In Peru Without a Passport

November 14, 2019

Notes on the young adult science fiction book Between Planets by Robert Heinlein Appropriately enough, I picked up a worn paperback copy of Robert A. Heinlein's 1951 science fiction novel "Between Planets" in a book flea market while traveling around, undocumented, in Lima, Peru. Published in 1951, this slim volume, aimed at the young adult market, grappled with serious questions that one can have about loyalty and freedom.

I was looking for a slim paperback to read--something to fit in my back pocket--because I had to pick up a replacement passport that had went missing over the long weekend. The U.S. Embassy did not allow electronics of any sort, and knowing I'd be in that bureacratic waiting room for a minte, I wanted something to occupy my mind. Also, I'm trying to get out of the habit of checking Twitter or Instagram on my my phone every time I get a few free minutes. Having a magazine or a small book to dip into seems like the better way to go.

Heinlein's slim volume tracks a young man who has found himself caught between different planets as well. Don was staying at a camp on earth when he gets an urgent missive from his parents to return to their home, on Mars, immediately. They sense that a war is about to break out between the planets and the Federation, a entity that wants to unite the planets under a single governing body. Don is a man with no home, of sorts. He was born in space, though his mother was from Venus, so he had birthrites to that planet, even if he does not feel any loyalty to that world per se. As it turns out, he does not make it to Mars and finds himself shuttled back to Venus, where he decides to join the freedom fighters of that planet.

The novel felt timely, if not timeless, and not just because I was wandering around a foreign country with no papers, helped along only by some friends who lived in the area. Peru itself takes its heritage of won freedom very seriously. Mess with the statue of José de San Martín, who liberated the country in the 19th Century from the Spaniards, at your own peril. Bolivia and Chili are currently going through upheavals of freedom, though each of a different sort.

If were without a country for more than just a weekend, I'd like to think I would be on the side of the freedom fighters. I know my friends would be. Autonomy requires freedom.

Notes on the young adult science fiction book Between Planets by Robert Heinlein