The novel “The Door into Summer” by Robert A. Heinlein was published for the first time in 1956 serialized in the magazine “The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction” and in 1957 as a book.
Daniel Boone Davis turned to alcohol after his partner and his fiancée tricked him out of the company where he developed robot appliances. He decides to get hibernated to be awakened after thirty years with his cat Pete to be able to start again in a future he hopes will be better, but hasn’t yet settled things with 1970.
When Daniel Boone Davis goes to the headquarters of the company he’s no longer part of in the hope of a clarification, he ends up making his situation worse, and is sent into hibernation. He wakes up in the year 2000 and has to try to fix his situation, but when he starts looking for information on what happened in the years in which he was hibernated he starts discovering strange things.
Robert A. Heinlein was a cat man and found inspiration one day when his cat didn’t seem to decide whether he wanted to leave the house or not, and his wife Virginia commented that he was looking for the door into summer. In an interview, he stated that after that episode, he began writing the novel “The Door into Summer”, and he finished it in just 13 days.
In this novel, the cat Pete is in all respects a protagonist, not only as an interlocutor for Dan but in some moments also for his role in the plot. Among other things, Dan trusts Pete’s judgment of the humans he meets. Pete has “approved” Frederica “Ricky” Virginia Gentry, the stepdaughter of Miles Gentry, Dan’s former partner. The relationship between Dan and Ricky is weird considering that at the beginning of the novel he’s 30 years old and she, who is modeled on the author’s wife, is 12 years old, although nothing improper happens between the two of them in 1970.
Dan is modeled in various ways on Robert A. Heinlein himself being an engineer with a strong individualism. Loyal to his partner, he thinks he found the woman of his dreams in Belle Darkin, but then he discovers that the two of them ousted him from his company so they can sell it. Starting from what is around that society, the novel offers some ideas on how the 1970s and 2000s were seen in the 1950s.
The future told in the novel comes after an atomic war, albeit limited, after which the USA recovered at least from an economic point of view despite the destruction of various cities. The consequence is that certain technologies such as robotics and hibernation are developed to the point of being available in the 1970s. On the other hand, the war left some social problems with refugees from the areas affected by the enemy atomic weapons.
Dan, a former military man, worked hard in his company that produces robotic appliances, but at the beginning of the novel Dan was designing an even more sophisticated new robot. Robotics and other technical-scientific developments are a crucial part of “The Door into Summer” even if the explanations about them are quite limited. Robert A. Heinlein uses them very well to develop the various elements of the plot, without too many explanations that might become a burden.
The great strength of the novel lies in the construction of a plot in which Dan seems lost in 2000, in that year he makes discoveries that seem to make no sense to him, but slowly he starts understanding that there’s a reason for everything. Moving towards the end we can progressively see the overall consistency of the story.
“The Door into Summer” is not as famous as other novels by Robert A. Heinlein, but cleverly mixes elements typical of this author. For this reason, it still enjoys high consideration despite its age and I recommend reading it.