Time Enough for Love

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Time Enough for Love
Time Enough For Love 73.jpg
first edition cover - 1973
Author Robert A. Heinlein
Cover artist Vincent Di Fate
CountryUnited States
Genre Science fiction
Publisher G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication date
June 1973
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN 0-399-11151-4
OCLC 639653
LC Class PZ3.H364 Ti3 PS3515.E288
Preceded by I Will Fear No Evil  
Followed by The Number of the Beast  

Time Enough for Love is a science fiction novel by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, first published in 1973. The work was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1973 [1] and both the Hugo and Locus Awards in 1974. [2]



The book covers several periods from the life of Lazarus Long (born Woodrow Wilson Smith), an early beneficiary of a breeding experiment designed to increase mankind's natural lifespan. The experiment is known as the Howard Families, after the program's initiator. Lazarus is the result of more a mutation than the breeding experiment, and he is the oldest living human at more than two thousand years old.

The first half of the book takes the form of several novellas connected by Lazarus's retrospective narrative. In the framing story, Lazarus has decided that life is no longer worth living, but, in what is described as a reverse Arabian Nights scenario, agrees not to end his life for as long as his companion and descendant, chief executive of the Howard Families Ira Weatheral, will listen to his stories.

"The Tale of the Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail"

This story concerns a 20th-century United States Navy seaman, midshipman, and officer, David Lamb, who receives multiple promotions while minimizing any semblance of real work or combat by applying himself enthusiastically to the principle of "constructive laziness". Shortly after telling the story Lazarus mistakenly calls David "Donald", which is intended to make the reader think that the story is a roman à clef and actually refers to Lazarus himself.

"The Tale of the Twins Who Weren't"

Lazarus tells of his visit as an interplanetary cargo trader to a planet, where he bought a pair of slaves, brother and sister, and immediately manumitted them. Because they had no knowledge of independent living or any education, Lazarus teaches them "how to be human" during the voyage.

The two were the result of an experiment in genetic recombination in which two parent cells were separated into complementary haploid gametes and recombined into two embryos. The resulting zygotes were implanted in a woman and gestated by her, with the result that although both have the same surrogate mother and genetic parents, they are no more closely related genetically than any two people taken at random. They have been prevented from sexual relations by a chastity belt. However, having confirmed that there is no risk of genetic disease in their offspring (described as the only valid argument against incest), Lazarus solemnizes their marriage and later establishes them as the owners and operators of a thriving business. At the end of the story, he reveals that the twins looked the same age decades later and expresses his belief that they were his own descendants, from an earlier time that he had been a slave on the same planet.

"The Tale of the Adopted Daughter"

A short scene-setter introduces a planet on which Lazarus has led a group of pioneering colonists.

Lazarus, now working as a banker and shopkeeper on the frontier planet and keeping his true age secret, saves a young girl, Dora, from a burning house and becomes her guardian. When she becomes an adult, he leaves the area but returns as a younger man and marries her, and the two move away to start a new settlement, where Lazarus' long life is less likely to be noticed. They eventually manage to build a thriving community. Because Dora is not a descendant of the Howard Families, the source of his longevity, she eventually dies of old age, leaving Lazarus to mourn.


At the beginning of this story, Lazarus has regained his enthusiasm for life, and the remainder of the book is told in a conventional linear manner. Accompanied by some of his descendants, Lazarus has now moved to a new planet and established a polyamorous family, with three men, three women, and a larger number of children, two of whom are female clones of Lazarus.

"Da Capo"

In the concluding tale, Lazarus attempts to travel backward in time to 1919 to experience it as an adult, but an error in calculation places Lazarus in 1916, on the eve of America's involvement in World War I. An unintentional result is that Lazarus falls in love with his own mother. To retain her esteem and that of his grandfather, Lazarus enlists in the army. Eventually, before Lazarus leaves for the war, he and his mother, Maureen, consummate their mutual attraction, as his mother is already pregnant and so accepts that there is no collateral risk. [nb 1]

In the trenches of the Western Front in France, he is mortally wounded, but is rescued at the last moment by his future companions from the framing story and returned to his own time.

