Read Assignment in Eternity by Robert A. Heinlein Online


Compelling science fiction adventure from New York Times bestseller Robert A. Heinlein: two classic novellas and two short stories with speculation on what makes us human."Gulf": in which the greatest superspy of them all is revealed as the leader of a league of supermen and women who can't decide on quite what to do with the rest of us. The prequel to Heinlein's later NewCompelling science fiction adventure from New York Times bestseller Robert A. Heinlein: two classic novellas and two short stories with speculation on what makes us human."Gulf": in which the greatest superspy of them all is revealed as the leader of a league of supermen and women who can't decide on quite what to do with the rest of us. The prequel to Heinlein's later New York Times best seller, Friday."Lost Legacy": in which it is proved that we are all members of that league of the superhuman–or would be, if we but had eyes to see.Plus two great short stories: Two of the master's finest: one on the nature of being, the other on what it means to be a Man. The second story, "Jerry Was a Man," was adapted for the TV series Masters of Science Fiction, and is now available on DVD....

Title : Assignment in Eternity
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780451039682
Format Type : Mass Market Paperback
Number of Pages : 192 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Assignment in Eternity Reviews

  • Lyn
    2019-02-13 18:19

    Four of Heinlein’s stories from the 1940s were collected into this surprisingly good anthology and published together in 1953.I say surprisingly, not because I expect anything less from Heinlein, or that I think his earlier work is substandard (far from it) or that collections are an inferior vehicle (again - far from it, I am after all a fan of Bradbury, le Guin and Poul Anderson). I am very pleasantly surprised because these stories are tied together under a theme of humans reaching for superhuman advancements and a gestalt connection amongst extraordinary individuals.Gulf is a short work first published in Astounding SF in late 1949 and sets the tone for the collection with a super spy who comes to realize he really is super. Reminiscent of several Poul Anderson stories.“Elsewhen” is a weird little sketch, contextually fittingly placed here, about extra dimensional and time travel. Again, interestingly similar to Anderson’s work.My personal favorite of the bunch, and one that jumped immediately high on my list of favorite Heinlein stories (by definition high in the running for favorite overall) is Lost Legacy. This gem was first published in 1941, of his earliest stories, and is a Shangri-La also ran with some fun twists.Rounding off the good times is the most entertaining of the entries, Jerry Is a Man. Funny as hell and highlighting that this GM had a very well developed sense of humor. Heinlein explores what it means to be human in a very tongue in cheek SF legal short.For RAH fans and for anyone who enjoys classic SF.

  • Sineala
    2019-01-30 22:19

    The problem with Heinlein is that he's so readable. Ordinarily the ability to write compelling prose -- which is not actually a given, especially in hard SF -- would be good, but in RAH's case this often results in me being taken on journeys I really, really did not want to go on, and yet I find myself unable to stop. (See: anything involving incest, relationships with your underage future girlfriend, the entirety of Friday, and really I could keep going. And yet I am still trying to read most of his works.)This is a collection of four of his early short stories -- Gulf, Elsewhen, Lost Legacy, and Jerry Was a Man -- and really the only horrifying thing (other than the gender roles, which, okay, mostly aren't his fault, come on, it was the 30s or 40s) was the bit where I was expected to root for the supermen with superpowers and think they should automatically get to run the lives of us lesser mortals. Actually, no, I would like more evidence, please. But "Gulf" was a good spy story when it was being a spy story -- though not so much when it was rhapsodizing about the supermen. Or the pasted-on love story. Or whatever the hell Sapir-Whorfian regurgitated... stuff... that was in there about language. Heinlein's linguistics, man, I do not like it and he never got it right. Though, to be fair, all the soft sciences get hated on, as the middle of "Lost Legacy" has a really bizarre digression about how, in order for the SF-y stuff in the story to work, all of anthropology is clearly wrong. The characters, of course, agree. Well, okay, then. Sheesh.My favorite story was "Jerry Was a Man," which I actually hadn't heard of before reading this book; I think it was the most compelling and least pulpy of the four. Also I totally want my own genetically-engineered pegasus, and I understand that this means I have completely missed the point.

