The Cat Who Walks Through Walls by Robert A. Heinlein – book review

Cover of the 1988 paperback edition of "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls" by Robert A. Heinlein.
Cover of “The Cat Who Walks Through Walls” by Robert A. Heinlein.
The Cat Who Walks Through Walls by Robert A. Heinlein is the very first and only Heinlein book I’ve ever read. I’ve been told for years what a good writer he is, and that I ought to read his works. So, I picked one at random (well, not entirely by random, as I really like the cover art by Michael Whelan on this one) and read it.

I liked this book until about two-thirds of the way through it. The dialogue was quite entertaining, moving along at a decent clip (it reminded me somewhat of the witty banter and dialog in the Gilmore Girls TV series), and I liked the characters for the most part, at least until I got about 2/3 of the way through the book (everything hinges on this, and I’m not the only one who noticed this).

Heinlein seemed to be preoccupied with sex of all kinds for a lot of the book, and he really cranked it up in the last third of the book. It was as if he reverted to being a teenager driven by raging hormones. This was quite distracting (not in a good way) from the story, and only served to begin ruining for me the entertainment value of the book.

Then there’s the “ending”. It reminded me of the ending to the movie 2001 as it made no sense and seemed to have nothing to do with anything in the rest of the book. It felt like Heinlein was on a deadline, and that he had a strict limit on the number of words he could use, so he simply ended things as quickly as possible. Like a TV series which has been cancelled and has to quickly wrap everything up before the last scheduled episode, it left me unsatisfied and annoyed.

I wanted to like this book, and I did for the first two-thirds, but the last third just made it barely mediocre. If you have nothing else to do (your oven has been cleaned and there are no tile grout lines needing cleaning with an old toothbrush), you might enjoy this book, but even Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World is better than the ending of this book (and I really don’t like Eye).

If Heinlein’s older books are like the first two-thirds of The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, then I will probably like them. If they are like the last third, I will likely not read any more of them. Ever.

Release Date: June 1, 1988 (USA)
ISBNs: 0441094996 (9780441094998)
Publisher: Ace

MySF Rating: Two point zero stars
Family Friendliness: 40%


Alcohol/Drugs: 4 (frequent alcohol and recreational drug use)
Language: 2 (some expletives and similar language)
Sexuality: 5 (frequent and some fairly graphic scenes)
Violence: 2 (fighting and other violence)

8 thoughts on “The Cat Who Walks Through Walls by Robert A. Heinlein – book review

  1. You can read anything from RH up ’til right before Stranger in a Strange Land. That, and all of his books after, sucked to high heavens. At that point in his career, he went for the cheap and dirty. If you want great Heinlein, try Starship Troopers, Door into Summer, Star Beast, or Red Planet. His books for 1950’s teenage boys are not only his best work, but some of the best sci-fi ever penned.

  2. Thanks for your comments, both of you. 🙂

    Jaleta: I have a friend whose nickname is “Podkayne”, and I’ve heard good things about that book. I will check out those two.

    Cliff: Thanks for the suggestions. I’ll check out those books as well.

  3. Tunnel in the Sky is his best YA, in my opinion. “By His Bootstraps” is, I think, the quintessential time travel story. Puppet Masters has been mined by virtually every SF writer on the planet.

  4. Well, it seems like I must have picked the wrong book for my first Heinlein experience. I’ll have to check out the books you guys have mentioned. Thank you for your comments!

  5. I noticed the overbearing sexuality themes in several of his books, I too found it disturbing that it took too much away from whatever he was doing with his stories. They would have stood on their own better if he had explained a few more things. Friday was a really good concept, but I’ve read it a few times, couldn’t quite follow some of the reasoning behind her, (Friday, the title character), thoughts. It too seemed like a hurry up finish, (it’s been a while since I read it last, I might be wrong).
    Methuselah’s Children, Time enough for Love, and the ones that followed just nose-dived into tepid at best story telling around an almost interesting series of plots. Again, the sexuality proselytizing wears thin really fast if you’ve stayed with him for all these stories.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I agree about the sexuality being completely unnecessary (and even creepy) at best. Ruined an otherwise interesting tale.

  6. Heinlein suffered from a partial blockage of his carotid arteries – the arteries which feed the brain – and it really changed him. Even after the problem was addressed through surgery, he was never the same. The early Heinlein, particularly the “juveniles” was great. The later stuff (especially from “Stranger” on), not so much.

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