Literature: The Star Beast
The Star Beast
is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein
first published in 1954. The novel, somewhat abridged, was originally serialised in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction as "Star Lummox" and then published in hardcover as part of Scribner's series of Heinlein juveniles.
John Thomas Stuart XI is a high school senior who discovers that his family's extraterrestrial pet is more than it appears to be
. The eponymous Star Beast turns out to actually be a highly intelligent alien whose hobby is raising humans, namely the generations of the hero's family.
This novel provides examples of:
- A Boy and His X: A Giant Talking Space Lizard and Her Boy.
- Aliens Speaking English
- Alien Animals: The Hroshii
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever
- Babies Make Everything Better: Lummox loves to raise John Thomases, and adores them in their infancy as to her, they always make for interesting playmates.
- Badass Bureaucrat: His Excellency the Right Honorable Henry Gladston Kiku, M.A. (Oxon.) Litt. D. honoris causa (Capetown), O.B.E., Permanent Undersecretary for Spatial Affairs. Mr. Kiku can read at over 2,000 words per minute, useful since he needed to go through a dozen memos and other documents per working hour, making the occasional notation and referral to subordinate for action. Most were for information but he needed to be kept informed. During the climactic confrontation with the Hroshii on the tarmac of a spaceship landing field and with the threat that they could destroy the Earth with their one ship, he stood there and cursed mildly when the wind nearly blew his hat off.
- Badass Grandpa: Mr. Kiku
- Benevolent Alien Invasion: Earth demands a treaty with the Hroshian empire if they are to surrender a free-man, John Thomas, to them. Embassies, cultural and scientific missions on both capital planets must be established. The implications of this treaty become apparent in the conclusion, for if her Imperial Highness Lummox gets to keep her John Thomas, every noble and common Hroshii seeking to impress their queen is going to want a human pet.
- Berserk Button
- Hroshiu expedition commander: Making any derogatory remarks about his status or refuting his authority.
- Lummox: Anyone treating humans badly, by means of aggression or intimidation.
- Big Eater: The alien Hroshii can eat almost anything, steel, concrete, you name it. They grow when fed, shrink when starved. The reason why the gigantic Lummox appears so much larger than the other Hroshii is simply because she was overfed on Earth (or bored rather whenever John Thomas isn't around). When reunited with her people they force her to go on diet.
- Bizarre Alien Biology: Lummox has eight great legs that move in similar succession to a caterpillar. In addition to four pairs of legs she later grows a pair of arms that are extremely dexterous. No one single heart, but a un-centralized circulatory system. A secondary brain back in her rump, which controls motor-functions and a guardian eye when she dozes. Her kind come in six assorted sexes (though the differences are not readily apparent), Lummox herself being more female than male.
- Bizarre Alien Locomotion: Lummox normally moved in a 1,4,5,8,2,3,6,7 gait, good for anything from a slow crawl to as fast as a trotting horse. However, if in a hurry, s/he could move in a double-ended gallop moving legs 1 & 2 & 5 & 6 together, alternated with 3 & 4 & 7 & 8.
- Blind Jump: In the backstory to the novel, the starship Trailblazer made a blind hyperspace jump to other solar systems, and had to make another blind jump to get back to Earth.
- Bold Explorer: John Thomas' great grandfather. He was a crew member abroad the star-ship The Trail Blazer. On his second voyage of exploration, they discovered not just extraterrestrials, but an entire alien civilization. By some strange fated coincidence, mankind discovered the Hroshii before any other sapient alien species in the entire galaxy.
- Break Out the Museum Piece: When Mr. Ito finds Lummox eating his cabbages, he grabs a relic of the Fourth World War known as a "tank-killer" that was handed down to him by his grandfather. He fires it at Lummox, which doesn't harm her but does drive her away.
- Cool Old Guy: Mr. Kiku's philosophy in dealing with bullying elitists is stepping on their toes, until you make them apologize.
- Dead Guy Junior / King Bob the Nth: Or something. John Thomas Stuart XI isn't royalty, and his father (X) and grandfather (IX) were alive when he was born, but the family has kept up the tradition of naming and pioneering for a long time. His greatgrandfather (VIII) was the explorer who found a dog-sized alien critter and brought it back to Earth as a pet.
- Deface of the Moon: The Hroshii threaten to burn an incandescent mark a thousand miles long on the face of the Moon to show they "'aint foolin'" when there were delays in recovering Lummox for them.