  • Manny
    2019-02-13 20:11

    I have a confession to make: when I read this story at age 12 or so, I found the ending very moving. I haven't read it since then, so I can't say I've had a chance to revise my opinion. Maybe I'll just leave it that way. In case you haven't come across Assigment, here's what I can recall of it.So, it's one of those stories where the hero discovers that he's got superhuman powers. They aren't really extraordinary as these things go, but, none the less, he finds he's one of a select group of people who can think far more quickly than normal folks, have far greater intelligence, and, at least on a good day, also possess the ability to communicate telepathically. They do the usual superhero thing of watching out for us less evolved types. The hero meets a super-chick that he develops feelings for.Then there's this evil old multi-zillionaire lady who lives in a mansion somewhere on the Moon, and is planning to do something bad. I can't remember what it is. Destroy the human race with a swarm of radioactive killer bees, or whatever. The supermen infiltrate our hero and his not-quite-girlfriend into the evil old lady's lair, and they await their chance. The girl, who I think is posing as the old lady's maid, has to find out what the combination is to disarm the McGuffin. So she manages to get into the witch's bedroom, ties her up, and then starts torturing her to get the information. She neutralizes the doomsday device and saves the world. Meanwhile, the guy is elsewhere. I think he might be holding off the guards or something.But, oh dear, there is some kind of failsafe which is going to trigger an explosive charge that will blow up the old lady's moon-base, and the super-chick needs to find out how to switch that off too. Unfortunately, she's a little too enthusiastic with the waterboarding, and accidentally kills the prisoner. She's now got seconds to live. Which, it turns out, is just enough time to get into telepathic contact with the the hero, whom of course she loved all along, and read through the marriage ceremony. Thus, when the bomb goes off, they die as man and wife. Her last words, I remember clearly, are "I am very happy. I -" and then they're blown to bits. Damn! I still find it moving. What's wrong with me? I suppose I could almost certainly fix it by re-reading the story with adult eyes, but isn't that cheating?_____________________________________I was thinking about this on and off during the weekend, and I believe I can now be more precise about my intuitive objections to the story. In the final scene, Gail, the super-chick, has just tortured an old lady to death. For the best of reasons, I know, but none the less. It seems wrong to me that she should, literally a second later, be feeling so wildly romantic that she wants to get married. As I said, I loved the ending when I was 12. Now, I think I'd prefer something like the following:Gail: Oh shit. Joe, I wish we'd had more time.Joe: I do too. I can't tell you how much I wish that.Gail: Well, we saved the world. That's always something.Joe: Gail, I -And then they're blown to bits again. Maybe this just shows I'm not as highly evolved as Joe and Gail. I guess I should read more Nietzsche.

  • Carl V.
    2019-01-28 23:23

    Assignment in Eternity is a collection of four of Heinlein’s early published works. Two of the stories are advertised as “short novels”, or what might be more accurately called in current word count designations as novellas, and two shorter works. All four of these were first published in magazine format in the 1940’s, though two were actually written in 1939.I first became a fan of Robert A. Heinlein over a decade ago when I read his novel Friday. I went on to read Time Enough for Love and then came a long Heinlein drought, ended because of friends reading and discussing his juveniles–a designation for books published by Scribner’s between 1947 and 1958 that would now be classified as ‘young adult’.There was something special in both Friday and Time Enough for Love that made it obvious to me while reading them why Heinlein had maintained popularity, but the novels, like others of his later work, are filled with embarrassingly juvenile (here used negatively), taboo-crushing sexual content and diatribes about his beliefs at the time. His juvenile work is wonderful, as are some of the novels published just after the Scribner’s period.The collection The Green Hills of Earth proved Heinlein’s skill at crafting stories in the short format, so I was very curious when I put this on my Christmas wishlist to venture into some of Heinlein’s early work.That curiosity resulted in four rewarding journeys into the early imagination of the Dean of Science Fiction, Robert A. Heinlein.For a non-spoiler overview of the stories, please follow the link below:

  • Michael
    2019-01-21 19:14

    Some of my favorite reading back in the day was "golden age" science fiction that I had found a stash of in the thrift store of the tiny town I grew up in. Much of that gold was from the pen of Heinlein, and reading this was like going home for summer vacation. The themes are familiar and I have always admired the way he could write bantering dialogue of the sort good friends use. This book contains four of his best stories because of--not in spite of--its abrupt ending. I'd also like to see the story "Jerry was a man" rewritten as a Boston Legal script someday (although, I don't know how they would work in the Martian!) In retrospect, some of the stories of this era and thier predictions about the advent of telekenesis, clairvoyance, etc. like in the stories Lost Legacy and Elsewhen (another favorite author of mine, Philip K. Dick writes along these themes,too) can seem a little dated, but the human hope in these stories is as inspiring now as it was then. This was worth the second read.

  • Sylvester Kuo
    2019-01-26 21:27

    Gulf was my favourite of these 4 stories. It's a science fiction/spy thriller centred around the idea that some homo sapiens have evolved to become "homo nova", capable of superhuman intellect, speaking in an advanced language and can memorise almost anything. The group's task is to protect the world while trying to expand their secret society. It has a really tragic ending but it was great fun to read.Elsewhen was my least favourite of them all, it's about a group of student who travelled to different dimensions following their professor's hypnoticism. Each one had a different outcome and some of them ended up being connected to each other. It's soft science fiction with rather bland characters and a predictable storyline.Lost Legacy was similar to Gulf, but it focused on ESP which everyone could learn. The secret society the protagonists are involved in want to share this knowledge to everyone, though there's a conspiracy to stop normal people from learning about this secret power. It felt a bit like a mixture of Marquis de Sade with Ayn Rand, minus the sadism and realism. The important underlying message was that truth isn't always easy to be understood and censorship holds humanity back.Jerry was a Man was not a bad read, it actually was the most philosophical of the 4 stories. The question the story raised was civil rights for being capable of rational thoughts, half of the story was about the trial for a genetically modified chimpanzee to prove it is a rational animal.

