The Star Beast - First Edition


The Star Beast - 1980s UK Edition

The Star Beast is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, published in 1952. It was one of a series in the Heinlein Juveniles, a long and successful series of science fiction novels published by Scribner's, it refers indirectly to two other RAH works, The Roads Must Roll and Doublestar. It was originally serialised in F&SF (May, June, July 1954) as "Star Lummox" and then published in hardcover as part of Scribner's series of [[Heinlein Juveniles], the eighth of that series.[1]

This novel is an example of a Heinlein Juvenile; it is an unconventional tale that turns a number of expectations around and, for its time, uses some controversial themes: conflicts with parents (in an era that rarely showed the child as being correct and the parent wrong), a child who divorces the parent, female dominance in a relationship, non-white protagonists, a positive view of arranged marriages.


  • John Thomas Stuart XI - John Thomas, a young man
  • Betty Sorenson - A young woman, John Thomas's girlfriend
  • Lummox - An immature but fully sentient alien creature who has been raising John Thomases for a while. Lummox is a young person of the Hroshii race.
  • Mrs. Donahue - The owner of some roses and the Stuart's neighbor.
  • Dr. Ftaeml - A Rargyllian diplomat from a race of people who look like The Medusa of legend - with hair of snakes.
  • Mr. Ito - The owner of some gourmet cabbages and greenhouses.
  • Mr. Kiku - A very senior civil servant (Permanent Undersecretary for Spatial Affairs), Henry Gladstone Kiku would like to retire to a farm in Kenya; he is afraid of snakes, works for Secretary MacClure, and is the de-facto ruler of the world, with regard to space and alien relations.
  • Sergei Greenberg - a career field officer in DepSpace, Chief of System Trade Intelligence; appointed Special Commissioner by Mr Kiku to resolve the Lummox problem.
  • Secretary MacClure - a political appointee, the Secretary of the Department of Spatial Affairs
  • Mr. Perkins - A man from the museum who would like to buy Lummox
  • Wes Robbins - A political appointee in DepSpace, the Special Assistant Secretary for Public Relations.

Plot summaryEdit

An ancestor of John Thomas brought Lummox home from an interstellar voyage many years ago and Lummox has lived with the family since then. The articulate, sentient, immensely strong and gentle "pet" has gradually grown from something about the the size of a collie pup to something larger than a horse - and ridable. It transpires, later in the story, that Lummox has been allowed to overeat.

Lummox is thought, by the neighborhood, to be a childlike but very large and potentially dangerous nuisance and, upon leaving the Stuart property one day, causes substantial property damage in the area. John's mother wants him to get rid of it, and a court orders it destroyed.

John Thomas considers selling Lummox to a zoo but changes his mind and runs away from home, riding into the nearby wilderness on Lummox's back. His girlfriend Betty Sorenson joins him and suggests bringing the beast back into town and hiding it in a neighbour's greenhouse. However, it isn't easy to conceal such a large creature. The court tries and fails to have Lummox destroyed. Lummox is amused by the attempts.

Representatives of a previously unknown, advanced, and very powerful race have appeared, looking for their lost child. There is an implied threat if the child does not appear. A diplomat of a third species intimates that the threat is not an empty one. Initially, no one associates Lummox with the newcomers, in part due to the size difference (Lummox was overfed as there has been, amongst other things an incident where Lummox ate a car). However, once that association is made Lummox is identified as royalty - a princess and this complicates the already-tense negotiations. It is discovered that, from her viewpoint, the young Lummox has been pursuing her only hobby and principal interest: the raising of John Thomases. She makes it clear that she intends to continue doing so. This gives the chief human negotiator the leverage he needs to establish diplomatic relations with the aliens, who normally do not hold regular relations with other species. At the request of Lummox, the recently married John and Betty accompany her back to her people as members of the human diplomatic mission.

See alsoEdit

Trivia Edit

  • "John Thomas" is British slang for penis. Robert James, Ph.D suggests that this is a sexual joke inserted into the story at the expense of Alice Dalgliesh, RAH's editor at the time. The implication is that Dalgliesh would not have been aware of British slang.[2]

Critical Response Edit

  • "one of the best of 1954" - P. Schuyler Miller[3]
  • "one of Heinlein's most enchanting tales." - Groff Conklin[4]
  • "This is a novel that won't go bad on you. Many of science fiction's triumphs, even from as little as ten years ago, are unreadable today; they were shoddily put together, not meant for re-use. But Heinlein is durable. I've read this story twice, so far – once in the Fantasy and Science Fiction serialized version, once in hard covers – and expect to read it again, sooner or later, for pleasure. I don't know any higher praise" - Damon Knight[5]


  1. Wikipedia:The_Star_Beast
  3. "The Reference Library", ''Astounding Science Fiction'', May 1955, p.144
  4. "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf", Galaxy Science Fiction, March 1955, p.99
  5. Template:Cite book

External linksEdit

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