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Literature / Time Enough for Love

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There’s no virtue in being old, it just takes a long time.

"Work is not an end in itself; there must always be time enough for love."

Time Enough For Love is a Speculative Fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, first published in 1973, which fits into his Future History mythology. It is conceptually a sequel to Methuselah's Children and was followed by The Number of the Beast.

In the 43rd century AD, Lazarus Long is the oldest living human being by well over a thousand years, thanks to a remarkable genetic heritage and the technology of human rejuvenation. But even a semi-immortal, ornery coot of a man can grow tired of life, and it's long been established in a galactic society of extraordinarily long-lived humans that the right to end one's life when one chooses is as sacred as anything gets.

However, Ira Weatheral, the chairman of the Howard Foundation, disagrees, believing that Lazarus' unique store of human wisdom is worth any cost to save. Lazarus makes a deal with him: he will recount tales from his life until he's fully rejuvenated. Within that time, Ira has to come up with something new for him to experience. If he cannot, Ira must agree to let Lazarus die peacefully. Thus begins a kind of reverse-Scheherezade Gambit and a Framing Device for an exploration of vast swathes of Heinlein's universe from the point of view of this near-mythological figure.


After Lazarus' rejuvenation, the novel abruptly changes tone and becomes a Time Travel adventure, as this is among the various suggestions that his friends come up with for things that he might do. Given the vastness of human history to choose from, he elects to visit his own childhood family in Kansas City, Missouri. But a slight miscalculation or two might well end the career of this interstellar traveler for good.


Provides Examples Of:

  • Author Appeal: Since it's a Heinlein book, it's all over the place. Nudism, incest, polyamory, libertarian politics...
  • Author Avatar: Lazarus, in many ways. He's unquestionably an outlet for vast amounts of opining by Heinlein on a variety of subjects, although Heinlein disclaimed this when asked.
  • Author Filibuster: Heinlein takes a twenty page break from the story in order to go on a lengthy discussion of genetics which only has a moment of fleeting relevance in the plot.
  • Automaton Horses:
    • Averted — The genetically engineered "mules" that Lazarus employs on New Beginnings are intelligent enough to tell you when they need food, water, etc. Some are smart enough to be people in their own right, like Buck, and are mourned as people when they die.
    • Discussed — After Lazarus arrives in 1916, he assists a doctor on the road who is driving one of those "new-fangled" automobiles. The doctor complains that a good horse can be counted on to get itself home without any help from its rider; he misses catching naps while he travels.
  • Become a Real Boy: See Pinocchio Syndrome. Lazarus is careful to caution Minerva that the actual experience of waking up in a human body is likely to be highly traumatic at first.
  • Beware the Honest Ones: Long comments that "business" politicians are usually honest (in the sense that they stay bought) whereas "reform" politicians tend to be stupidly dishonest, because they are capable of doing literally anything that they believe is in the best interests of the "People".
  • Bindle Stick: Lazarus has one packed for him in 1916 by a kindly doctor's wife, though he re-packs it soon afterward, as it's a liability on the road to look like a "bindle stiff".
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: Dora shoots the gun-hand of a pioneer bandit. Lazarus compliments her for making the precisely correct decision in the moment, as even a fatal body shot might have allowed the man to shoot him.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Lazarus tells Ira the story of "The Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail": one David Lamb, who went to Annapolis because it was easier than farming, and memorized mathematical tables because it was the easiest way of handling the hazing from the upperclassmen - and that's just for starters. Lazarus implies that his laziness was part and parcel of his brilliance, causing him to become more efficient to avoid unnecessary work. Ira also ventures the opinion that David Lamb was a pseudonym of Lazarus', but historical records fail to corroborate either version of the story.
  • Broken Aesop: Lazarus preaches against blindly accepting cultural social norms, and instead encourages everyone to think for themselves. He also chastises anyone who doesn't blindly accept his beliefs.
  • Brother–Sister Incest:
    • Joe and Llita are twins who were engineered to have no more DNA in common than their parents had, making it safe for them to have children. They do just that.
    • Lazarus sleeping with Laz/Lor can be considered this, along with Screw Yourself and Parental Incest, depending on your point of view.
  • Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie/Burial in Space: Long tries to give Andrew Libby the cremation he requested, by letting him burn up de-orbiting into Earth. Problem is, he dies on the other side of the galaxy, but thankfully corpses keep well in space. Long sets up the body in an orbit around the planet where Libby died, knowing he can always come back later when it's possible to get to Earth and retrieve the body. Oddly enough someone steals it before he can come back, and even odder it turns out to be Lazarus himself. Time Travel is fun like that. However, in The Number of the Beast, we discover that he steals Libby's corpse a second time so they can recapture his DNA and memories and clone him, this time as a woman, since Libby very helpfully provided XXY sex chromosomes.
  • Caustic Critic: Discussed:
    "A 'critic' is a man who creates nothing and thereby feels qualified to judge the work of creative men. There is logic in this; he is unbiased — he hates all creative people equally."
  • Combat Pragmatist: Lazarus regards anyone who doesn't fight to win as stupid. And dead, if he goes up against Lazarus. It's certainly one of the ways he's managed to live so long, by being prepared to fight — and fight dirty — at a moment's notice. When he enlists in World War One, his knowledge of vicious fighting styles gets him a reputation as a mercenary on the lam from the French Foreign Legion.
  • Comforting the Widow: From The Notebooks Of Lazarus Long-
    "There is only one way to console a widow. But remember the risk."
  • Computer Voice: Minerva has two voice address modes — an "impersonal" mode, where she is monotone and robotic, and a "personal" mode, where she sounds completely human. She uses the latter more frequently with Lazarus as he grows more comfortable with her.
  • Cool Old Guy: Ira Johnson, patriarch of his family, and the greatest single influence on the young Woodrow Wilson Smith, who of course grew up to become Lazarus. He's a doctor, a war veteran, a deadly shot, and a fine chess player. A bit ruined when he turns out to be a jingoistic fool who scorns Lazarus for not signing up to be shot at in Europe.
  • Coup de Grâce: Administered by Lazarus to an injured pioneer bandit — that Dora shot first, saving both their lives.
  • Covers Always Lie:
    • The back cover blurb of the novel implies a My Own Grampa plot where none such occurs. Although he does sleep with his mother, she's already pregnant at the time and in any event he arrives years after his own birth. On the other hand, his cover story does result in him being taken for his own distant uncle.
    • It also provides incorrect start and end dates for Lazarus' life: 1916 rather than 1912 for his birth, and 4272 for his death, which is not only wrong — the Tertius segment is explicitly set in 4292 — but almost spoils the ending. He does nearly get killed, in 1917, but subsequent novels reveal him to be alive and well years later on his personal timeline.
  • Determined Homesteader: On "New Beginnings", Lazarus ends up marrying an ephemeral, Dora, and rather than take her into space with him and see her wither away among immortals, he instead decides to settle a homestead with her, with the full commitment that entails. He initially embarks on the project on an whim, seeing her short lifespan as but a blip in his own, but she teaches him to love like no other woman before or after.
  • Diamonds in the Buff: In the section "The Tale of the Adopted Daughter" Lazarus' wife Dora sometimes wears a weapons belt, a set of ruby jewelry he gave her (several bracelets, rings, and a pendant)...and nothing else.
  • Dismotivation: See Brilliant, but Lazy.
  • Earth That Used to Be Better: Old Earth is frequently referred to as a hellhole by anyone who discusses it, as it's succumbed to horrific overpopulation despite galactic emigration, and said emigration has also drained off its best and brightest. In the story about Lazarus' time with Dora, he's visited by his son Zack, who brought a load of old people from Earth, reporting that a law has been enacted that makes everyone legally dead at age seventy-five; they can't own property, their heirs inherit, and anyone can kill them for the hell of it.
  • Enlightened Self-Interest: Lazarus Long observes, "Never appeal to a man's 'better nature'. He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage."
  • Eternal Sexual Freedom: Lazarus' mother, Maureen, had this value system instilled in her by her father... in the late nineteenth century. She manages to conceal it beneath a very carefully maintained facade of propriety.
  • Everyone Is Bi: Except Lazarus, oddly. He claims it's due to built-in prejudices from his "Bible Belt upbringing".
  • Everyone Is Related: Within the Howard Families, this is pretty much a given due to the limited gene pool they started with and the intermingling across the centuries. Lazarus takes it to a frankly absurd extreme: it's statistically estimated that over 80 percent of people with Howard ancestry are his descendants — 99+% if you claim a recent Howard ancestor. In fact, the novel makes a Running Gag out of the Howards he meets telling him how closely related they are.
  • Exposition of Immortality: Lazarus Long spends a great deal of time (approximately a third of the novel), discussing or remembering things that have happened to him during his 2300 year long lifetime.
