The Star Beast by Robert Heinlein, Scribners 1954, hardcover and paperback. Originally serialized, somewhat abridged, in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (May, June, July 1954) as Star Lummox and then published in hardcover as part of Scribner’s series of Heinlein’s juveniles.
I’m continuing to read my way through many of the Heinlein juvenile SF novels. Last time it was Starman Jones this time, The Star Beast. Again, though these aren’t forgotten, I recommend them, some more than others. Here we go.
Plot (thanks in part to Wikpedia)
The novel is set on the future Earth which has had interstellar spaceflight for centuries and has contact with numerous extraterrestrial species, which is handled by a department of the Earth government. John Thomas Stuart XI, the teenage protagonist, lives in a small Rocky Mountain town, Westville, caring for Lummox, an extraterrestrial beast which he inherited from his great-grandfather who brought it home from an interstellar voyage.
The pet has learned how to speak, and has gradually grown from the size of a collie pup to a ridable behemoth—especially after consuming a quantity of metal. The childlike Lummox is perceived to be a neighborhood nuisance and, upon leaving the Stuart property one day, causes substantial property damage across the city of Westville. John’s widowed mother wants him to get rid of it, and brings an action in the local court to have it destroyed.
Desperate to save his pet, John Thomas considers selling Lummox to a zoo. He rapidly 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 neighbor’s greenhouse. However, it is not easy to conceal such a large creature. Eventually, the court orders Lummox destroyed. In an amusing scene Westville’s officials try several methods to kill Lummox but fail, as his alien physiology appears to be virtually invulnerable to ordinary weapons or poisons, and Lummox does not even realize they are attempting to execute him.
Meanwhile, at the Earth government Department of Spacial Affairs, Mr. Kiku, an experienced diplomat, is dealing with the Hroshii, a previously unknown alien race, advanced and powerful, which appear in the solar system and demand the return of their lost child, or they will destroy Earth. A friendly alien diplomat of a third species intimates that the threat is not an empty one, and it seems Lummox is the missing child.
I enjoyed this one quite a bit. Yes, it’s a juvenile (these days it might be called a YA) novel, but fun nevertheless, and there is a goodly amount of humor. Though not quite as good as Starman Jones, it’s a close second of the ones I’ve read so far. Next time: Citizen of the Galaxy.