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The Menace from Earth by Robert Heinlein

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“The Menace from Earth” is a 1957 science fiction novelette by Robert Heinlein. It is about a 15 year old girl who lives on the Moon and gets jealous when her partner acts as a tour guide for a beautiful Earth woman.

Non-Spoiler Summary In A Nutshell:

The Moon (photo by Luc Viatour)Holly Jones is a teen-aged spaceship engineer. She and her partner, Jeff, are designing a starship which will use a mass-conversion power plant, but until she can do that full time she works as an inside guide for tourists visiting the Moon. When a strikingly beautiful tourist of hers requests to go outside she turns her over to Jeff. Whoops! That proves to be a mistake because Jeff is… well, a man. As Jeff and the Earth woman spend more and more time together Holly becomes increasingly concerned about the future of their partnership – that is until something happens that brings Holly and her closer together.

“Hi, Penalty Weight. Free to take a client?”

“Well, I was supposed to guide a family party, but they’re late.”

“Cancel them. Miss Brentwood . . . step into pickup, please. This is Mr. Hardesty.”

Jeff’s eyes widened and I felt uneasy. But it did not occur to me that Jeff could be attracted by a groundhog . . . even though it is conceded that men are robot slaves of their body chemistry in such matters. I knew she was exceptionally decorative, but it was unthinkable that Jeff could be captivated by any groundhog, no matter how well designed. They don’t speak our language!

My Two Cents:

• The good:

  • Telling this story from the point of view of a girl was a stroke of genius – especially given that it was written in 1957! I found Holly to be an extremely interesting character, and totally enjoyed her story.
  • Bats’ Cave. This is one of those settings in science fiction that make you ache to really experience it! Ah… I guess I’ll just have to dream about it.
  • I quite liked that “The Menace from Earth” was set on the Moon. I have read a lot of similar stories that were set on Mars, but I enjoyed having the Moon take center stage in this one.

• The bad:

  • Hmm… not that this is a bad point, but I often wonder how well male authors do when portraying female characters – especially strong lead characters. Perhaps some of the women will roll their eyes when reading this story, but I am not sure. I would love to hear any comments about this!

Fact Sheet:
• Page Count: 15
• Word Count: 9,630

Where you can find “The Menace from Earth”:

  • This novelette first appeared in the October 1957 issue of New Worlds.
  • “The Menace from Earth” is included in the excellent story collection The World Turned Upside Down .
  • You can read a free online version of this story at the preview for The World Turned Upside Down.

Some Interesting Links:

  • If you are interested in learning more about Robert Heinlein be sure to check out this page of frequently asked questions about the famous science fiction author.
  • Special thanks to Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings for pointing out this story to me!

Craving More Stories?
If you enjoyed this story then you might also like A Rose for Ecclesiastes, about a gifted linguist who is the first human allowed to read sacred Martian texts, by Roger Zelazny.

3 thoughts to “The Menace from Earth by Robert Heinlein”

  1. This is such a fantastic story. I am so glad that you found it to be so as well. Interesting point about how female readers would view it. I saw the protagonist in a strong light, but irregardless of any open mindedness I am still looking at it from a male perspective! Ha! Reading it certainly made me want to check out more of Heinlein’s short stories and juvenile fiction.

  2. Thanks Carl!

    It really was a fantastic story – probably my favorite Heinlein one so far. And while I agree that the protagonist was a very strong female character, I would still like to hear what female readers thought of her.

    Yeah, it is stuff like this that makes me want to read more Heinlein stories – any other suggestions?

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