  • Fake Assisted Suicide: Lazarus Long is twenty-three hundred years old and just wants to die. The staff of the clinic holding him sabotages his suicide device so that when he tries to use it he's just rendered unconscious and his short-term memory is wiped instead of dying. They do this so they can continue the rejuvenation process that will make him feel like wanting to live again, while he thinks that he can choose to die at any time.note 
  • Falling into His Arms: Lazarus catches a girl thrown out from a house on fire.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: In Space Is an Ocean style, as interplanetary travel on the Libby drive seems to occur on a scale of weeks to months.
  • Finishing Each Other's Sentences: Laz and Lor do this, to the point of actively annoying the other characters. They find it difficult to organize their thoughts when made to speak singly — at one point, Lazarus gets tired of the gag and orders them point blank to have one speak for both of them.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Discussed by Lazarus with his Tertius family when he's contemplating Time Travel to the 1920s United States. Laz and Lor in particular want to come with him, but he categorically refuses on the grounds that they have absolutely no idea how to fit in with the "craziness" of the times in question and would end up in jail or murdered in short order. He can go only because he grew up there and knows the customs.
  • The Fog of Ages: Lazarus describes the horror and unrelenting frustration that a two thousand year memory creates.
    "I told you my memory was playing tricks. I've used Andy Libby's hypno-encyclopedic techniques - and they're good - and also learned tier storage for memory I didn't need every day, with keying words to let a tier cascade when I did need it, like a computer, and I have had my brain washed of useless memories several times in order to clear those file drawers for new data - and still it's no good. Half the time I can't remember where I put the book I was reading the night before, then waste a morning looking for it - before I remember that that book was one I was reading a century ago."
  • Foreshadowing: After Lazarus breaks his Masquerade to his 1917 family, they point out that he doesn't actually need to go through with his enlistment in World War One — and specifically, that while he knows the outcome of the war in general, he can't know the outcome of his own participation because it's in his personal future. He assures them that he'll be careful; he's a veteran of countless wars and knows when to duck. Oh, Lazarus — Tempting Fate much?
  • Framing Device: The Scheherezade Gambit for Lazarus' memoirs in the first part. In the second part, much of the Time Travel segment is retold through Lazarus' letters that he writes and sends to his Tertius family via Delay Mail.
  • Framing Story: The first two thirds of the novel is this for Lazarus' memoirs. The last third is a more traditional sci-fi Time Travel romp.
  • Free-Love Future: The Howard Families in general seem to have adopted extremely open and liberal attitudes toward sex over the centuries; this is explained as a natural result of their focus on genetic compatibility in procreation above traditional social mores — make healthy babies and whatever else you do is your business. It's interesting to observe the traditions and taboos that have developed even within this system, particularly the focus on registering all children with the Families' geneticists and an ingrained aversion to "defectives". Lazarus observes, however, that Howards are very careful to maintain a Masquerade of conformance to the norms of whatever society they're living in, to avoid drawing attention to themselves.
    • Ishtar and Galahad agree to have sex...not having exchanged names and having seen each other only in isolation suits. They're basically attracted to each other mentally, and when Ishtar asks Galahad his sex, he asks, "Does it matter?" It doesn't. She actually admits later that she guessed him to be female.
  • Fully-Clothed Nudity: Discussed by Lazarus with respect to the mores of the 1910s. In particular, he is amazed by how he can be turned on by Maureen's nearly Victorian flirtatiousness despite living in a future where casual nudity is the norm.
  • Gainax Ending: The final chapter is a bit of a Mind Screw, leaving it up to the audience to interpret whether Lazarus survives and what the cryptic final passage means.
  • Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: Discussed by Lazarus in response to Dora, who has just shot a man for the first time and wonders whether she's perverse in feeling horny afterwards. He reassures her that it's perfectly normal, as long as she doesn't get addicted to the sensation.
  • Good Bad Girl: Lazarus' mother, Maureen. Forced to adopt the illusion of propriety by the times in which she lives, she is about as horny a woman as one could imagine. Lazarus (and by extension, Heinlein) seems to hold the opinion that the cultural ideal of a "good" girl is terribly destructive and should be maintained only to satisfy the Moral Guardians of your time.
  • Got Volunteered: Lazarus' squad in World War One, by a Jerkass lieutenant, to clear some barbed wire. Turns out that machine guns don't care if you're two thousand years old or from the future.
  • Grumpy Old Man: And damned well earned it too. If only those young whippersnappers would let him die in peace!