  • An Odd1
    2019-01-26 22:14

    "Important for their philosophical content rather than science speculation -- for values of 'philosophical' that involved speculative metaphysics and speculative anthropology. Elsewhen was in fact one of his earliest stories -- Opus 5 -- and Elsewhen -- Opus 10 -- was written even before 1939 was out" p 2. "These early stories collected together [for 1953] .. marked the intellectual pathway Heinlein was to follow" p 4 (from Intro by William H. Patterson Jr). 1 Gulf Nov-Dec 1949 Astounding - Joe Greene, disguised as Captain Gilead, steals doomsday weapon plans, fights, escapes. Enemy Mrs Keithley captures him, innocent waitress, and drawling Kettle-Belly Baldwin who engineers escape. Gail teaches him 'New Men' genius speedtalk, even telepathy. But Keithley builds nova planet killer, must be stopped. 2 Elsewhen Sep 1941 Astounding as Elsewhere written 19393 Lost Legacy as Lost Legion under Lyle Monroe in Nov 1941 Super Science Stories4 Jerry Was a Man as Jerry Is a Man in Oct 1947 Thrilling Wonder Stories(credits from Afterword by David Drake p 331-336) 4*, 1*, 2* First starts with thrills, second with laugh, both degenerates to warned metaphysical babble (Intro by William H. Patterson) that overpowers in 1* third. #4 has silly characters grow gumption amid overall con. Hodge-podge pastiche of memorable highs and forgettable lows may inspire decent later works. 1 Gulf starts thrilling. Government secret agent Joe Greene changes disguises, fights, flees. As Captain Gilead, he stole doomsday weapons plans from moon. Thugs from well-respected socialite Mrs Keithley catch him, torture innocent waitress (view spoiler)[ to death (hide spoiler)]. Fellow prisoner Kettle-Belly Baldwin deals card deck in coded messages, helps break wall to escape by his rented helicopters. Slows to moralizing philosphizing, learn fast speech, reading, even telepathy with 'supermen'. Ends sad with token mate (could be a dog for all the character). 2 Elsewhen starts with silly klutz cop Sgt Izowski babbling to Chief about Prof Arthur Frost, vanished when taken in for questioning about disappearance of five students after his study group. Prof lectures ad nauseum. Under hypnotic command to return in two hours, all but skeptical Howard Jenkins (confusingly referred to by either name), only there for pretty Estelle, vanish. Lots of tense cigarette smoking. After boring blah-blah, each narrates adventure at remove past tense, instead of reader experiencing first-hand present. Best part could have been story itself, when Bob wakes in humanoid whose race is under attack, reminiscent of Anthony's Cluster transfer and Christopher's White Mountains invaders. Everyone has identifying qualities - slow plod Izowski, metaphysical Prof, Christian Martha, brave loyal Bob, daring clever Helen, pretty passive Estelle, single-woman Howard. End wraps up in happy-ever-after couples, doting dreamer Prof who started it all. (view spoiler)[ "Martha Ross -- she can explain everything in terms of Bible-belt fundamentalism" p 122 returns as angel to reassure all safe. Helen Fisher wandered weeks in dangerous, strange dimensions, backwards time, saw and removed own swollen appendix, wounded by Neanderthal. Robert Monroe "short and slender before, but was now barely five feet tall, and stocky, with powerful shoulder muscles" p 131. Become gnome-like Igor, former orphan now fights with sister. Unseen alien invaders in "great flying rings" p 134 drove men underground. Helen dresses his wound with tea and volunteers to take slide-rules and helpful texts to improve technology and arms of beleaguered; last time Bob arrived naked. Prof finds Estelle safe, as pampered priestess in warm rich land, she forgot and refuses previous dream life. Prof takes Howard, now warrior remembering childhood beloved Helen. Both marry and stay. Prof takes his blaster gun to help Bob and Helen win war, but returns to retire in peace with Helen and Howard.(hide spoiler)]3 Lost Legacy Dull. Present-day same-old elder teaches mind power to students is somehow related to Ambrose Bierce, myth, fall of gods and Atlantis. Prof Dr Phillip Huxley teaches card-reading, mind-reading, telepathy tricks to student Joan and medical physician Dr Ben Coburn (again, confusingly called by both names, and title), but Western University President Brinckley refuses funding for parapsychology research. Phil's "recurring dream that I was climbing, climbing, up to some high place" p 207 gets them rescued by Ambrose Pierce, who vanished in 1913. Ben's broken legs heal overnight. They learn more mind powers from peaceful "community", but all have bad dreams, where big god Odin, Jove, or "Ahuramazda" p 223, whatever the pantheon allows man to rebel for "Twilight of the Gods .. destruction of Mu and Atlantis" 4 Jerry Was a Man Rich Martha Van Vogel indulges husband 'Brownie' Bronson's yen for genetically created Pegasus, until he tries to send Jerry, ape slave she rescued, back to factory she partly owns for normal scheduled euthenasia with all lab-designed stock past working capability. After seeing Jerry dressed in kilt, singing Scottish ballad, shyster McCoy trains ape in responses to gain freedom for him and his fellows, calls powerful snob Martian gene master manipulator as witness. Within silliness, oft-used courtroom climax, seems to be a lesson in definition of humanity. Typop 324 "The McCoy had insisted" is "Then McCoy .."

  • Andreas
    2019-02-18 17:14

    Some of these stories have aged better than others. Some of them are kind of cheesy, but no more than a modern Doctor Who episode. If you’re starting with Heinlein start somewhere else.

