Space Cadet (novel)

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

A Young Adult novel by Robert A. Heinlein, published in 1948, following the adventures of Matt Dodson, a young man who joins the prestigious Space Patrol. As you might guess from the title, much of the novel follows his training, including rigorous physical and mental exams just to get in, then more training aboard the Patrol's university cum spaceship in orbit around Earth, and then finally his midshipman's cruise which leads to a crisis with the natives on Venus.

Tropes used in Space Cadet (novel) include:

  • Death From Above: One of the tasks of the Space Patrol is to maintain the orbiting nuclear weapons used to maintain peace on Earth.
  • Dude, Where's My Reward? The cadets are rather put out when they don't get any praise for their first successful mission, but then realise they've simply done what's expected of Patrolmen.
  • Eager Young Space Cadet: The Trope Codifier, and still one of the better examples.
  • Fantastic Racism: Burke shows this; Oscar Jensen (who was born on Venus) treats the natives with respect. Which is just as well.
  • The Great Repair: After their rocket sinks into the Venusian mud, the patrolmen discover the Venusians have the Astarte, the first spaceship sent to Venus and considered lost. They fix the Astarte so it can carry them back to the human colonies.
  • Jerkass: Girard Burke during training, thinking that his influential father is enough to get him into the Patrol, but he Took a Level in Jerkass after he's kicked out and his father gives him command of his own rocketship. He kidnaps the leader of a Venusian tribe to pressure her into giving him mining rights, then hides in the radio room when the outraged Venusians slaughter the rest of his crew.
  • Lady Land: When translating Oscar Jensen refers to his colleagues as female as there are no intelligent males among the Venusians.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: To the point that the Space Patrol consists solely of officers, nineteen years before Star Trek.
  • One Riot, One Ranger: Burke is annoyed when the Space Patrol doesn't send a warship to put down the 'native uprising'.
  • Patron Saint: The patronage of St. Barbara is mentioned while persuading Matt that a certain accident was real and not a fake put on to scare them off.
  • Science Marches On: The basics of orbital mechanics are sound, but Venus is depicted in its typical swamp habitat stereotype and the Asteroid Belt is described as a destroyed planet (which is a minor plot point later).
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money: Burke tries to bribe Matt and his friends on Venus. They're not impressed.
  • Space Marine: Matt briefly considers switching over to them when his training hits a rough spot, but his counselor talks him out of it.
  • Superweapon Surprise: The supposedly primitive Venusians have a superior knowledge of chemistry, to the extent that one of the characters says in astonishment "They can do ANYTHING!" (they've just synthesized liquid oxygen for their rocket -- and this from a species that doesn't use space travel)
    • Venusians can't play the harmonica; 'I know, I let one try.'
  • Training from Hell: Mostly averted, aside from a scene during the initial induction when Matt is tested to see how he handles differing gravities. He finds that cadets actually set their own study pace, guided by their peer counselors.
  • Who Watches the Watchmen?: This is the motto of the Naval Academy.
  • You Are in Command Now: The cadets have to handle the situation on Venus when their commanding officer is put in a coma.
  • Zeerust: As can be expected there's lots. Surprisingly averted early in the first chapter, as it opens with Matt talking with his dad on what a modern reader will recognize as a Cell Phone, even shipping it back home when he goes into orbit, since there of course would be no relay towers to pick up its signal.