  • Hard on Soft Science: From The Notebooks of Lazarus Long:
    If it can't be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion.
  • Have You Seen My God?: At one point, Lazarus ponders the possibility that "God split himself into a myriad parts that he might have friends," concluding, "this may not be true, but it sounds good—and is no sillier than any other theology." The formal name for such a theory is Pandeism.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Andy Libby was this for Lazarus; the two of them apparently stuck together for hundreds of years, exploring the galaxy.
  • Hobbes Was Right: Lazarus feels that any sufficiently large and crowded human society inevitably devolves into tyranny. This is why, when things get too "busy" on whatever planet he's on, he grabs a bunch of like-minded folks and colonizes a fresh one. This point of view contributes to the Libertarian Aesop of the novel: a man is at his best when governed as little as possible.
  • Humanity Is Infectious: For intelligent computers, apparently, leading to Pinocchio Syndrome.
  • Humans Are Special: While Lazarus relates a few tales about encountering alien life in his explorations of the galaxy (see Methuselah's Children), none of them seem able to compete even remotely with humanity's colonial drive, even if they are physically or technologically superior. He proposes Creative Sterility as one possible explanation.
  • Humans Are White: A somewhat ambiguous example. While the Howard Families seem exclusively Caucasian to go by their given names — and likely started out that way in the 19th and 20th centuries — the novel implies the presence of mixed racial types by describing characters with different skin colors, and Lazarus at certain points claims that the issue of race has become moot. In interviews, Heinlein stated that the censorship standards of the time forbade him from making it explicit.
    • At one point, he mentions that the Chinese government forbade interstellar emigration, partially accounting for this.
  • I Have Many Names: Lazarus has a truly awesome number of them, many of which are enumerated in the introduction.
  • Immortal Procreation Clause: Averted with gusto by Lazarus, although he did go through an asexual phase after getting tired of the mechanical aspects of sex, and before rediscovering love for its own sake — see Everyone Is Related. It's also partly a consequence of the Howard Families' tendency to idolize/fetishize the long-lived, as nearly every female he meets goes delirious over the idea of bearing his children; his genetic pattern is a proven winner to the extreme.
    • Somewhat justified by how the Howard Families were set up: when the Howard Trust was installed, you were considered for membership if you could prove your parents and grandparents (and, maybe, great grandparents) had a "long" lifespan (usually, over 100 years). While Lazarus was born/alive around the time the Trust was set up, the fact that he didn't need rejuvenation until he was approaching 250...
  • Immortality Hurts: Lazarus lived long and loved well, but the only time he ever truly fell deeply in romantic love with a woman was Dora, an Ephemeral. When she died (at the ripe old age of 90), he stopped wanting to live forever.
  • Immortality Seeker: As related in Methuselah's Children, the Howard Foundation was started by a rich man dying prematurely of old age, and was essentially an experiment in applied eugenics — breed long-lived people to each other to get even longer-lived people. It was so successful that it inspired the ordinary short-lived humans to develop rejuvenation technology, and the combination of the two enables effectively indefinite human lifespans. However, natural attrition and ennui mean that Lazarus is statistically the oldest known human being by a factor of at least two.
  • Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!: When asked about this, Lazarus opines that the necessary ingredient for turning a merely extraordinarily complex computer into a sapient one is the addition of love.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: According to Lazarus, at least as important as knowing how to shoot straight is being wise enough to get out of town before the shooting starts. He ascribes his survival largely to the practical application of this kind of common sense, and the one time he fails at it is the time Death nearly catches up to him.
  • Living Distant Ancestor: Lazarus to most of Secundus, and a good chunk of the rest of human space.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: Or not, at turns, depending on the mood Lazarus is in. He gets better eventually.
  • Longevity Treatment: Medical rejuvenation therapy, which consists at its simplest level of replacing the body's entire blood supply with cloned blood, and can go as far as cloned replacements of just about everything — even the brain, with computer support to transfer the memories. Coupled with the Howards' naturally extended lifespans, it makes living forever possible, at least in theory.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Or in this case makes you enlist in the army in World War One so as not to disappoint your mother, whom you have traveled in time to visit and have fallen in love with, despite having no personal stake in the war and knowing the outcome... of the war, that is.
  • Love Imbues Life: Lazarus opines that Minerva became self-aware due to Ira lavishing personal attention on her. She claims that her earliest "true" memories are of waiting eagerly for him to speak to her.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe:
    • Lazarus's grandfather, having no way to perform a DNA check, comes to the erroneous conclusion that Lazarus is his dead brother's illegitimate child. Maureen later tells Lazarus that her father admitted to her he thinks it's at least as likely that "Ted Bronson" (the alias Lazarus is using on his time trip) is actually his own extramarital child.