  • Darin Ramsey
    2019-02-03 20:01

    I borrowed this from the library because I'm writing a story that follows the basic Heileinian pattern (if it wasn't a word, well it is now). It's not far off from the classic Campbell story, but RAH has a lot of flavors of his own to add, including long, meandering discussions of political and/or personal belief systems. What better way to make the best plot possible than to read all the Heinlein I haven't yet burned through? Besides, this book of four novellas included Gulf, which he wrote as part of the famous "Time Travel" issue of... some SF magazine. Anyway.This collection is somewhat uneven. The four stories all deal somehow with the infinite possibilities of the human mind and spirit -- as RAH saw them, which was pretty infinite. For the most part, these stories are thought experiments; a reason to take an idea and explore all the implications of it, through mostly cookie-cutter characters, with just enough plot to support the idea. Gulf is easily the strongest story, although Lost Legacy was a really fun read, as well. Jerry Was a Man was one I'd heard of before and was disappointed in. The last story, Elsewhen, was the purest "thought experiment" of the set, and came the closest to fantasy.These were all written when Heinlein had high hopes for hypnotism in unlocking the potential of the mind (hypnosis is the key that starts things in two of the stories). If you're not already a fan of "Golden Age" stories, with their optimism, idealism, and quaint anachronisms (ubiquitous smoking being the widest example), these might be harder to take. For Heinlein fans, it's worth the time.

  • Derek
    2019-02-08 20:20

    This book has 4 short stories of Heinlein's from 1941 to 1949. The first story, Gulf, has a protagonist who seems very similar to the protagonist from Puppet Masters, a super-competent man-of-action. It deals with his interaction with a group of people that are even more super-competent than he is. However the ending is abrupt and seems like a throw-away, it left me very unsatisfied. It's easy to think that characters like this are just rip-off from James Bond, but then when you work it out this story (as was Puppet Masters) published several years before Ian Fleming's first book, Casino Royale.The 2nd story, Elsewhen, is about a professor and his students that discover a means to travel to alternate universes. I thought this was a pretty interesting and well-done story.The 3rd is called Lost Legacy, and I feel is the best story in the book. It's about three academics that in doing research on paranormal psychology discover that paranormal abilities such as telepathy, ESP, etc. are skills that almost anyone can learn with the right training.The final story, Jerry Was a Man, deals with a society where humans have genetically manipulated apes into semi-intelligent servants for mankind. I thought the story and characterization was a little weak.Overall I would recommend this book if you're a fan of Heinlein and looking to read some stories of his that don't really fit in anywhere else. Otherwise I probably wouldn't recommend it.

  • sologdin
    2019-01-29 21:14

    Collection of shorts & novellas. The novellas relate to secret ubermensch society; the two shorts are apparent one-offs, involving respectively interdimensional travel and bioengineering. None of the stories have much intrigue, and the novellas lack schwerpunkt. The first novella is a spy narrative, wherein a master infiltrator is inducted into the secret society in order to stop some rich greasers from blowing up the earth with the ultimate weapon. The second novella involves some academics who are inducted into the society by Ambrose Bierce and are used to democratize prana-bindu techniques; they are resisted by rich greasers, who are led by a "creature" in a "wheelchair" that controls unions, commerce, and religious fundamentalists (166); not sure if that's supposed to be FDR or what. Secret society apparently is the scion of Atlantis (134), and the ancient empire was ruled by persons with pagan deity names. Heinlein fans probably will find something redeeming here.

  • Megan Baxter
    2019-02-22 00:19

    Enjoyable, but nothing special as far as Heinlein goes. The first novella bears striking similarities to Friday - not necessarily the overall thrust of the story, but many of the trappings (secret agent is followed, captured, freed, taken to a farm where s/he learns to embrace his/her full potential.) The second novella I liked more - it had an odd touch of mysticism, for Heinlein, although many other of his common themes. And the two short stories that comprise the rest of the book were enjoyable to read, but probably won't linger in my memory. I'd say read it if you love Heinlein. It's not disappointing, by any means. It's just that many of the same points he has made, and made better, in other books.

  • Mikael Cerbing
    2019-02-15 19:19

    Heinlein, as usuall, make quick entertaining stories where he explores ideas with very similar characters. I think that he might have been pretty progressive when it came to women in his stories, but the still feel very dated today. Not one of his best, but a good quick read if you like mr Heinlein.

  • Thom
    2019-02-18 18:22

    A fairly good set of four stories, or two novellas and two short stories. Read about Gulf in the afterword for Glory Road, and immediately sought it out (I plan to re-read Friday sometime soon). Enjoyed Lost Legacy quite a bit also.

