The Door into Summer

The Door into Summer
First Edition cover
AuthorRobert A. Heinlein
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardcover & Paperback)

The Door into Summer is a science fiction novel by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, originally serialized in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (October, November, December 1956, with covers and interior illustrations by Frank Kelly Freas). It was published in hardcover in 1957.

The novel is fast-paced hard science fiction, with a key fantastic element and a romantic element.

In three separate Locus magazine readers' polls from 1975 to 1998, it was judged the 36th, 29th, and the 43rd all-time best science-fiction novel.[1]

Its title was triggered by a remark which Heinlein's wife Virginia made when their cat refused to leave the house: "He's looking for a door into summer."[2]

Heinlein wrote the novel in 13 days.

Plot summary

The novel opens in 1970 with Daniel Boone Davis, an engineer and inventor, well into a long drinking binge. He has lost his company, Hired Girl, Inc., to his partner Miles Gentry and the company bookkeeper, Belle Darkin. She had been Dan's fiancée, deceiving him into giving her enough voting stock to allow her and Miles to seize control. Dan's only friend in the world is his cat, "Pete", a feisty tomcat who hates going outdoors in the snow.

Hired Girl, Inc. manufactures robot vacuum cleaners, but Dan had been developing a new line of all-purpose household robots, Flexible Frank, when Miles announces his intention to sell the company (and Flexible Frank) to Mannix Enterprises in which Miles would become a vice-president. Wishing to stay independent, Dan opposes the takeover, but is outvoted and then fired as Chief Engineer. Left with a large financial settlement, and his remaining Hired Girl stock, he elects to take "cold sleep" (suspended animation), hoping to wake up thirty years later to a brighter future. The examining doctor at the cold sleep facility immediately sees that Dan has been drinking. He warns him to show up sober or not at all 24 hours later for the actual procedure.

After becoming sober, Dan decides instead to mount a counter-attack. First he mails his Hired Girl stock certificate to the one person he trusts, Miles' stepdaughter Frederica "Ricky" Virginia Gentry. Dan confronts Miles and finds Belle in Miles' home. Belle injects him with an illegal "zombie" drug, reducing him to somnolent compliance. Belle and Miles discover Dan's plans to go into cold sleep and have him committed, but to a different repository run by one of Belle's shady associates for the Mannix corporation.

Dan wakes up in the year 2000 with no money to his name and no idea how to find the people he once knew. What little money Belle let him keep went with the collapse of Mannix in 1987. He has lost Pete the cat, who fled Miles' house after Dan was drugged, and has no idea how to find a now middle-aged Ricky.

Dan begins rebuilding his life. He persuades Geary Manufacturing, which now owns Hired Girl, to take him on as a figurehead. He discovers that Miles died in 1972, while Belle has become a shrill and gin-sodden wreck. All she recalls is that Ricky went to live with her grandmother about the time Dan went into cold sleep. Her scheme with Miles collapsed, as Flexible Frank disappeared the same night she shanghaied Dan.

Dan finds Flexible Frank in use everywhere, filling many menial jobs once filled by people. It is called "Eager Beaver", made by a company called "Aladdin Auto-engineering," but Dan can see that someone has taken his prototype and developed it. He is even more baffled to find that the patent is credited to a "D. B. Davis."

His friend Chuck at Geary lets slip that he once saw time travel working, in a lab in Colorado. At that point Dan finds that Ricky has been awakened from cold sleep and left Los Angeles for Brawley, California. Dan tracks her to Yuma, Arizona, where she was apparently married. When Dan looks at the marriage register, he finds that she married "Daniel Boone Davis". He immediately empties his bank account and heads for Colorado.

In Boulder, he befriends Dr. Twitchell, a once-brilliant scientist reduced to drinking away his frustrations. Eventually, Twitchell admits to having created a time machine of sorts. With the machine powered up, Dan goads Twitchell into sending him back to 1970, some months before his confrontation with Miles and Belle. He materializes in a Denver naturist retreat in front of a couple, John and Jenny Sutton, whom he befriends. The husband, a lawyer by trade, helps Dan cash in the gold he has brought back with him. In the future gold is no longer a coinage metal and costs a fraction of its value in 1970.

Working rapidly, Dan creates "Drafting Dan", which he then uses to design "Protean Pete", the first version of Eager Beaver. He sets up a new corporation with the Suttons called "Aladdin Auto-engineering," returns to Los Angeles, and stakes out Miles' house on the fateful night. Watching himself arrive, he lets events unfold until Pete the cat emerges, then takes his own car and uses it to remove Flexible Frank and all his engineering drawings from Miles's garage.

Destroying the drawings and scattering machine parts across the landscape, he heads out to meet Ricky at her Girl Scout summer camp. Dan assigns his stock in Hired Girl to Ricky and suggests that she takes cold sleep when she is 21 so they can meet again. Ricky asks Dan if he will marry her after their cold sleep and Dan agrees. Dan returns to Los Angeles to use his original appointment for cold sleep, pleading that he lost the original paperwork.

With Pete in his arms, he sleeps for the second time until 2001. He greets Ricky, now twenty-something, when she awakes. They leave for Brawley to retrieve her possessions from storage, and then are married in Yuma. Setting himself up as an independent inventor, he uses Ricky's Hired Girl stock to make changes at Geary, settling back to watch the healthy competition with Aladdin.

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