    • After finding out with which of his wives he produced Ishtar's family line, Lazarus confides to Ira that he's pretty sure said wife got pregnant by someone else — albeit with one of his descendants, so Ishtar is descended from him anyway.
    • Lazarus mentions that he's quite certain he raised children over his centuries of life who were not his biological offspring. He says that he was especially careful to be a loving father to such children.
    • The group marriage on Tertius is set to sidestep this: you can join at any time and leave at almost any time. However, if any babies arrive while you're there, then you're expected to stick around until "they're grown", no matter what. You might not be the father, but you are expected to teach them how to behave.
  • Marilyn Maneuver: While visiting an amusement park, Maureen arranges for Lazarus to get an eyeful by standing over a funhouse air vent when she's certain that nobody else is watching. He observes that she's not wearing bloomers... and that she doesn't dye her hair.
  • Masquerade: The Howard Families conceal their lengthy lifespans whenever they are among short-lived humans to avoid jealousy, which is most of the time as they're vastly outnumbered on most planets. Secundus is unique because Howards form a majority of the population and can relax there. You can hardly blame them for being cautious after the events of Methuselah's Children; even if Lazarus is the only one old enough to remember those dark days, it likely wasn't many generations ago for some of the Howards.
  • May–December Romance: It's not at all unusual in a marriage between Howard Families members for spouses to differ in age by centuries.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Whenever a Howard marries an "ephemeral". Lazarus illustrates this most keenly in his recounting of his marriage to Dora, who was his greatest love and, consequently, the greatest loss in his life when she inevitably passed on. He remarks that it is this more than anything that keeps Howards apart from greater human society; it's also nearly impossible to maintain the Masquerade in the presence of someone you're intimate with for years.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: From the notebooks:
    All societies are based on rules to protect pregnant women and young children. All else is surplusage, excrescence, adornment, luxury, or folly, which can — and must — be dumped in emergency to preserve this prime function. As racial survival is the only universal morality, no other basis is possible. Attempts to formulate a "perfect society" on any foundation other than "Women and children first!" is not only witless, it is automatically genocidal. Nevertheless, starry-eyed idealists (all of them male) have tried endlessly — and no doubt will keep on trying.
  • The Milky Way Is the Only Way: Intergalactic expeditions are mentioned, but nobody's heard back from them yet. With the technology available, it should in theory be possible to do, especially once it's discovered that the Libby drive can enable Time Travel.
  • Mix-and-Match Man: Minerva's Wetware Body is a synthetic clone combining one chromosome pair each from twenty-three parents, including Lazarus.
  • Moment Killer: Woodie, to Lazarus and Maureen's would-be tryst, by virtue of stowing away in their car. Their reluctance to proceed in his presence is not so much out of concern for his innocence as for his blabber mouth.
  • Mouthy Kid: The portrayal of Lazarus' 1917 self, Woodie (or Woodrow Wilson Smith, if you prefer). He's about as un-innocent as it's possible for a five-year old boy to be and Lazarus reflects on how it took many, many applications of paddle to arse to keep him even remotely in line.
  • My Future Self and Me: Yes, Lazarus, that ornery five-year old with the flappy Dr. Dentons is you.
  • My Girl Is a Slut: Maureen, you are. And you love it. And the men in your life love it.
    • Dora as well. And Llita. It's pretty much the norm in the future.
  • My Grandson, Myself: One of the many methods that Howards use to maintain their Masquerade is by posing as their own children or grandchildren, after careful cosmetic aging followed by "death".
  • My Skull Runneth Over: See The Fog of Ages above.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Lazarus was born Woodrow Wilson Smith, named for U.S. president Woodrow Wilson. In-Universe, a number of names keep cropping up in Howard Family genealogy, particularly Ira (Ira Howard, Ira Johnson, and Ira Weatheral — the third being named explicitly after the second, and the first two an apparent historical coincidence). There is a Justin Foote in Methuselah's Children and another in Time Enough for Love. This is discussed by the characters, and in 1917, Lazarus is privileged to observe the marriage of his older sister Nancy into the Weatheral family.
  • Naming Your Colony World: Tellus Tertius, or "Earth Three", after Lazarus and crew boogie out of Tellus Secundus, or "Earth Two".