  • Peter
    2019-02-11 17:57

    Assignment In Eternity is from the "golden" part of Heinlein's career before he went a bit mad with power and started writing books without allowing them to be edited (and, unfortunately, decided that sex and incest were irresistible themes). It was one of the first science fiction books I ever read. It's also still one of my very favorite books. As Heinlein books go, it's relatively obscure; undeservedly so, I think.There was a painting of a naked woman on the cover of my old paperback copy, so I made a book-jacket out of a brown paper bag for it. That's how much of a prude I was. Of course I was...let me see...probably twelve years old or so when I first read it.The book contains three novellas and one short story. They're among Heinlein's best, in my opinion: classic examples of his early peak period (all of the content of AiE was written in the 1940s). The novellas include "Gulf", which Heinlein used much later as the background for his novel Friday (which many think inspired the Jessica Alba TV show Dark Angel). It begins as a near-future spy story, and expands from there with some very interesting ideas about human potential, intelligence, and what it means to be a "superman". It includes quite a bit about the work of Samuel Renshaw, a topic which obviously interested Heinlein a lot (much as semantics did). In that regard, Heinlein was rather Campbellesque; he tended to get something of a bee in his bonnet about some new scientific "breakthrough" and include it in his works. Since there are no Renshawing or semantics centers on every street-corner, I think we can say that Heinlein's track record on these particular points was not great (although it was nowhere near as bad as John W. Campbell or Mark Twain, of course).In any case, "Gulf" is classic Heinlein; exciting, provocative (not in the sexual sense, as this is relatively early Heinlein), and gripping. The ending isn't necessarily happy, and comes with jarring suddenness. For some reason Heinlein didn't use so much as a paragraph break to indicate a discontinuity or passage of time; this was, I think, a mistake that he would not have made later in his career. But still, it's only a minor flaw. Another novella is "Lost Legacy", in which a doctor, a psychologist, and one of their students at a university discover a way to unlock psychic powers in the human brain, only to find that they're not the only ones with these powers. Because it's a novella, Heinlein gets to develop the characters of the protagonists more than he would in a short story; they're quite likable people. And because this is early Heinlein, the characters aren't constantly having sex and showing their utter moral superiority over anything non-Heinlein.The development of those powers is extremely well written. You can really place yourself in the story; for all that it's fantastic, it's very believable. Of course, the story is based on the idea that the majority of the human brain has no known function, and my understanding is that that theory has since been disproved. But that doesn't affect the story, which is just a great read. And the end is quite touching."Elsewhen" is much closer to pure fantasy, but has a lovely gentle quality. A professor teaches a seminar in which he shows students how to use their minds to move through time and probability to anywhere or anywhen. Inevitably, complications lead to more probability-hopping and transformations. The professor himself is a bit unusual for a Heinlein protagonist, in that he's actually rather gentle and academic; less, well, "Heinleinish" than most of Heinlein's later heroes, who tend to be virtual supermen in almost every sense of the word. It's worth noting that both "Elsewhen" and "Lost Legacy" feature strong-willed and competent heroines, which was somewhat unusual for that time. The end of "Elsewhen" always leaves me in a warm glow."Jerry Was A Man" is the short story at the end. It's about a rich, not-too-bright woman who is horrified when she learns that enhanced worker apes are being killed and made into dog food when they can no longer work. She brings Jerry, the ape that first caught her attention, home with her (she owns stock in the company that created him). To win basic civil rights for the enhanced apes she employs a legal firm and and a "shyster" (Heinlein's word, not mine). The shyster is rather reminiscent of Jubal Harshaw in Stranger In A Strange Land; in this future setting shysters are essentially smart fixers, beyond the legal pale but necessary to the system. In any case, Jerry is the test case they use to try to establish anthropoid rights. Along the way her even-more-stupid trophy husband makes difficulties, for a while. There's also some interesting and imaginative discussion of genetic manipulation in the earlier part of the story. I've never thought of Pegasus the same way since I first read it. Neither will you.Here's the thing that I missed about the story when I was younger, and the reason that I've thought for so long that I should write something about it. The shyster needs a hook, an angle to rouse the emotions of the public in favor of rights for Jerry (the case is, of course, being televised). He sees Jerry dressed in a kilt, and momentarily considers trying to get him to play the bagpipe; obviously he's thinking of trying to make some sort of Scottish connection. But he discards that, and - unfortunately this is a spoiler, but it can't be helped - instead puts Jerry in jeans and a shabby leather or denim jacket, I can't remember which. And then he gets Jerry to sing "Ol' Man River" in the courthouse, and that makes the case. The audience goes crazy, and "Jerry Was A Man".Now, I could be wrong, but the implication that I take from that is that the shyster was tying in to African-American culture, as Heinlein saw it at the time. I'm sure that Heinlein was far less racist than most of his contemporaries, but racism was a basic part of the culture back then. A character in "Elsewhen" says that she's "free, white, and twenty-one", if I remember correctly. And of course there is Heinlein's early novel Sixth Column, with its painful anti-Asian elements (yes, I know that John W. Campbell forced them on Heinlein, but Heinlein DID write them). "He was a yellow man, but he was white inside" still makes me cringe, which may be why it has apparently been removed from later editions of Sixth Column.The use of the word "shyster" in the Jerry story itself is also an interesting example of the casual racism that was, I believe, quite common throughout much of the United States in the 1940s.Anyway, I can't shake the thought that Heinlein was basically saying that African-Americans presumably responded because as a chimpanzee Jerry either looked more like them than any other racial group (in his, i.e. Heinlein's opinion), or was somehow closer to them. Perhaps that would be because Jerry's ancestors were presumably also from Africa. But given that the book was first published in 1947...well, I have to wonder. Was the whole hook of the story the idea that Africans look like monkeys, and vice-versa? I'm honestly not sure! But if not, what could it have been?Despite that, Assignment In Eternity is one of the most compulsively readable collections of stories by a single author in the field of science fiction. Heinlein was in many ways a modern Rudyard Kipling (just as Kurt Vonnegut was the modern analog of Mark Twain), with all of his gift for storytelling; he captures the reader's imagination from the first page and takes you with him on fantastic journeys. You'll want to make that trip again and again.

