To Sail Beyond the Sunset

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To Sail Beyond the Sunset is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein published in 1987. It was the last novel published before he died in 1988.

It is the last of the "Lazarus Long" cycle of stories, involving time travel, parallel dimensions, free love, voluntary incest, and a concept that Heinlein named pantheistic solipsism, or World as Myth — the theory that universes are created by the act of imagining them so that somewhere (for example) the Land of Oz is real. It can easily be considered[by whom?] the capstone to the series, as it ends on a note very suggestive of an epic's finale.

Its title is taken from the poem Ulysses, by Alfred Lord Tennyson. The stanza of which it is a part, quoted by a character in the novel, is as follows:

... my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.

Other books in this cycle include Methuselah's Children, Time Enough for Love, The Number of the Beast, and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.

Plot

The book is a memoir of Maureen Johnson Smith Long, mother, lover and eventual wife of Lazarus Long. Maureen is ostensibly recording the events of the book while being held in a future prison, awaiting her uncertain fate, along with Pixel, the kitten from The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.

Maureen, born on July 4, 1882, recounts her girlhood in Kansas City, young adulthood, discovery that her family is a member of the long-lived Howard Families (whose backstory is revealed in Methuselah's Children), marriage to Brian Smith, another member of that family, and her life until her accidental "death" in 1982. Maureen lives through, and gives her (sometimes contradictory) viewpoints on many events in other Heinlein stories, most notably the 1917 visit from the future by "Ted Bronson" (in actuality Lazarus Long), told from Long's point of view in Time Enough for Love, D. D. Harriman's space program from The Man Who Sold the Moon and the rolling roads from The Roads Must Roll.

The adventures of Maureen are a series of sexual ones, starting with Heinlein describing her as a young girl who having just had her first menstrual period is examined by her father, a doctor, and finds herself desiring him sexually. Her sexual life story then continues with various boys, her husband, ministers, other women's husbands, boyfriends, swinging sessions, and her own son who is actually Lazurus Long/Theodore Bronson. Additionally, she continues a lifelong pursuit of her father sexually, and encourages her husband to have sexual intercourse with their daughters - and is there with him when he does. She does forbid a son and daughter of hers from continuing an incestuous relationship, primarily for the sister not being willing to share the brother with other women.[1] All of that is set against the backdrop of a history lesson of an alternate 20th century in which a variety of social and philosophical commentary is delivered.

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