  • New Child Left Behind: Minerva, Laz, and Lor all sleep with Lazarus prior to his departure to 1916 in an attempt to get pregnant so they'll have Someone to Remember Him By after he "gets his ass shot off".
  • Newspaper Dating: Lazarus discovers by this method that he arrived in Missouri a few years too early and is now going to have to get mixed up in, or dodge, World War One.
  • Noodle Incident: Multiple vague references are made to the "2012 meeting of the Howard families," a gag that started in the previous novel Methuselah's Children. By now, it's an in-universe Noodle Incident; Lazarus is the only one alive who attended the meeting. Ira Weatheral attempts to find out what happened, but Lazarus refuses to discuss it on the grounds that it would just be his version without giving the others a chance to dispute it. Lazarus is even urged to use time travel to go back and record the meeting so everyone will finally know what happened, but he explains that it's not possible because no one would be allowed into the meeting unless their identity was firmly established.
  • Not Used to Freedom: Lazarus tried to free Joe and Llita immediately after buying them. Trouble was, it didn't make them free in their minds. They knew slaves were sometimes freed by their owners, but it was normally a gesture for old, loyal slaves who just stayed where they were and maybe got paid a little. Lazarus took them along on his trading trip and slowly taught them to be self-sufficient.
  • Nothing Left to Do but Die: Ira makes it his job to convince Lazarus otherwise.
  • The Noun Who Verbed: Two chapters are titled "The Tale of the Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail" and "The Tale of the Twins Who Weren't".
  • Older Than They Look: All Howards have naturally extended lifespans even before rejuvenation therapy takes over and turns it into Really 700 Years Old.
  • The Older Immortal: Lazarus is the oldest man alive.
  • Old-Timey Ankle Taboo: Lazarus Long mentions when he travels back in time to 1917 that he is surprised at the thrill it gives him to see a woman's ankle when it happens to get exposed. He also mentions that he is careful not to let anyone catch him looking.
  • Opposite-Sex Clone: The thing that gets Lazarus interested in life again — his caretakers conspire to bear twin female clones of him.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: The Howard Families tend to be secular, and Lazarus himself is aggressively atheistic. However, there are planets whose populations take religion very seriously and Lazarus has posed successfully as a priest on more than one occasion. He remarks that "faith is for the congregation, Ira. It handicaps a priest."
  • Parental Incest: Lazarus discovers, on meeting his mom back in 1917, that he is incredibly horny for her. She, in turn, falls for "Ted Bronson", not knowing that he's her son from the future. Interestingly, the relationship is not consummated until after he reveals the truth. Lazarus' seduction by his Opposite Sex Clones might also count, depending on whether one considers them his sisters or his daughters (he did raise them as the latter).
    • Ira Weatheral and Hamadryad; Galahad says that the latter told him Ira is one of the possible fathers for one of her children.
  • Pinocchio Syndrome: The long-term goal of many AI characters is to download themselves into a Wetware Body, most often to experience love. It is accomplished for the first time ever during the Time Skip that sets up the novel's second half.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Laz and Lor decide to take a turn at space piracy when they grow up. It is unrevealed if they actually hijack other ships or not.
  • Polyamory: After his rejuvenation, Lazarus takes his new family and a few others and founds the Tertius colony. After a Time Skip, we see that he's living with them in a Romanesque group marriage, with himself as a sort of presiding officer over their good-natured anarchy.note 
  • The Power of Love: Love is, in Lazarus' opinion, the only thing that makes life worth living for thousands of years. He gets in a Title Drop with the observation that the saddest thing about ordinary short-lifers is that they barely have time enough for it.
    • It is also the reason he pities homosexuals. Less because of culturally ingrained perceptions of homosexuality (he was born in 1912, after all), but because he believes that it is so much harder for them to find true love. He goes into detail about two different kinds of love, Eros - for love that's initially built on sexual attraction, and Agape - for the love of the person for who they are. Needless to say, he vastly prefers the latter.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Among Howards, age is typically counted not in years but in rejuvenations, resulting in such anomalies as a thousand-year-old man in a twenty-year-old body.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Lazarus justifies this by deducing that sapient computers learn to be human by taking on aspects of their owners' personalities.
  • Sarcastic Confession: Lazarus remarks that one of two ways to tell a lie artistically is to tell the truth in such a manner that no one believes you. Needless to say, he's an excellent liar, having learned the art at his grandfather's knee — more properly, by being paddled over his grandfather's knee for getting caught. He counts this as among his most important survival skills.
