Podkayne of Mars

Seems like there should be some Veronica Mars joke in there somewhere that would make for a good title for this entry. But oh well.

This is going to be rather spoily, but I’m not going to cut, because I bet most people won’t care. If you do, you’re warned, stop reading.

Going a bit library-happy and because Heinlein got mentioned at the most interesting (and annoying) panel at Albacon (more Albacon reporting to come, really), I picked up some Heinlein on the last library trip. After I’d also picked up Starship Troopers at the con because it was cheap and the movie seemed to have had potential it mostly wasted.

Anyway, Podkayne of Mars was a particular title I was looking for. It tends to get mentioned because it has a female protagonist and oh-my-gosh-that’s-so-unique. I scanned the titles of all the books on the shelf looking for it and for interesting titles and completely missed it first time around. I only happened to look more closely on a second pass and saw the spine said Heinlein, but no title. The title was there, but nearly completely illegible. Certainly not with the lighting and at the height it was (over my head). The title on the cover was just as bad. Dark, dark grey on black? What’s up with that? First rule of book cover design, MAKE THE TITLE AND AUTHOR LEGIBLE. Maybe time and light had done something to the original colors, but.. not that much, I wouldn’t think.

Turns out I’m pretty certain I’ve read this one before. It certainly hadn’t made any large impression on me, but it seemed vaguely familiar in parts, so I marked it as (R) in my read list. In junior high-ish, I read all sorts of random and ‘classic’ science fiction, mostly stuff you’d find in the library, so it seems quite likely I ran across this one before. (Saved my book-buying for Star Trek books. Mostly.)

I started reading Podkayne with the mindset of looking for every little sexist detail to object to. Well, what other reason to read it? Turns out I needn’t have bothered. As you read further and further into it, it gets more and more sexist. Podkayne wants to be a space ship pilot, which is oh-my-gosh-so—something. It’s not a typical job for a chick, but apparently she’s allowed to do it if she wants. So progressive.

Her mother is an engineer or something and smart and can fire a gun nearly as well as her father can! Go Podkayne’s Mom. :P

There’s a point where you can say, okay it’s just the society she’s living in is a bit sexist. And you can say, okay, so this was written like 50 years ago, so it’s the society Heinlein was living in and he’s just extrapolating. There’s a point where you can say this, but then by the end, you’re not willing to cut him that much slack.

Podkayne wants to be a pilot, but she also is blonde, blue-eyed, with a cute nose she can wrinkle at men to get what she wants. She flirts with guys throughout the book, to learn more about spaceships, or just to alleviate boredom or something. She really loves taking care of babies and apart from one time when she forces her brother to, it’s only girls doing that. Random girls, rather than the mothers, which is the moral of the story, apparently.

She knows how to cook and sew and oh-my-gosh math and science! So weird!

The story is told as diary entries. And, immediately, we’re shown that her ickle brother is smarter than her. Because he’s read her diary (which she’s gone to some measure to encrypt) and has inserted secret entries of his own. Later on, he shows how much smarter he is than her, like constantly, and eventually takes charge to save their lives. Want to strangle the snot-nosed brat. Want to strangle her for being an idiot when she’s supposed to not be.

Then the moral of the story is her mother didn’t take care of her and her psychotic little brother enough, because she was off having a career.

Really, you could almost enjoy the story until the last chapter. After that, you just want to strangle everyone. Starting with Heinlein.

Oh, and she’s part Maori, which she sees as her savage side. But that’s a whole other kettle of fish.

Conclusion: Heinlein was a sexist (and racist) jerk with weird morals he wanted to share with everyone.

1 Comment

  1. jun Said,

    October 19, 2006 @ 10:38 pm

    Hee. I haven’t read much Heinlein, but I too thought Starship Troopers seemed kind of cool. I’ve had it on the list of unabridged audio to check out for a while.

    What I have read consists of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, which is probably a bit sexist, and Have Spacesuit – Will Travel, which I didn’t notice was sexist at all, just a little predictable and boring.

    I /do/ have one by him that’s about a sexay cyborg chick.

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