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Lunch » Tags » Science Fiction » Reviews » Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert Heinlein » User review

Advanced Juvenile

  • Aug 14, 2010
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Plot summary?  This story opens on a slave auction.  A young boy, maybe eight years old is up for auction.  No one wants him.  He is purchased as a joke by a one-legged beggar.  It turns out the beggar is something more.  He is an interplanetary spy.  He is spying on the slave trade.  Things get more interesting from there.

The slave is named Thorby and he lives with and is educated by the old spy for years but must get off planet when the old man is found out.  Thus begins his romp across the galaxy.

What's the bottom line?  I undoubtedly first read this story more than 30 years ago and I pretty much still remembered it.  Some things are obviously dated.  A starship's officer using a sliderule in a story set hundreds of years in the future is somewhat funny.  But such details are unimportant to the story.

I guess the bottom line of this story is cultural relativism.  Thorby encounters 4 different cultures in this story and Heinlein put an anthropologist on the starship that got him off planet the first time.  Here Heinlein demonstrates his propensity to use characters to lecture the reader with their dialog in the story.  Some people do not like this but it is a good way to get a lot of information across in not too many pages.  But some readers do not like this technique.  They say if they wanted to learn whatever they would get a textbook.  I personally doubt that they get those books they just aren't interested in learning much.

It is said by some that the golden age of science fiction is 12.  An idea is new to a kid the first time he or she encounters it.  It does not matter if the idea is 500 years old.  That idea can change the way that young person looks at the world from then on.  That is a good use for science fiction though such enlightening books may not be of much value to adults.  Brains get frozen and new ideas don't penetrate.  LOL

Alexei Panshin was one of those kids that was influenced by Hienlein in the 50s.  He wrote Rite of Passage in the 60s.  I would recommend these two books as a matched set for young kids.  These two alone beat all of Harry Potter.

But I suppose that even Harry Potter agrees with these books on one point:

Relevant Knowledge is POWER!  Without it others may have power over you.

One nice thing about the internet is that it is now possible to see what other people think about the same book.


Of course I am not providing a link to someone who disagrees with me too much.  LOL

I suppose a peculiar analogy can now be made with this book and the present day.  It has slavery and interstellar spaceships.  We have cheap supercomputers everywhere that Heinlein couldn't have imagined in 1957 but the economy is crashing.  This makes sense in our techno-sophisticated world?

Lois McMaster Bujold is the first SF writer to tie Heinlein in number of Hugo awards.  CotG is from 1957 and Bujold's first book did not appear until 30 years later.  Things have changed.  In a way you need to read about 5 of her books to get as broad a perspective as Heinlein puts into one.  250 pages versus 1400 page.  That is a big difference.  But there were no word processors in 1957.  That is a problem with a lot of modern sci-fi, though I am not compaining about Bujold's.  BLOATED Sci-fi.  LMB has more detailed and interesting characters than Heinlein and her characters don't bludgeon the reader with ideas, but so much stuff is long and without redeeming qualities.


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August 14, 2010
Are you happy now, Scotman? LOL
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Citizen of the Galaxy is a science fiction novel by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, originally serialized in Astounding Science Fiction (September, October, November, December 1957) and published in hardcover in 1957 as one of the Heinlein juveniles by Scribner's. Influenced by Rudyard Kipling's Kim, the novel, like many of Heinlein's, may also have been influenced by the author's background in and nostalgia for the U.S. Navy

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