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Publisher's Summary

July 12, 1939: Perry Nelson is driving along the palisades when another vehicle swerves into his lane, a tire blows out, and his car careens off the road and over a bluff. The last thing he sees before his head connects with the boulders below is a girl in a green bathing suit, prancing along the shore.

When he wakes, the girl in green is a woman dressed in furs, and the sun-drenched shore has been replaced by snowcapped mountains. The woman, Diana, rescues Perry from the bitter cold and takes him to her home to rest and recuperate. Later they debate the cause of the accident, for Diana is unfamiliar with the concept of a tire blowout and Perry cannot comprehend snowfall in mid-July. Then Diana shares with him a vital piece of information: the date is now January 7, the year 2086.

When his shock subsides, Perry begins an exhaustive study of global evolution over the past 150 years. He learns, among other things, that a United Europe was formed; the military draft was completely reconceived; banks became publicly owned and operated; and in the year 2003, two helicopters destroyed Manhattan in a galvanizing act of war.

But education brings with it inescapable truths—the economic and legal systems, the government, and even the dynamic between men and women remain alien to Perry, the customs of the new day continually testing his mental and emotional resolve. Yet it is precisely his knowledge of a bygone era that will serve Perry best, as the man from 1939 seems destined to lead his newfound peers even further into the future than they could have imagined.

A classic example of the future history that Robert Heinlein popularized during his career, For Us, the Living marks both the beginning and the end of an extraordinary arc comprising the political, social, and literary crusading that is his legacy.

©2004 Robert A. and Virginia Heinlein Trust (P)2010 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“A major contribution to the history of the genre.” ( New York Times Book Review)
“There’s something eerie about this novel…Never mind science fiction; this is prescience fiction.” ( Kansas City Star)
“A neat discovery for Heinlein and utopia fans.” ( Booklist)

What listeners say about For Us, the Living

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  • Randall
  • 07-07-2011

The only Heinlein I didn't enjoy

This is the only of the Heinlein books that I have listened to that I didn't enjoy. About a third of the way through the story, there is a 30 minute diatribe, in which we hear Heinlein's views on the failure of capatalism in the western world. We also get to hear some of his views on morals. I think this added nothing to this book. Then the book gets back to the storyline for a couple hours , but then Heinlein feels the need to further bore us with another 30 - 40 minutes of the exact same stuff. Then at the end of the book we are offered more pap under " authors notes" repeating some of the same junk. I finish every book I start, but when it came to these "authors notes" I turned it off

107 people found this helpful

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  • gobyucougars
  • 25-07-2017

Heinlein fan, but not for an unfinished work.

What would have made For Us, the Living better?

As you can read in the introduction, he simply never finished it. Don't believe me? Then look at how short the final chapters are. The plot is vintage Heinlein, but there were reasons he started it in 1939 and never came back to it. It may be that WWII changed some of his social theories in the plot.

What could Robert A. Heinlein have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

It may be that this was a story that got pulled apart and later used in "A Stranger in a Strange Land" and "Starship Troops" Therefore finishing it later may have been redundant to him.

Have you listened to any of Malcolm Hillgartner’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

n/a

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

It should never have been re;eased without clear indicator that it is a short story.

Any additional comments?

I "Grok." If you don't understand, read more Heinlein

11 people found this helpful

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  • Jeffrey C. Coyne
  • 07-12-2011

Should have stayed in the shoe box

I have been a Heinlein fan for a long time. It is for this reason that I find this work so disappointing. Heinlein was prone to a certain amount of preaching but this book contains little else. I fear the author would have been terribly embarrassed by release of this work. It is clear that the writing was preliminary to several other stories but was not complete in itself. It contains lengthy expositions that are simply wrong and always have been. The work is poorly conceived, having little plot, scant character development and amazingly wrong guesses as to the future. I winced at the descriptions of the futuristic space program. I suppose Heinlein's inclusion of the future use of cigarettes and asbestos is understandable but the entire work seems to contain little besides these archaic bits of guesswork. Of course there are the truly mind numbing lectures on religion, politics, economics, law and sociology. These run for hours as you wait for a story. If you are a fan, skip this one and reread The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress or Stranger In a Strange Land.

15 people found this helpful

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  • K. Lange
  • 31-01-2012

No Story Here.

Is there anything you would change about this book?

An actual plot would be nice. There didn't seem to be a story here, just a sequence of events.

Would you recommend For Us, the Living to your friends? Why or why not?

no.

What about Malcolm Hillgartner’s performance did you like?

o.k.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

no.

Any additional comments?

no.

