The Rolling Stones (novel)

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The Rolling Stones (also published under the name Space Family Stone in the United Kingdom) is a 1952 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein.

A condensed version of the novel had been published earlier in Boys' Life (September, October, November, December 1952) under the title "Tramp Space Ship". It was published in hardcover that year by Scribner's as part of the Heinlein juveniles.


Plot summary

The Stones, a family of "Loonies" (residents of the Moon, known as "Luna" in Latin), buy a used spaceship (which by this time is less complicated than a car), overhaul it, and go sightseeing around the solar system.

The twin teenage boys, Castor and Pollux, buy used bicycles to sell on Mars, their first stop. They run afoul of import regulations and are bailed out by their feisty, colorful grandmother, Hazel. While on the planet, the twins buy their kid brother Buster a native Martian creature called a flat cat as a pet. Born pregnant and producing a soothing vibration, the endearing creature makes more trouble (and more money) than anyone would have thought possible.

The twins talk their father into taking a detour to the Asteroid Belt, where the future equivalent of a gold rush is in progress; rather than gold, the miners are prospecting for radioactive ores. The boys cannily load up on supplies and luxury goods, since history has shown that shopkeepers are much more likely to get rich than miners. On the trip, the flat cat gives birth, its children do the same, and before they know it, the Stones are knee deep in purring Martians, all happily eating the food they were going to sell. They finally put the creatures in a low-temperature hold to get them to hibernate. Once they reach the asteroids, they are pleasantly surprised to discover that the lonely miners are willing to pay for the Stones' unwanted pets. Then Buster and Hazel get lost, and Hazel almost dies before they are rescued by the twins.

At the end, they decide to indulge their wanderlust further by traveling to Saturn to see the rings.


Heinlein later credited the 1905 Ellis Parker Butler short story "Pigs is Pigs" with the inspiration for the flat cat dilemma. In turn a similar plotline was used in the noted Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles". According to the screenwriter, David Gerrold, the show's producers noticed similarities in the two stories and asked Heinlein for permission to use the idea[1]. Heinlein asked for an autographed copy of the script but otherwise did not object, noting that both stories owed something to the Butler story "and possibly to Noah"[2].

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