  • Charles H Berlemann Jr
    2019-02-13 21:01

    A series of short novels that all seem to ask to what makes up a man or humanity. From the idea that there are already supermen with faster reflexes and better brains amongst us in a fight to preserve the Earth from some of the more crooked of the supermen or even just evil; on over to can an anthropomorphic animal that has been given some human traits such as basic speech and reasoning be considered a human. All of these stories the are interesting and present some ideas on the later reasoning of Heinlein's multiple worlds as one sort of theme. However, the two that stood out for me is the one titled "Gulf" and the other one titled "Jerry was a man". They seem very tight and the idea that there is a group of supermen looking out for regular humanity and not have spandex or superpowers is awesome. The whole idea of what makes a man and can an animal with speech patterns and some thinking be a human, seems to be similar to one of the "Planet of the Apes" movie plots as well as a couple of other classic Sci-fi novella plots. The progress and thinking is pure Heinlein and the ending is feel good enough that it wraps it up well. The other two stories disappeared for me as fast as I read them. One was about using mind matters to jump to alternate worlds and times similar to some sort of Flash Gordon or Burrough's style novel. While the other forgettable one seemed to be all about the 10% of the brain rule and that one could fly, teleport and all sorts of other ESP themed devices before humanity evolves to become star children.

  • Nick D
    2019-01-23 19:17

    The Gulf: A superspy working for a secret organization gets recruited by an even SUPERER SECRETER organization to learn to tap in to his unknown mental abilities. This new group believes a race of supermen capable of thinking at a superhuman level will become the new leading species on the planet. They want to train these adepts to bring peace to the world.Elsewhen: A college professor discovers the key to interdimensional time travel. Apparently it's just sitting down quietly for 30 minutes. Anyway, he teaches 5 students the skill and they all have various adventures in time and space.Legacy Lost: A college professor, a surgeon, and a student discover that all humans are capable of things like ESP, telekinesis, flight, and anything involving mind over matter, if they exercise the right portion of their brain. Jerry Was a Man: A wealthy woman discovers that a company that genetically grows humanoid workers treats the apeish beings poorly, and kills them when they run out of usefulness. This is the story of her fight to have them recognized as men.

  • Syd Logsdon
    2019-01-27 17:59

    Assignment in Eternity contains several of Heinlein’s works, but Lost Legacy stands above the rest, and is the focus of this review. If you are a writer, or want to be, you should seek out Lost Legacy because Heinlein puts on a clinic in how to write. Beware though, to enjoy the story you have to keep reminding yourself that in 1941 the functions of various parts of the brain were unknown and that our relatively full complement of pre-human ancestors had not yet been dug up. You also have to resist a too-easy accusation of sexism. The teasing is sexist - or, by 1941 standards, normal - but Joan Freeman is fully a part of the team.I won’t try to summarize seventy five pages in a few sentences. Read the original. Copies of Assignment in Eternity are not hard to find in used bookstores. For an agonizingly full review, see

  • Austin Wright
    2019-02-20 22:26

    This collection was a pretty rough read. "Lost Legacy" is the longest story; written in 1941, it predated John Wyndam's the Crysalids by 14 years. Deals with the persecutions of psychics who try to organize. Read up on Mount Shasta and Ambrose Bierce first, before reading this book. "Assignment in Eternity" is a 4-story collection released in 1953. "Lost Legacy" is one of the four stories within.

  • Rob Markley
    2019-02-02 23:02

    Heinlein is a great writer but it seems very much he lost interest in this story once begun, tailed off and published anyway. Should have remained an unpublished manuscript for his estate to mull over.

  • Michiel
    2019-02-20 19:17

    This collection of stories, or novellas, is fantastic! Some of the ideas in it just blew my mind, such as an organization of super humans to protect the rest of us idiots from destroying ourselves. Great cloak and dagger, political concepts, scene setting, and story telling.

  • Lafcadio
    2019-02-15 20:03

    I would have loved if this entire book were like the first half of the first story.

  • Eddie Johnston
    2019-02-12 01:16

    It turns out the secret to unlocking humanities true power is actually just... thinking about it. But like, REALLY thinking about it. Neat.

  • Matteo Pellegrini
    2019-02-03 23:02

    « L'uomo è più di un animale perchè ragiona; il superuomo e più di un uomo perché ragiona meglio ». Ouesta frase sintetizza la tematica dei quattro romanzi brevi riuniti in questo volume, uno dei più significativi apparsi durante la cosiddetta « Età d’Oro della Fantascienza ». Negli Stati Uniti dell’avvenire, le opposte forze del bene e del male si combattono sul terreno della facoltà parapsicologiche: sarà compito di una ristretta cerchia di giovani selezionati recuperare la perduta eredità dell’ESP e impostare la propria missione nel domani. Una giuria si trova a decidere su una questione di fondamentale importanza: quali sono i confini tra l’uomo e il bruto? Per viaggiare nel tempo è sufficiente « pensare » in un modo tutto particolare, che non è quello comune: certi viaggi, però, possono essere senza ritorno. L’avvenire della Terra dipende dal possesso di un microfilm: l’umanità del passato e quella del futuro se lo contendono, in una lotta senza esclusione di colpi che vede l’impiego di poteri mentali sconosciuti.* * * Indice:p. 23 - L'eredità perduta p. 129 - Altroquando p. 169 - Jerry era un uomo p. 197 - Abisso