10 people found this helpful

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  • David Sherman
  • 28-07-2020

Utopia, There is good reason Heinlein didn’t publish this fantasy.

Such a system never works in the real world. Read any of the similar stories written in the 1930s by Socialists.
It is a wonderful idea but it just can’t work.

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  • Paul J. Moore
  • 26-07-2020

excellent financial connections

I like how he connected previous economies with future economies. speaks volumes about our system today

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  • Brian Thompson
  • 30-06-2020

A bit dated

A bit dated but still excellent expose on political and economic thinking and how society can change.
I'd recommend it to anyone interested in stretching their own thoughts about our current social, economic, and political climate.

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  • Larry
  • 03-04-2020

Hienlien is a mastrt story smyth.

This is not one of them.
Find another one. Money not well spent here...

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  • Joe Correia
  • 22-10-2019

Amazing and Timeless!

Robert Hainlein has been one of my inspirational thinkers since my early reading days.
when we keep the perspective and context of when this work was created and we look at today's world, its content is absolutely applicable and, amazingly enough, stil futuristic in many ways.
worth revisiting now and then!!!

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • joe
  • 27-01-2011

A view in the the grand masters mind

This title was written in 1939, but found and released in 2003 after the authors death. It presents an alternative future based on the events that took place just prior to the outbreak of World War 2. In classic Robert Anson Heinlein style, the characters are very detailed and you can identify with them easily; however, this book is a "dialog" of all the events that have taken place since the main characters reentry to the world. In this book, most likely his first work, the plot is nowhere near the caliber he will show in his later works. This is not a good example to see his craftsmanship, but is a wonderful insight to see his transition from former life to the master of a genre.

It is fascinating to read a Utopian description of a world that never came to be. This is not a crystal ball of things that will come, but more a parallel alternative to those events that could have been. The author uses his characters to describe events in long discussions. I can see why many publishers might not have wanted to bring this book out to the public for a new writer; however, for long time fans, this book is fabulous. It gives a look into the mind of our old master of things yet to come. The roots of many of the topics that Heinlein will use in later works to present non-mainstream views are all here, finding these gems in his earliest work is quite a thrill.

I am going to rate this a solid 4 stars, but with explanation, The method used by the author is not very enjoyable to read; the dialogs are LOOOONG and can dwell laboriously in some points. The plot is thin and leaves many unanswered questions. Had it not been for the uniqueness of the ideas, the rich characters, and quite frankly, the fact that we get to see that one of the greatest authors of all time needed to mature some before he was able to produce his masterpieces, makes this book worth your time.

13 people found this helpful

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  • Christopher
  • 09-02-2011

Fascinating and a riveting listen!!

This book appears to be one not published in the author's lifetime but I am very glad to have the opportunity to listen to it, it is thought provoking and fits in with many things in his other novels.

There's no point in repeating the story, in many ways the plot is secondary. A man appears to die yet lands in the future, it it heaven? Perhaps. Its not really explained how, nor does it matter particularly how he got there.

It gives the author the opportunity to express views of politics, economics and relationships. His recurring theme of being able to love more than one person is vivid and comes across naturally in this setting. It is interesting to examine a world from the view of a stranger but one who has sufficient intellect to appreciate it, that there is continuity in it and can contribute to it from his own knowledge and abilities rather than being obsolete.

Although we are a long way from the 2080s it is disturbing how little the present society has advanced in terms of human relationships, general wisdom, etc. We do not seem on course to meet the vision in this book of greater freedom and an environment run more in line with people's needs.

I found most fascinating the description of economic theory based on equivalent production and purchasing power. There are some tremendously long conversations between characters here, probably making it less saleable as a title at time of production but actually much more interesting.

Finally, Heinlein describes women very well. He shows grace, manners and the feelings they create in others and does not need to describe how they look in detail to show their beauty.

Much more to this than just a Sci-fi story, highly recommended. Perhaps an antidote to George Orwell in some regards. Enjoy!

4 people found this helpful

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  • LC
  • 28-10-2020

Story a bit weak, but nice - interesting economic discussion

The story seemed a bit weak and mainly there as a framework in which to discuss various shortfallings of the 1939 approach to values, economics and relation. The ones on values and religion seemed quite basic so nothing new, but the one on economics was more interesting to me - maybe because I am not very familiar with it.

The story did paint a nice picture of life on the US in late 21st century.

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  • Tony Lane
  • 19-02-2018

I enjoyed reading this book very much

it made rethink our economy and how we live our lives. Science Fiction definitely but could we live like that for real

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