- Earth-Shattering Kaboom: What the Hroshii threaten to do, and will do, if their queen is not returned alive and unharmed. When Lummox is delivered but orders her beloved pet be returned to her, the Hroshii once more demand mankind release the boy, or else. The humans call their bluff since threatening to destroy the planet will obviously not guarantee John Thomas' safety. Nevertheless, the aliens have already considered causing considerable damage to the Moon, as a mere demonstration of force. And they don't care that the Moon is currently inhabited with multiple lunar bases.
- Eloquent In My Native Tongue: The Hroshii instinctively know their own language almost from the shell. They find other languages bothersome and time-consuming to acquire, so never bother learning to use them well. Lummox has been practicing for over a hundred years, yet speaks English as well as a four-year-old child. But in her own language she is dangerously fluent and with a masterful grasp of rhetoric.
- Emancipated Child: Betty Sorenson, one of the main characters, divorced her parents for an unspecified reason. The court system takes "a dim view of the arbitrary use of parental authority", such as coercion in the choice of career. Mr. Kiku warns Mrs. Stuart that her son (who was still a minor) could divorce her if she tried to prevent him from going to another star system.
- Fantastic Racism: People are becoming xenophobic to their native planet being overrun by aliens (or 'beasts' as they prefer to call) of varying origin. The Hroshii themselves are just as bad, being completely indifferent to all other lifeforms.
- The Federation: Seemed to have started as a United Nations Is a Superpower with various Earth nations as members, then grew with the (human) Martian Commonwealth and the Venus Republic and other human colonies. It also has some "xenic" cultures associated with it. The head of the organization is called the Secretary General but seems to be elected by delegates much like the British Parliamentary system complete with a threatened "no confidence" vote within the story.
- Fluffy the Terrible: The eponymous star beast is called Lummox. Admittedly, 'he' wasn't too impressive ... until after that time he ate a Buick....
- Foreign Language Tirade: The Hroshiu expedition commander:
- Gentle Giant: Despite the incredible collateral damage Lummox causes, she always makes sure she never steps on anyone.
- Get It Over With: Johnny's alien pet Lummox has been sentenced to death. Johnny helps Lummox escape, but they're hunted down and trapped. One of the pursuers approaches them.
Johnnie found that tears were streaming down his face and that he could not stop them. "Go ahead!" he cried, his voice misbehaving. "Get it over with! He never meant any harm! So kill him quickly . . don't play cat-and-mouse with him." He broke down and sobbed, covering his face with his hands. [snip]
The officer looked distressed. "What are you talking about, son? We aren't here to hurt him. We have orders to bring him in without a scratch on him - even if we lost men in the process. Craziest orders I ever had to carry out."
- Helicopter Pack: Both John Thomas Stuart and Betty Sorenson use one of these (called a "flight harness" in the book). The cover of the 1954 edition◊.
- Humans Are Diplomats
- Inhumanable Alien Rights: The Cygnus Decision established that: Beings possessed of speech and manipulation must be presumed to be sentient and therefore to have innate human rights, unless conclusively proved otherwise. Lummox's problem was the lack of manipulative organs, until she grew two arms and hands partway through the novel.
- I Gave My Word: When Lummox says "Cross my heart", she's made you a promise, and Lummox never breaks her promises.
- I Never Told You My Name: Lummox has picked up a few nicknames over the generations, including "Lummie" and the aptly named "Cuddle-pup", though she's so taken with these hypocorisms, she never reveals her true Hroshian name to any Earthling.
- Insufficiently Advanced Alien: What advanced aliens think of humans, granted The Federation is a culture possessing star travel, some minor skill in physics, but humans are technologically limited to their local star neighborhood, and not capable of very-deep interstellar travel on a regular commercial basis, or anything beyond scientific curiosity. It was by sheer chance that humans stumbled upon the Hroshii homeworld over nine-hundred light-years from Earth in the first place.
- Lie Detector: A "truth meter" is used on witnesses during a court trial. When the subject lies, a needle swings into the red zone, a ruby light flashes, and a warning buzzer goes off.
- Mama Bear: Lummox tears apart a six-hundred-pound grizzly bear that threatened her John Thomas.
- Meddling Parents: John's mother, Mrs. Stuart.
- Mood Whiplash: Chapter one opens on Lummox's unique misadventures stomping through town in a feeding frenzy, whereas the second chapter looks at the bigger picture. A grim picture where John Thomas' problems pale in comparison to the amount of death, misery and suffering on Earth and the local star system alone, and then a brief glance many light years away of a race of arboreal crustaceans slowly losing to a younger, more aggressive race of amphibians.
- Not Worth Killing: Mr. Kiku begins to suspect towards the end the Hroshii had no real desire in destroying Earth, and that as their negotiator, Dr. Ftaeml was hiding this fact from him.
