“I have this one nasty habit. Makes me hard to live with. I write,” says Dr. Richard Ames in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. Ames acts as the author’s avatar as he moves through his own universe – meeting, screwing and killing other characters in Heinlein’s pantheon. Like Heinlein, Ames has a military background, skilled in both conversation and combat, and behaves like a well groomed southern gentleman.
The book is pure pulp, however, filled with campy inuendo and banter (a book full of James Bond one-liners). There are two types of characters – those Ames sleeps with and those he kills. Heinlein’s vision of the future is very right-wing. The motto of the moon is “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” When Ames crash lands on the barren lunar surface, he litterally has to sell his ship for scrap to get rescued. Even air must be “rented” using credit vouchers.
Heinlein’s one skill is juxtaposing heroic characters with a cold, harsh universe. Unlike many other sci-fi writers – who see humans as a sorry lot, Heinlein sees man as corageous and resourceful. From Time Enough for Love:
A human being should be able to
change a diaper,
plan an invasion,
butcher a hog,
design a building,
write a sonnet,
set a bone,
comfort the dying,
program a computer,
cook a tasty meal,
Specialization is for insects.
Ames displays many of the above skills in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, but the heoric stuff is often overshadowed by double entendre-drenched dialogue.
“…writing is a legal way of avoiding work without actually stealing and one that doesn’t take any talent or training. But writing is antisocial. It’s as solitary as masterbation. Disturb a writer when he is in the throes of cration and he is likely to turn and bite right to the bone…and not even know that he’s doing it.”
Not a suprise (given the carnal content), he likens writing to beating it. And one wonders if the editor locked up his red pens to avoid teeth marks.
“Writers go on writing long after it becomes financially unnecessary…because it hurts less to write than it does not to write.”
In his later years, this was probably the most autobiographical line of the book. He continued to tell stories with his favorite characters, in books that were more a pulpy mashup then a coherent piece of art.
There’s are some dated parts to Heinlein’s sci-fi, but much of it is still very relevant. The majority of the charactes here (Lazarus Long, Jubal Hershaw), are introduced in other books (Time Enough for Love, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress), so I’d recommend those books before this one.