Double Star by Robert Heinlien was published in Astounding Science Fiction in three parts in 1956 and published collected that same year. It won the 1956 Hugo award for best science fiction novel. This book has first person narration. Narrated by The Great Lorenzo it is a well written book that is more political book than science fiction novel.
An actor is hired by a group of politicians to fill in for an important political figure who has been kidnapped. The actor, called the great larenzo, is a self important and childish character who learns to be a better person by taking the role of the far better man.
Throughout the book The great Lorenzo who is playing the part of John Joseph Bonforte. Bonforte is the leader of an important political party in a system that seems to work more like the English Parliamentary system than the American two party system.
Most of the conflict comes from two sources. The first is the fear that he will be caught in the lie. He is effectively committing fraud on the voters and if caught it would not be good for him. The other source is the difficulty of an actor with no political experience being put in the positions of having to lead the people who know he isn't who he says he is.
The Great Lorenzo
The Narrator of this story the Great Lorenzo is a struggling actor who is completely broke at the beginning of the story. he is hired to play the part of a political leader something that he believes to beneath him but he accepts when he discovers it is more than simply looking like the man.
As an actor The Great Lorenzo is almost superhuman. He takes on not only the appearance and mannerisms of John Joseph Bonforte but in many ways the personality and is able to give speeches as the man better than people who have known him for years and helped write speeches.
This character is also very unlikable at the beginning of this story and has an interesting character arc if one that feels in some places a bit too easy. He begins as a racist hating martians to an unreasonable degree. As the party he ends up leading is seeking equal rights for all the non human races this presents a problem in the story. He egotism is also a problem though less of one as the pride in his work keeps his pride in himself from overwhelming him.
John Joseph Bonforte
Hardly in the story at all this is the character you know the second most about in the story. John Joseph Bonforte is the leader of the expansionist party. Among other things he believes that the only way that humans will be able to expand out into the universe is as a moral society. His belief for this is based on the idea that if we treat those we find badly then other aliens more powerful than us will simply destroy us. This is not a major point in the story but it is an interesting argument for acting in a moral fashion as a society.
His primary objective with the goal of more morality in governance is the equality of the races allowing them to be part of the parliamentary system. Written in 1956 it is hard to miss the connections to the racial issues America had at that time. The difference being that in this story the oppressed races were actually different than humans.
There are three major themes in this book. The first of that is of politics. This book takes a lot of time to examine how the politics of this system works. How it can be better and even make the character better. It does not make it without its flaws though instead it allows even the good guys to do things that might seem a bit shady.
The second major theme is that of race. The entire political argument of this book is over race. The idea is that the martians and Venusians are at oppressed minority. There could have been more emphasis put on this but it is interesting.
The third theme is that of playing a part. The idea that pretending to be something can turn you into the thing you are pretending to be. This is an important point as often in our society the term hypocrite is used in replace of the word imperfect and it is worth pointing out that pretending to be what you want to be is of some value.
This book examines many of the same themes as other Heinlein novels including Starship troopers but from a very different style.
There is also a very clear line that can be drawn between this story and the movie Dave which has an actor, in that case an impersonator, who is hired to pretend to be the president. Some of the side character and plot points are even similar.
Out of Context Line
I turned in after that; a top-notch performance leaves me fagged. I slept for more than eight hours, then was awakened by the hooter.
While Heinlein is always a good writer this is not one of his stronger stories and i give it a 3.5 out of 5