Have Space Suit—Will Travel

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Have Space Suit—Will Travel is a science fiction novel for young readers by Robert A. Heinlein, originally serialised in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (August, September, October 1958) and published by Scribner's in hardcover in 1958 as the last of the Heinlein juveniles.

Heinlein made use of his engineering expertise to bring a sense of realism to the story; for a time during World War II, he was a civilian aeronautics engineer working at a laboratory where pressure suits were developed for use at high altitudes.

Have Space Suit—Will Travel was nominated for a Hugo Award in 1959.[1]


Plot summary

Clifford "Kip" Russell, a bright high school senior with an eccentric father, enters an advertising jingle writing contest for Skyway Soap, hoping to win an all-expenses-paid trip to the Moon. He instead gets an obsolete, but genuine, used space suit. Though a few make fun of him, with the help of sympathetic townspeople, and using his own ingenuity and determination, Kip puts the suit (which he dubs "Oscar") back into working condition.

Kip wants to go into space; he reluctantly decides to return his space suit for a cash prize to help pay for college, but puts it on for one last walk. As he idly broadcasts on his radio, someone identifying herself as "Peewee" answers with a Mayday signal. He helps her home in on his location, and is shocked when a flying saucer lands practically on top of him. A young girl and an alien being (later identified as the "Mother Thing") debark, but all three are quickly captured and taken to the Moon.

Their alien kidnapper is nicknamed "Wormface" by Kip, who refers to the species as "Wormfaces". They are horrible-looking, vaguely anthropomorphic creatures who contemptuously refer to all others as "animals". Wormface has two human flunkies who had assisted him in capturing the Mother Thing and Peewee, a preteen genius and the daughter of one of Earth's most eminent scientists. The Mother Thing speaks in what sounds to Kip like birdsong, with a few musical notations in the text giving a flavor of her language. However, Kip and Peewee have no trouble understanding her.

Kip, Peewee, and the Mother Thing try to escape to the human lunar base by hiking cross-country, but they are recaptured and taken to a more remote base on Pluto. Kip is thrown into a cell, later to be joined by the two human traitors, who have apparently outlived their usefulness. Before they later disappear, one mentions to Kip that his former employers eat humans.

The Mother Thing, meanwhile, makes herself useful to their captors by constructing advanced devices for them. In the process, she steals enough parts to assemble a bomb and a rescue transmitter. The bomb takes care of the most of the Wormfaces, but the Mother Thing freezes solid when she tries to set up the transmitter outside without a spacesuit. Kip nearly freezes to death himself while retrieving her body and activating the distress beacon, but help arrives almost instantly. It turns out that the Mother Thing is far hardier than Kip had suspected. She was not in danger; her body "would not permit" her cells to rupture. Kip, however, having suffered frostbite to the point of requiring quadruple amputation if he were treated on Earth, requires some months of cryopreservation in liquid helium while the Mother Thing's people decide how to treat his injuries.

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