The Rolling Stones (novel)
First edition cover
|Author||Robert A. Heinlein|
|Cover artist||Clifford Geary|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Publisher||Charles Scribner's Sons|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|Preceded by||Between Planets|
|Followed by||Starman Jones|
A condensed version of the novel had been published earlier in Boys' Life (September, October, November, December 1952) under the title "Tramp Space Ship". It was published in hardcover that year by Scribner's as part of the Heinlein juveniles.
The twin teenage boys, Castor and Pollux, buy used bicycles to sell on Mars, their first stop, where they run afoul of import regulations and are freed by their grandmother Hazel Stone. While on Mars, the twins buy their brother Buster a native Martian creature called a flat cat, born pregnant and producing a soothing vibration, as a pet.
In the asteroid belt, where the equivalent of a gold rush is in progress prospecting for radioactive ores, the twins obtain supplies and luxury goods, on the principle that it is mostly shopkeepers, not miners, who get rich during gold rushes. En route, the flat cat and its offspring overpopulate the ship so the family places them in hibernation and later sells them to the miners. Subsequently, the family sets out to see the rings of Saturn.
Heinlein later credited the 1905 Ellis Parker Butler short story "Pigs Is Pigs" with informing the flat cat incident. A similar concept and plotline appeared in the Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles". According to screenwriter David Gerrold, the show's producers noticed similarities in the two stories and asked Heinlein for permission to use the idea. Heinlein asked for an autographed copy of the script, but otherwise did not object, noting that both stories owed something to the Butler story "and possibly to Noah".
Connections to other Heinlein works
The book makes several references to Hazel Stone as an influential figure in founding the Lunar colony. Fourteen years later, Heinlein published The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, which tells the story of the Lunar revolution, including a small but vital role that Hazel Stone played as a child (specifics of this role are nowhere evident in The Rolling Stones; she is portrayed here simply as a "founding colonist"). Hazel, Castor, and Pollux reappear in The Number of the Beast and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. Hazel, alone, appears in To Sail Beyond the Sunset.
Dr. Lowell Stone ("Buster") is quoted in interstitial material in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls and referenced as Chief Surgeon at Ceres General. In that same book, Hazel states that Roger and Edith are now living in the extrasolar colony known as Fiddler's Green (itself first named in Friday).
Groff Conklin described the novel as "a thoroughly delightful job". Boucher and McComas praised it as "easily the most plausible, carefully detailed picture of an interplanetary future we will encounter in any year". P. Schuyler Miller cited the novel's "freshness and simplicity," characterizing it as "a life-size portrait-gallery of real people living in a real world of the future, every detail of which fits into place with top-tolerance precision".
Surveying Heinlein's juvenile novels, Jack Williamson characterized Heinlein's story as "a dream of personal freedom" written with "an enviable craftsmanship", noted that the novel "carries its thematic burden tightly", unlike Heinlein's later adult novels, and praised The Rolling Stones for its "sense of an accurately extrapolated future background, with all of the new technologies given an air of commonplace reality".
- Essay by Gregory Benford, 2011
- Houdek, D. A. (2007). "Frequently asked questions about Robert Heinlein and his work". The Heinlein Society. Retrieved 2009-06-27.
- Gerrold, David. "The Trouble With Tribbles: the birth, sale and final production of one episode" (PDF). benbellabooks.com. Retrieved 27 November 2006.
- "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf", Galaxy Science Fiction, April 1953, p.115
- "Recommended Reading," F&SF, February 1953, p.74
- "The Reference Library", Astounding Science Fiction, May 1953, p.148
- Jack Williamson, "Youth Against Space," Algol 17, 1977, p.12.