The Geekly Reader: Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein

Geek Culture


Kip Russell wants to go to the Moon and his rather eccentric Dad thinks that is a great idea. However, since their family does not have the wherewithal to purchase him a ticket, the high-schooler is left to his own devices on how to get there. Kip thinks he has found the answer when he enters a contest, with the grand prize of an all-expenses paid trip to the Moon. However, Kip ends up placing second in the contest and his prize ends up being an old, decommissioned spacesuit.

The resourceful Kip ends up repairing the old suit, which he names Oscar. When he tries out the newly reconditioned Oscar in his backyard, that is where the adventures begin. Kip is kidnapped by an alien he calls Wormface, and ends up being transported to the Moon. There, he is imprisoned with a human girl called Pee Wee, who was captured while visiting the Moon Base with her family, and an alien creature that Pee Wee calls the Mother Thing. It is up to Kip, Pee Wee and the Mother Thing to escape, in order to prevent the Wormfaces from taking over the Earth.

I have been rereading many of my old Sci-Fi favs recently, to see how well they have aged before passing them along to my own children. Have Spacesuit, Will Travel was the first science fiction novel I had ever read, and a large part of the reason I have been reading mostly SF ever since. It was originally printed in 1958, over a decade before humans would actually land on the Moon. Consequently, some of the story is a little dated (soda shops, soap contests, volcanoes on Pluto, etc.) but overall it does quite well. It is the last of Heinlein’s juveniles series of twelve books, published between 1947 and 1958. Some of the other titles in the series include Rocket Ship Galileo, Space Cadet  (reviewed in an earlier post), Red Planet (review coming soon) and Starman Jones.

I would highly recommend this old classic to any kid who loves space adventure stories. This book also keeps the adults entertained, especially if you enjoy reading with your young one, and includes many positive messages. One of the prominent themes in this and other Heinlein stories, is the importance of a well-rounded and deep education. Kip gets himself out of many a scrape due to solving problems with his brain. Another thread (close to my own GeekDad heart) is the importance of knowing how to use tools. And as a bonus, unlike many of the other SF stories of the period, this one actually includes a girl as one of the main characters. My tween-aged daughter appreciates this as well…

Have Spacesuit, Will Travel can be found at many new and used book stores, and can be purchased in paperback from Amazon.

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