To Sail Beyond the Sunset, published on Heinlein's eightieth birthday, proved to be his final novel. While some critics have seen the novel, along with his other late works, as an expression of solipsistic despair, it seems more a defiant affirmation of life in the face of debilitating illness and approaching death. Indeed the title and the epigraph are taken from Tennyson's poem "Ulysses," in which the hero refuses to rest after his long journeys and instead sets out once more:
Come, my friends
'Tis not too late to seek a newer
Push off, and sitting well in order
The sounding furrows; for my
To sail beyond the sunset, and the
Of all the western stars, until I
The heroine and narrator of her own story is Maureen Johnson, known to Heinlein's readers as the mother (and later lover) of his most famous character, Lazarus Long, hero of Time Enough for Love (1973). Maureen, who was rescued from death in the twentieth century and whisked to the forty-fourth century by Lazarus and his extended family in The Number of the Beast (1980), spends most of this novel in prison on a parallel earth, which allows her to tell us the story of her life. Maureen gets to do what Heinlein characters love most — talk.
Perhaps the central concern of Maureen's story is sex — a theme...
(The entire section is 1198 words.)
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