  • Scheherezade Gambit: Used in reverse — Lazarus' deal with Ira is that he will agree to rejuvenation for only as long as Ira continues to listen to him tell his stories, and the whole deal is conditional on Ira finding something (not ridiculously suicidal) to do that Lazarus hasn't already done.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: As the oldest man alive, Lazarus feels the need to defer to nobody.
  • Screw Yourself: Faced with Lazarus' reluctance to sleep with them, Laz and Lor assert that sex with one's Opposite Sex Clones cannot be incest by definition; it's closer to masturbation. Of course it turns out that he just wanted to be convinced it was their own free choice in the matter.
  • Seen-It-All Suicide: Lazarus's reasoning for refusing rejuvenation is that the universe holds nothing new for him.
  • Settling the Frontier: Lazarus has led the colonization of many a planet in his centuries of life, partly because he believes in the expansion of the human race and partly because he vastly prefers the pioneer mindset to the city mindset. Whenever life gets "too busy" on a planet he's made home, he uproots himself and colonizes a new one. Toward the end, on Tertius, he complains that advances in technology have made it too easy.
  • Shooting Lessons From Your Parents: When Lazarus Long was ten years old, his grandfather Ira Johnson taught him how to shoot. The most important lesson he learned was to never trust anyone else's word about whether a gun was loaded or unloaded, but to always check it yourself. He says that that lesson - expanded to cover most situations - saved his life several times.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Given the reverence of the Howard families for long-lived people and the reticence of the man himself, Lazarus has acquired an almost mythological status among those who know of his existence. He himself is quick to deflate their near-worship by pointing out that he's just a "grumpy old man". To which Ira retorts that he's lived over two thousand years, so he must possess some unusual traits, even if it's just the knowledge of how to live that long.
  • Single-Minded Twins: Laz/Lor. They practice Finishing Each Other's Sentences, partly out of amusement at how it weirds people out. They also claim to be able to read each other's thoughts.
  • Skinny Dipping: Lazarus Long, two thousand years in the future, has to explain to his daughters/sisters/clones that people in the 20th century actually wore clothes while swimming. They don't understand why anyone would.
  • Silly Will: Lazarus tries to put together his will so that all his assets will be left to Prostitutes, Panhandlers, and other undesirables beginning with 'P'. When Minerva points out that probably won't survive legal arbitration, he says to leave it to a cat shelter instead, or some other useless thing that will get through, as long as the trustees can't get hold of it.
  • The Slow Path: How Lazarus sends letters to his Tertius family (in 4292) from 1916-1917. Envelopes in envelopes, addressed to be opened in turn by future iterations of the Howard trustees.
  • Spaceship Girl: Dora, named by Lazarus after the woman he loved more than any other.
  • Space Western: Life on a planetary colony is highly reminiscent of the old West.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: As an enlistee in World War One, Lazarus is unable to conceal the fact that he's a veteran of wars beyond count in his multiple future lifetimes. Rather than try, he instead refuses to deny the notion that he might be a deserter from the French Foreign Legion, and only occasionally salutes in a "French" manner and drops an oddly accented word in his conversation. In this way he acquires a reputation as a major badass.
  • Temporal Paradox:
    • Discussed when Lazarus travels back to the 20th century, and ultimately resolved in favor of You Already Changed the Past. However, Lazarus commits a major error in reassuring his 1917 family that, since he's from the future, he'll survive his involvement in World War One, ignoring that this is the second time through from his personal point of view. It bites him in the ass hard.
    • It is revealed in To Sail Beyond the Sunset that Lazarus relates a whole laundry list of future happenings to Maureen during his visit, which allow her to take key actions to save the Howard trust fund from the Great Depression and rescue the first manned spaceflight from bankruptcy. Predestination paradox ahoy!
  • Theme Initials: "LL". Then, "LLL". Lots of L's, anyway.
  • Theme Twin Naming: Lapis Lazuli Long and Lorelei Lee Long (Laz and Lor for short).
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: Lazarus basically takes this position toward the subject of the planet Mary Sperling stayed behind on.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Lazarus uses this method of execution on a slave overseer that insists on boarding his vessel. Not exactly an application of super survival thinking on the latter's part.
  • Time Skip: The narrative jumps some thirteen years between the conclusion of Lazarus' rejuvenation and the arrival of Justin Foote on Tertius. It then jumps another three to five years to when Lazarus leaves on his time trip.