- Obfuscating Stupidity. Lummox was already some two hundred years old when she stowed away with John's great grandfather, while she may be adventurous, seemingly dim-witted and outwardly eager to please, don't be fooled.
- Only in It for the Money: Rargyllians while honest, are like mercenaries. They would sooner let a man die of thirst on an alien world, rather than tell him the native word for "water", unless money was first offered up-front for their services.
- Pardon My Klingon: The Hroshiu Commander launches into a fit of rage when provoked by Mr. Kiku. The Rargyllian interpreter, Dr. Ftaeml, struggles to translate everything the giant alien utters, while he translates it perfectly, the profanity remains in the speaker's native language.
- Raised by Humans: Is how everyone, including John Thomas, regards the Lummox. He, she or it, is the generations old family pet. In actuality, Lummox regards John Thomas as her dearest companion and family.
- Rebellious Princess: Lummox is young, and doesn't care about her important duties to her subjects. Having one sole hobby, she intends to raise humans, and will only return to her commitments if she gets to continue this activity indefinitely.
- Royal Decree: When Lummox is informed her subjects want no treaty with humans, she warns them that so long as the Galaxy shall last the friends of Johnnie are her friends. She adds that those who are not friends of her friends are nothing, less than nothing, never to be suffered in her sight. She commands this in the names of her ancestry with all its complicated branches. A dreadful and wonderful recitation, reaching far into the past.
- Rubber-Forehead Aliens: Dr. Ftaeml is described as a Medusiod Alien, being a humanoid with tentacles on his head resembling snakes.
- Sapient Pet: Lummox is undoubtedly sapient but not obviously so due to language difficulties.
- Scarily Competent Tracker: The Hroshii were initially neither angry nor anxious their queen had run off with human explorers, but they did want her back. They didn't know what part of the galaxy we came from, but they knew what we looked like, and sure enough, they found us.
- Servant Race: Ftaeml's race, the Rargyllians, serve the requests of the powerful Hroshii without fault or objection, to refuse a commission would be unthinkable.
- Space Whale Aesop
- Starfish Aliens: Why man's and indeed most species of universes' first contact with the Hroshii fails spectacularly.
- Sufficiently Advanced Alien: Dr. Ftaeml warns the federation that one single Hroshia ship is more than capable of destroying the planet unassisted, and attacking it would be as futile as throwing stones at one of their own modern warships.
- Super Toughness: The Hroshii are virtually invincible, they may as well be considered practically indestructible by our standards. Lummox herself shrugs off a shot from an anti-tank rifle, consumes poisons happily, survives an attempt at drowning, and even withstands explosives. The police tasked with its destruction out of desperation consider tricking the creature into ingesting said explosives instead, though never get the chance.
- Superior Species: Fortunately for the universe, the advanced Hroshii are not a war-mongering race, however they do look down upon other weaker alien races from "Olympian heights". They want nor need nothing from other civilizations. They cannot see any purpose in diplomatic relations with lesser beings. Any proposal for trade, commence or friendship is not taken seriously.
- Tactful Translation: The Rargyllian Dr. Ftaeml is forced into this role quite often, he sympathizes with mankind's position, but begs them not to outright offend or insult the Hroshii.
- Tempting Fate: Mr. Kiku comes dangerously close to this, when insulting the Hroshiu expedition commander's pride. The massive otherworldly thing and the little elderly human stare long at one another with animosity, knowing full well the enraged alien is capable of devouring the man quite easily.
- That Was the Last Entry: John Thomas' great grandfather's last journals detailing their escape from the Hroshii homeworld with Cuddle-pup/Lummox after negotiations with the dominant race failed miserably.
- They Would Cut You Up: Invoked by John Thomas Stuart's ancestor when he acquires a native pet while exploring an alien planet.
- This Is My Human: The hero keeps an alien pet passed down through the generations. The titular Star Beast turns out to actually be a highly intelligent alien whose hobby is raising humans, namely the generations of the hero's family.
- Undying Loyalty: Lummox loved John Thomas' great grandfather straightaway when she discovered the man exploring her home-world. She returned with him and faithfully remained in the family ever since, looking after his descendants.
- We Are as Mayflies: It is common for sapient beings across the cosmos have naturally long lifespans. Rargyllians are extraordinary long-lived, and the Hroshians themselves are practically immortal. Lummox had been the Stuart family pet for four generations or 120 years, and was still a child by her species' standards. Mr. Kiku finds it troubling that humans are the shortest-lived intelligent race they have yet found.
- World War Whatever: Mr. Ito uses a "tank killer" gun on Lummox when s/he eats his cabbages that was a relic of World War IV.