The Menace from Earth
Robert A. Heinlein
Menace from Earth” was first published in
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, August 1957
It is part of Heinlein’s Future History, a fictional future in
which many of Heinlein’s stories were set. It’s a comparatively
late entry in the Future History; aside from Time
Enough for Love,
most of the Future History stories were written from 1939–1941 and
from 1945–1950. The story is set on the Moon,
before a rather implausible-sounding religious dictatorship takes
power in the United States and space travel ends for several decades.
wild imaginations SF writers have!
all the authors name-checked in the post that inspired this project,
the one I figured would be least appealing to younger readers would
be Robert A. Heinlein. He’s one of the grand old men
of the field: winner of multiple Hugos, architect of the Future
History, over-user of the word “spung.” He may have been
a giant in his day,
long long ago, but
has not been kind to his books
In fact, for a long time I intended to skip him entirely or offer my
readers that least Heinlein-like of Heinlein stories, “The Man Who
Travelled in Elephants.” In the end I was convinced that perhaps
“The Menace from Earth” might not have aged quite badly enough to
irritate modern sensibilities. I am skeptical... but skipping
Heinlein feels like cheating.
upside of such low expectations is that my readers’ actual
reactions, no matter how negative, will be more enthusiastic than I
you would like to read this story, your best bet
to look for a copy of
Past Through Tomorrow,
contains most of the important works in Heinlein’s Future History.
Certainly most of
the readable works.
not sure what I expected of "The Menace From Earth". I expected
something pulpy and maybe preachy and talking
about how the most terrifying creature in the universe is actually
the human. What I didn't expect is what I got—young adult romance
on the moon.
been listening to a lot of young adult audiobooks recently. If I
hadn't been, I wouldn't have identified this story for what it was,
probably. I do enjoy young adult novels. I often am embarrassed about
enjoying them, though.
how did this story stack up? Good. It shows that women are capable of
balancing their career ambitions with their romantic relationships,
and that there is often a conflict between the two... especially for
women. So that's pretty cool.
narration was kind of annoying (but I feel like this is a hallmark of
the young adult genre, especially in first person stories) but it was
nice to get to know the main characters. The world was fun and easy
to imagine, and the flying sounds like something I'd like to try
sometime (as long as I could safely avoid death). I am interested to
know what other sorts of things Heinlein wrote about.
In high school I read a lot of Heinlein. I started
with Starship Troopers because of the film and because of the TV show
Roughnecks. I had never read this particular story, though I can
place it fairly early into a continuum of increasing weirdness. No
time travel, pretty mundane romantic plot, this must be early on.
The nationalism/racism/whatever-you-call-it that
Holly exhibits toward Earthborn annoyed me. I'm trying to figure out
if that is because I identify as Earthborn or because
pretend-prejudice is still prejudice and I don't find it funny any
The amount of time spent explaining why they can't
map 3D spaces is especially funny as I type this out on a device with
3D maps of almost every building I'm likely to be lost in.
This story was nothing to write home about, but
its notable among these reviews as passing the Bechdel test at least.
Another in the “x
genre disguised as y genre” – in this case, romance disguised as
sci-fi. I expect the title was meant to mislead the reader into
thinking the “menace” would be an alien when it’s just
old-fashioned romantic jealousy.
In some ways, this
story almost feels modern. It’s an alternate universe with teenage
protagonist YA with SF elements, which is very similar to popular
books like Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner, etc.
Holly thinks about
being a “career woman” versus having romance in her life, which
seems a bit dated. On the other hand, women in today’s working
world incur a career penalty from having children. So that’s pretty
The narrator has a
well-written voice. So far in the stories that we’ve read, SF
writers like to write either in a curiously unemotional 3rd-person,
or a confused can’t-understand-anything-that’s-going-on
1st-person. I appreciate reading a story narrated from the
point of view of someone speaking to a neighbour or visitor with a
familiar, every day tone.
The one thing that
was curiously old-fashioned was Holly assuming that hay fever isn’t
common knowledge. Only the nerdiest of nerds had allergies back in
the day, I guess. Now it’s unusual in a world of antibiotics and
anti-bacterials to come across someone without an allergy of some
The beginning of the
story is a little peculiar because interstellar travel seems to be
coming soon, but there aren’t digital maps, but maybe it’s just
not a priority.
I liked the description of the flying chamber: it was very much like
alpine skiing. The tourist rental equipment is rudimentary whereas
only real fliers/skiers own their own equipment.
Overall, this story
was enjoyable enough to make me curious about other Robert Heinlein
read this story well ahead of the review deadline, and was hoping I’d
to come up with a more nuanced view than just inarticulate rage.
Apparently that’s not happening.
am extremely frustrated by the entire concept of this story. The idea
that everyone but Holly gets to decide that she’s in love with
Jeff, and that she’s going to have to marry him either way to
progress professionally is enraging.
have no idea if Holly is supposed to be actually in love with Jeff,
and I have no idea if it’s realistic that she could be and not
realize it. I do know how it feels to have everyone around you tell
you that you must be in love with someone, or that you can’t
possibly work with someone of a different gender without attraction
being involved. I got progressively angrier throughout the story, as
person after person decided that they knew how Holly felt more than
she did. It might have managed to redeem itself if Holly hadn’t
decided to capitulate to society’s expectations of her, but instead
the takeaway is that of course she should marry Jeff to make him
happy. *explodes in rage*
were glimpses of where the story could have been better. But it was
all so overshadowed by the awful romance plot that I can’t give it
credit. This entire story is focused entirely on making sure Holly
realizes she needs to give into Jeff’s feelings to the point where
she is giving up her own identity in the company name so that she can
have her dream of designing spaceships. This is so many levels of not
ok, I don’t care if the rest of the story had promise.