Sunday, August 10, 2008

Heinlein Juveniles Revisited

I'm not allowed to eat chocolate anymore, so during stressful periods I find myself rereading favorite books from my youth. Not surprisingly, during the past two years I've worked my way through most of Robert Heinlein's early books. So I appreciated John C. Wright's timing in posting a list of his reviews of RAH's juvenile works at the end of his post, The Horrible Earths of Heinlein's Juveniles.

Citizen of the Galaxy is one I haven't reread yet, but now I intend to based on his review:

. . . The book is the best of the coming of age books because coming of age is about maturity, which is, the process of learning self-command. Self-command is a paradox, because the philosopher can be perfectly free even when chained up or reduced to beggary, because he is free in his soul, which no outside despot can touch. And yet self-command demands sacrifice and toil and self-sacrifice above even what restrictive customs or the iron laws of military service compel.

The book is about status, what it means in society, what a person has to do to get it, and what unscrupulous people will do to keep it. Part of the maturing process is learning what status is, and how to earn it, and, yes, how to dispense with it when need be, lest it possess you.

This book is about honor. It is about paying your debts, especially spiritual debts, despite strong personal interest and inclination. The almost mystical reverence and respect all the admirable characters pay to the concept of honoring the wishes of the dead, honoring the humanity of a slaveboy who seems to have lost his, honoring customs one does not understand, honoring the service to which one belongs, honoring one's father, honoring one's conscience .... the book is one long meditation on the meaning of freedom and obligation, slavery and license.

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