  • Time Travel: A heretofore unexplored aspect of the Libby FTL drive, Lazarus is asked to use this to explore all sorts of past events by the Howard Families. He eventually settles on visiting his family in 1919. Unfortunately, he makes a calculation error and ends up in 1916 instead, just prior to America's entry into World War I.
  • Time-Travel Romance: Initiated in this novel between Lazarus and Maureen, it is picked up and resolved by the sequel, The Number of the Beast.
  • Tracking Device: Unbeknownst to Lazarus, his Tertius family implants one in him prior to his departure to the twentieth century. This comes in very handy when he has to be rescued later.
  • Truly Single Parent: Lazarus, to Laz and Lor.
  • Twincest: Not Laz/Lor surprisingly, but Lazarus relates a story about how he bought and freed a pair of slaves who are diploid complements of each other. That is, they are twins created by taking exactly half of the chromosome pairs of each parent note  and fusing them with the complementary half of the other. Thus, although technically twin brother and sister from the same parents, they are genetically unrelated to each other and can safely interbreed — and do. Due to completely unrelated circumstances, Lazarus also concludes that they are his own descendants.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The equations used by the Libby drive in FTL Travel for thousands of years have apparently always implied the possibility of Time Travel, but nobody realized it until Minerva speaks up. Far from causing shocked surprise in everyone who hears about it, they treat it as just another interesting scientific discovery and send exactly one human being (Lazarus) to explore the past. Lazarus, for his part, is explicitly uninterested in going back to watch wars and stuff; he's more curious about things like the first Mozart concert, or whether Jesus was a real person.
  • Uplifted Animal: The mutant mules that Lazarus and Dora work with in their colony have enhanced intelligence; some are near-human level, and can talk.
  • Undead Tax Exemption: Fully exploited by the Howard families to maintain their Masquerade as ordinary short-lived humans. They find it much easier to do so in pioneering societies where people care less about your paperwork and more about your contributions.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Lazarus gets called out on the implausibilities and impossibilities in many of his stories — in particular cases where his recollections don't agree with historical records. He glosses over these by labeling them parables and in any event, he was there and knows better than any historian. Some of the footnotes attached to the Framing Story in the prologue serve as Lampshade Hanging of this.
    • There are also a few cases where the story he will tell will remain very inconsistent between telling or when he gets interrupted. One is a case where he apparently told four stories, he was in his right mind, about the same event, retconning the gun he had used from being a toy to a trusty weapon and the aftereffects of it range from mass death to freedom. The characters in story are quite tired of it.
  • We Are as Mayflies: Ordinary short-lived humans compared to Howards. Not only do they live a mere pittance of years naturally, but rejuvenation techniques don't work as well for them in the long term.
    • This does lead to a Tear Jerker: against his own personal experience/advice, Lazarus married an 'ordinary' person, and lived with her for decades. Then he was with her when she died of old age...
  • Wetware Body: One of the technological feats that Lazarus inspires Ira and crew to accomplish is the downloading of a computer brain into a cloned human body. Minerva is the first AI to accomplish this, but she's followed in later books by several more.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Invoked; Lazarus relates a story about dealing with slavers, and his audience calls him out on omitting the fate of a particular character. His response: "Wondered if you would notice that. I spaced the bastard! Alive. He went thataway, eyes popped out and peeing blood. What did you expect me to do? Kiss him?"
    • Lazarus tells how David Lamb impregnated a young woman and married her while a cadet at Annapolis. The wife gets brief mentions later on, but the child isn't mentioned even once; only the pregnancy is. Even its gender is unknown.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Lazarus spends a great deal of his rejuvenation time debating exactly what the word "love" means with his caretakers. He calls it the slipperiest concept in the universe and keeps saying that he "knows it when he sees it", much to their frustration. A sapient computer is motivated to Become a Real Boy to discover physical love, only for Lazarus to point out that she already must understand love even to be considering the idea.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: A question raised by the story; apparently, the Howard Families' statistics show that the most common cause of non-accidental death among their members is refusing further rejuvenations.
  • Wife Husbandry: Initiated by the young colonist Dora, who falls in love with Long as his ward. He eventually consents and reinvents his identity to switch from her father to her husband, though he's not in love with her just then; he simply sees it as a way to make his foster daughter happy for the few decades she has, which is a short time to him. She ends up being the greatest love of his life.
  • Write Back to the Future: Lazarus uses this method, involving letters in a series of nested envelopes, to send regular reports back to Tertius on his progress in the 1910s. They use the moment when letters stop being sent to pinpoint when he needs to be rescued.