I have read a lot of internet debates about whether it's absolutely essential to read Heinlein if you're into SF at all, or whether Heinlein is old-fashioned if not actually regressive and totally skippable. And clearly this is minor Heinlein, it's hardly one of the classics that everybody goes on about. I can imagine loving it if I grew up in the 50s when almost all children's books were fantasy or mimetic with relatively little SF; it's basically a standard boys' adventure story only set in the near future when humans have colonized the solar system. I liked the military bits, and the biologically implausible but endearing "dragons" native to Venus.
I kind of disliked the heavy-handed analogy between Venus' declaration of independence from Earth and the US War of Independence, but mainly because it was heavy-handed. And there's some language choices that are really jarring to a modern reader, but I think that's just because language has changed rather than because Heinlein was intending to be randomly racist against Native Americans.
I could see elements of the stuff that people argue about regarding Heinlein, the treatment of the only female character particularly, she's clearly challenging what would might have been stereotypes of young women at the time, but also she marries the hero for no reason and there's random annoying comments about how "girls" are more alien than aliens. The characterization of Don is absolutely typical of all the boys' adventure stories of the mid-twentieth century, a bit clueless while physically brave. I've never met a real human who acts like the hero of boys' stories, but having that type makes a certain kind of adventure tale possible in a way that a more plausible protagonist wouldn't.
Currently reading: In theory, The Dervish House by Ian McDonald, in reality I just haven't touched it in two months. I don't know why, I don't have anything negative to say about the book, it just somehow doesn't have momentum.
Up next: I'm somewhat tempted by Chocolat by Joanne Harris, another present from ghoti.
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