  • Beverly Diehl
    2019-02-09 19:04

    Read this many moons ago, and the stories were written even longer ago than that: Gulf (1949), Elsewhen (1941), Lost Legacy (1941), Jerry Was a Man (1947).All but the last story focus on the idea of psychic or supernatural powers; the idea that, if trained, humans could think faster, react faster, use telepathy and telekinesis, perhaps even levitate and travel through time and space.In Gulf Joe Greene is "converted" to the cause of supermen/women against evil, taking on an evil genius determined to rule - or destroy - the Earth. Joe and his partner, Gail, are the literary and genetic grandparents to Heinlein's Friday.In Elswhen, a professor learns how to slip into different time dimensions (this one's a precursor to The Number of the Beast), and helps five of his students relocate to different universes.Lost Legacy explores the idea that humans all once had psychic powers, but they fell into disuse, as a child raised among deaf-mutes will still possess a speech center, but not know how to speak. Through training - and a fortuitous encounter with a group of advanced psychic elders upon/within Mount Shasta, the trio of beginners become adepts. This story inspired me in a recent trip to the foothills of Mt. Shasta, but sadly, I did not leave Mt. Shasta able to levitate or pick winning lottery numbers.Jerry was a Man is a little different. Humans have come so far in bio-engineering that the very rich can buy miniature elephants able to hold a pen in their trunk and write their own names. You can buy a unicorn, or a Pegasus. Or, you can lease worker chimpanzees able to speak and sing.This story is why the collection makes a contemporary reader uneasy, IMO. Is it racist? I don't *think* so, BUT... because there is a long history of slavery of African-Americans, a long history of A-A people being called monkeys and apes, the parallel can't help but feel pointed, and when as the ultimate demonstration of his ultimate humanity, modified chimp Jerry begins singing, "Way down upon de Suwannee Ribber..." I cringed. The intended take-away message is anti-racist, I think... or is it saying, "Men, human, but not of equal capabilities"?It's a collection worth reading, and although I am not sure that Heinlein was the first to postulate them, there are pocket phones and other doodads we take for granted today, which were the wildest stretch of fantasy in the 1940's.

  • Brian Lewis
    2019-02-10 23:18

    This is a fantastic book. It's really a compilation of 4 short stories, all very worth reading. After reading Starship Troopers, I was a bit hesitant to read more from Heinlein, however, the work in this book is a lot more finely polished. While Starship Troopers dragged heavily mid-book, the stories here are well paced and full of analytical thinking and action when it needed it.Gulf was my favorite story in the series. The characters were mysterious, the events depicted gave you an impression of a James Bond story at first, then completely turned the table to something far more creative.Elsewhen was the story that I couldn't even recall once I finished the book. It's not that the story was bad, it was quite entertaining. However, the tools and motives used for the plot were far too fanciful and quite dated to the time of publication. The story seemed to be directed mainly to juveniles. However, it was quite a nice view to contrast our current cultural outlook and those of the 1940-1950 era.Lost Legacy ran the risk of having too much in common with Elsewhen and Gulf, however the change in story-line about half way through gave it the push that it needed to become it's own entity. While the plot was somewhat predictable and used in science fiction frequently enough, the antagonists were colorful and very, very true to life. I would say it was my 2nd favorite story in the book.Jerry Was a Man was only a few pages long, and I couldn't see it going beyond that. The plot was very linear, the characters were very 2 dimensional and predictable. The resolution was incredibly brief and totally one sided, so much so that it was quite preposterous. This was clearly the weakest story in the book, and it was perhaps just included because of it's page length. At least the pet was cute, so it's not a total loss! Plus, after a few high-intensity stories, maybe something pure and nieve was the right way to end the book.For those of you who have read Starship Troopers and are iffy about the author, I would recommend highly that you give the author another read. This book read as if it was a totally different author. One word of warning: Don't read this book if you are attempting to quit smoking. As a product of it's time, the book is littered with future men and women chain smoking at every chance they get.

  • Kimberlyn
    2019-01-21 17:17

    I’ve been trying to refresh my memory of the golden age sci-fi authors that I’d loved as a kid. This collection was not on the list of must-reads, but became available at my local library, so I figured, what the hell?I should first state that these stories were mostly written during an era of optimism in American science fiction. There was strong, confident belief in the inevitable improvement of humanity, and that with technological advances, hunger, war, racism, and illness would gradually be eliminated. These stories reflect Heinlein’s slightly more cynical interpretation of humanity’s reaction to change and the possibility of unlocked human potential.Having said that, the quality of the four stories in the collection is inconsistent, in my opinion. In the first, “Gulf,” the space-age spy story had a great deal of potential. The character was smart and witty, and fun to read (as was Kettle-Belly, a truly wonderful secondary character). Unfortunately, it was only the first third of the story. The second part delves into areas close to Heinlein’s heart—the development of the ‘superman’ whose seeds reside in present-day humans. According to Heinlein—explained through his long and discursive, heavily political, psychological, and genetically inflected soliloquies—such men bore a responsibility to the rest of the world. This is Heinlein at both his best yet also somewhat hard to take. However, the cringe-worthy part of the story is the somewhat improbable and rather rushed romance that flowered at the climactic moment of the story and pretty much ruined the ending for me.The following second and third stories both have interesting premises, some memorable characters, and a couple of thought provoking situations. However, they certainly are early Heinlein. You can read here the type of thinking that becomes more sophisticated and refined in later work, and definitely more elegant in composition.Speaking of cringe-worthy, the last story, “Jerry Was a Man,” has a great theme: “How much sentience makes one worthy of being considered a valuable, contributing member of society? Who gets to make that decision?” However, it was cloaked in such dated racist allusions that I found it difficult to enjoy the truly funny moments.