The Notebooks of Lazarus Long

There are also two "Intermission" sections, each some six or eight pages long, taking the form of lists of provocative phrases and aphorisms not obviously related to the main narrative. They were later published independently, with illustrations, as The Notebooks of Lazarus Long .


What ties most of the stories together is that they are an examination and deconstruction of incest. In the context of his "tales" Heinlein examines the morality of a variety of possible incestuous situations: from unrelated "twins", to unrelated parent-child, to distant relatives, and finally close relatives when Lazarus sleeps with his own mother. Heinlein seems to conclude that, absent genetic risk, it is not immoral at all. [3] [4]

Early in the story, one of the characters presents Lazarus with a number of activities that may be new (to him), to entice him into remaining alive and being restored to youth. One of the suggestions is to have his memory and consciousness transplanted into a female clone of himself, at which point Lazarus briefly remembers hearing of the events that occurred in I Will Fear No Evil .

Later in the book, a character reports the fate of the generation ship Vanguard, from Heinlein's Orphans of the Sky : it was found derelict in space, but the survivors (descendants of the characters from Orphans) have adopted a hunter-gatherer lifestyle on another planet.

From Methuselah's Children , Lazarus offers to recount the fate of the Jockaira, but another character cuts him off, saying: "Since that lie is already in his memoirs in four conflicting versions, why should we be burdened with a fifth?" Long also reports the fate of the descendants of the Howards who chose to stay on the planet of the Little People. Some of the Little People alive at the time he returned to the planet harbored the memories of those Howards, including Mary Sperling; but Long's ship reports that "if there is a human artifact on the surface of that planet, it is less than a half meter in diameter".

Also, at one point reference is made to the burial in space of Andrew Jackson "Slipstick" Libby, co-creator of the Libby–Sheffield para-drive. Libby is the human calculator genius who first appears in the short story "Misfit". Lazarus had promised Libby to return him to his native Ozarks, which comforted Libby as he died. One hundred years later, Lazarus returns to the planet around which Libby's coffin should be in orbit, but cannot find it, despite having so equipped it that he should have. He later uses this as a "time travel calibration" check, and we find out what happened to Libby's coffin in The Number of the Beast .

Additionally, reference is made to Doctor Pinero, the primary character from Heinlein's short story "Life-Line"; during the novel's ending one of the characters tells Lazarus that he (Lazarus) cannot die, which aligns with the fact that Pinero (who could predict the exact time of anyone's death) was supposedly unable to foresee the time of Lazarus's demise.

The history of the Howard Families and Lazarus Long also feature prominently in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls and To Sail Beyond the Sunset .


John Leonard, writing in The New York Times , praised Time Enough for Love as "a great entertainment", declaring that "it doesn't matter [that] all his characters sound and behave exactly the same; it's because the man is a master of beguilement. He pulls so hard of the dugs of sentiment that disbelief is not merely suspended; it is abolished". [5]

Theodore Sturgeon reviewed the novel favorably, citing "the fascination of watching the mind of a man whose reach always exceeds his grasp but who will never stop reaching". [6]



  1. The blurb of some editions (such as Ace Books ISBN   978-0-441-81076-5) states that Lazarus "became his own ancestor", but that is contradicted by the book, since his mother was already pregnant at the time of their encounter, and in any case, his younger self had already been born.

    Heinlein's later novel To Sail Beyond the Sunset , the memoirs of Lazarus' mother, also describes the events, suggesting that Lazarus' account here is at best incomplete.

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  1. "Nebula Nominees List". The Locus Index of SF Awards. 2009-05-15. Archived from the original on 14 September 2015.
  2. "1974 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
  3. Lewis Call (19 October 2012). BDSM in American Science Fiction and Fantasy. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 20–. ISBN   978-1-137-28347-4.
  4. Heer, Jeet (2014). "A Famous Science Fiction Writer's Descent Into Libertarian Madness". The New Republic .
  5. "Books of the Times: Two Tales for the Future", The New York Times , 22 August 1973.
  6. "Galaxy Bookshelf", Galaxy Science Fiction , November 1973, p. 85.