Short Reviews – Gulf (Part 2 of 2), by Robert Heinlein

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

The second installment of Gulf by Robert Heinlein appeared in the December 1949 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. It can be read here at Archive.org. 

Robert Heinlein’s Spy-Fi thriller, Gulf, showed so much promise before sinking into the Campbellian morass of dull thinkery.

Whereas Part 1 featured covert cat & mouse action, high stakes interrogation, and a daring escape from a private jail by helicopter, Part 2 is devoted mostly to the characters explaining to the protagonist about the next step in human evolution: the man who is a better thinker. Lots of woo ensues.

These supermen have cooked up a special language in which phonetic sounds can convey the meaning of entire words and sentences, so a single word or sentence in smart-guy talk can convey encyclopedias of meaning, making thinkery that much more efficient. As a potential super-guy, the hero must be taught this language by a snarky dame.

The idea behind the language is that if you absorb and process information as a whole (such as a 10-digit number as a glyph rather than as a series of digits) you can retain more of that information. Except for smart-guy talk to work, I’d think you’d need a base language, since you’d have to be taught the complex idea which the single phonetic syllable was supposed to represent. Anyway…

Heinlein eventually remembers that he was writing a spy thriller, so the last three page are devoted to the hero and the dame who taught him smart-guy-talk going to the villain’s moon-palace, and they stop her from blowing up the earth. The hero and the dame both die in the explosion, but not before they get married over the radio. The end.

One response to “Short Reviews – Gulf (Part 2 of 2), by Robert Heinlein

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s