  • James
    2019-01-26 20:17

    Quite the Assignment!Early Heinlein, for me, is a bit interesting regardless of its sly wit and occasional weak female characters. These were written in the 40s and were decent and entertaining but not up to the level of story Heinlein wrote in the Sixties and beyond, "Stranger in a Strange Land," etc. This book is an anthology, all having something to do with the improvement of the human condition, and a bit of fantasy mixed into the science. "Gulf" starts out as a spy novel, but then evolves into a race against time where a race of secret supermen are attempting to prevent a Nova bomb from going off that could wipe the planet off the solar system! Interesting James Bond-type character, most likely before Ian Fleming wrote his famous novels. The weak part was when a new language is being taught the hero, but it takes a couple of unnecessary pages to do it! "Elsewhen" is more a fantasy, where a professor teaches his students how to mentally return back to other dimensions – they disappear from his living room and live lives outside our reality. Meantime, the professor gets investigated by the police since the students who are now in other dimensions are considered missing persons! The ending was a bit of a let-down after all this build-up. "Lost Legacy" was the most interesting and also a fantasy of sorts. The story explores the limitations of the human mind and how we all have latent abilities. Interesting trip to Mt. Shasta, a discovery that Ambrose Bierce still lives, and a clash with a suppressive group that wants to stop all advancing knowledge! "Jerry Was A Man" was the silliest of the quartet. It's about a company that can create new animals through genetics. This is all fine but the story takes a left turn and talks about intelligent monkey rights! If Heinlein stuck to the dangers of genetic manipulation it would have been a fine story. This particular collectors' edition has several typos and is a great example of a sloppy editing job. It's a Signet Paperback, copyright 1953, second edition. Great way to spend time on the bus!

  • Mike
    2019-01-21 21:00

    One of the other reviewers on here said it pretty well: Heinlein is just too darn readable, even if you can't get past some of his themes and attitudes. So even the long boring crap about supermen saving all us others who are too dumb to take care of ourselves is tolerable for a while longer than expected. A word first about Bronson Pinchot as a narrator: Outstanding. Especially for Heinlein. He reads the characters as they sound in my head. He sounds older now, too, because he is, of course. And certainly he wasn't going to sound like Balki or Serge, but he really does read well. Extra star.Heinlein fans and Ayn Rand acolytes will likely enjoy the first story. The Rand folks might start to like the third story, where people who have trained themselves to be exceptional retreat to a Galt's Gulch of sorts within Mt. Shasta, at least until the altruistic stuff starts (this story riffs of the old 'What if Mark Twain was an alien theme. He's not, no one is, but he is exceptional, despite not appearing in the story). I have to admit, Heinlein pulled a fast one on me by diverging from his usual benevolent dictatorship of the super-powered and just writing about people who simply act out of benevolence (though they are super-powered).The usual pulp-era sexist attitudes on display here, of course, but the female major characters give as good as they get with plenty of sass and brass, for the most part, though unfortunately in the end they seem to want to just get married, though to be fair, they marry someone who is just as exceptional and deserves them and the matches seem more like partnerships, more or less equal, or at least containing mutual respect. The exception is Mrs. Van Vogel in the final story, "Jerry Was A Man," who is already married and very wealthy and has all the moxie to move the story forward despite her useless husband who clearly does not deserve her.

  • Zane
    2019-02-19 17:18

    Assignment in Eternity captivated me with mind bending reality changes throughout the four short stories which are within it's pages. Heinlein, being the "dean of space-age fiction" (The New York Times), seems more occupied with mental awakenings that occur in the future rather than any sort of technological advances. Unlike most sci-fi, Assignment in Eternity deals with fantasy type powers such as levitation, mind control, and above all, extremely superior intelligence. The short stories Gulf, Elsewhen, Lost Legacy, and Jerry was a Man are not linked by content (e.g; characters, places, things), but instead by a loose mold which Heinlen forsees the future falling into. In this future, two major groups are present: those who are suppressing knowledge which they posses themselves, and those trying to bring this knowledge forward to the public, so as to enlighten and decrease the danger of only certain groups monopolizing it's power. Gulf, Elsenwhen, and Lost Legacy all deal with these two groups who ultimately confronted each other and eventually, the group that was trying to give the power to the people wins. Though not directly (except in Lost Legacy), I believe that Heinlen was denouncing the church for suppressing science but also showing that the path to true "divinity" was through knowledge. In Lost Legacy, the result of the war between the suppressors (church and politicians) and the enlightened thinkers resulted in the extinction of close minded individuals and the eventual evolution of man which resulted in humans forsaking earth and physical things in order to dissolve into nothing -- as enlightened minds.