in the middle of a southern Missouri cow pasture in 1916, Long begins a journey into his own past that leads him to the ultimate love--and the ultimate sacrifice.
This latter section of Time Enough for Love reads as if it were a love letter from Heinlein to the innocent America in which he grew up; it leaves one wishing that Heinlein had written steampunk or alternate histories, so evocative are his depictions of bygone days. On the other hand, Time Enough for Love is in a sense the vanguard of Heinlein's experiments with alternate realities, as evidenced by the sequels The Number of the Beast, The Cat who Walks through Walls and To Sail Beyond the Sunset. Time Enough for Love might well be the "capstone of Heinlein's Future History stories," but it is the keystone of Heinlein's multiverse.
Preceding Time Enough for Love in the Future History continuum are Methuselah's Children and the collected short stories found in The Past Through Tomorrow. In addition, the sections of aphorisms in Time Enough. . . have been illuminated by Vassallo and published separately as a gift book: The Notebooks of Lazarus Long. ~~~Beth Ager
Excerpt You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don't ever count on having both at once.