This is a very early book by Heinlein and it lacks the smoothness and complexity of his later works. The Red Dawn-type plot is pretty straightforward: The Pan-Asians have conquered the US. A small secret remnant of US soldiers remain. This handful of the military faithful (all male) includes a few scientists, an ex-lawyer who is now in command and a resourceful ex-hobo. Employing the guise of an over-the-top fake religion (the Cult of Mota) and few super-scientific weapons they endeavor to take their country back from the Imperial tyranny. There is some humor here, but the book is very much a product of its grim Cold War mythos. Not a pleasant read for the racially sensitive or politically correct. Very traditional pro-military outlook. Readers unfamiliar with Heinlein should definitely not start with this one -- try The Moon is a Harsh Mistress or Stranger in a Strange Land instead. Those are much better books. No complaints about the reader who does his best with what he has to work with.
I have no idea why I've always liked this story. It is anti-Asian racist garbage, I recall reading that Heinlein once said he was ashamed of this stuff. But it flows so well and is one of those good defeating evil stories that even if the bad guys had been my own ethnic group I'd still step outside of my feelings and enjoy the book. Don't know why but...
Formulaic and mediocre tale of rebellion against the Pan-Asian Alliance, which has invaded and subjugated the American people. I listened all the way through--I was on a long road trip--and it had some okay points, but i would strongly suggest against this title.
The narration was quite good, showing a pretty good dramatic range--more than the story itself, actually. It was enough to keep me listening, but not enough to make me glad I had.
Please do yourself a favor and read (or re-read) either 'Starship Troopers' or 'The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress' instead of this one. Your time and money will be far better spent. Heinlein, at his best, transcended the time he was writing from and portrayed the universal. He just didn't do that here. At all.
Lastly, I would especially warn off those who might find it objectionable to listen to Asians being referred to (often and throughout the book) as "flat-faced monkey-men" or "slanty-eyed baboons".
This (overly forgiving IMHO) discussion of race in the book is from the Wikipedia entry on The Sixth Column:
"The book was written in the same year as the attack on Pearl Harbor, while its hardcover publication coincided with the Communist victory in China; with the PanAsians being both Chinese and Japanese, it had a direct topical relevance in both cases. It is notable for its frank portrayal of racism on both sides. The conquerors regard themselves as a chosen people predestined to rule over lesser races, and they refer to white people as slaves. "Three things only do slaves require: work, food, and their religion." They require outward signs of respect, such as jumping promptly into the gutter when a member of the chosen race walks by, and the slightest hesitation to show the prescribed courtesies earns a swagger stick across the face. One character is Frank Mitsui, an Asian American whose family was murdered by the invaders because they did not fit in the new PanAsiatic racial order. The Americans in the novel respond to their conquerors' racism by often referring to them in unflattering terms, such as "flat face", "slanty" (a derisive reference to the look typical of Asian eyes), and "monkey boy".
The only thing would add is that Heinleins understanding of the 'Asian world-view' is so stereotypical and dated (remember: 1941) that it is laughable where it isn't tragic--or horrific, considering what was just a few years away.
Hope this helps,
If you're into books like Stephen King's "The Stand" or J Cronin's "Passage" or "The Twelve".. then don't waste your time... this book pales in comparison.. weak story line.. pitiful ending.. there is not depth to this book. I wish I hadn't wasted a credit on it...
well i wouldn't say "well-spent" but it did provide some chuckles, i enjoyed the dig at religion with some good character buildups but overall ridiculous fun, enjoy.
Great story. Good recording.
It is comparable to Double Star by Heinlein and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress also by Heinlein.
I like the voices Weiner uses. It helps you 'see' the characters.
I wouldn't mind listening to it all at once, but I don't have that kind of blocks of time.
Sixth Column ranks in the top 10 audiobooks I have listened to
I like the action most
The Leader. Major Ardmore
It made me proud of America
I read this story when I was a kid. I was glad that I was able to find it at Audible. I enjoyed it more the second time around.
I was surprized at the author's outlandish racist attitude. At first, I thought that I had misinterped his meaning. So I backed up 2-3-4 times, and sure enough the racist intent was there; quite bold. I kept thinking that at the end of the story there would be some clever trick that would ratify the racism and clear up everything. Nope. Did'nt happen. I did a little research on Heinlein's work and attitude. He is recognized as being quite racist, and The Sixth Column is his MOST racist novel.
I would venture a bet that the novel would NOT be accepted by any modern day publisher. I'm sure it would be rejected. If I owned a book store -- Sixth Column would NOT be on my shelves.
As a point of clarification; I am a white, American male.
Yes, accents were believable and not over done.
Good listen on the way to work. A little dated maybe, but the reading was well done with the different voices of the characters easily distinguishable from one another.
I enjoyed Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" and "Citizen of the Galaxy", which were thoughtful pieces, troopers becoming a template for military sf fiction for generations to come. The premise of "Sixth Column" is intriguing, the invasion and fall of America, with a handful of resistance fighters opposing millions of the enemy. Heinlein generally has a polemic style to his work, with some philosophical question raised and addressed. In Troopers, the question was whether we can ethically support a culture of warfare. In CotG, we explore the nature of being an outsider.
"Sixth Column" raises the question of prejudice, and how it should be fought. The portrayed enemy is a group known as the Pan-Asians, who generally follow cultural norms most associated with the Japanese. The Pan-Asians are evidently racist, treating Americans as an inferior slave race. Certainly there are cultural norms which are vastly different in today's world. Epithets such as "flat face" and "slant eyes" would be reserved for a crude character today, whereas it's the language of the heroes in SC. These were different times, certainly, with the memory of Pearl Harbor fresh in many people's minds, including Heinlein, who served in the US Navy.
But where SC falls, philosophically, is the story's treatment that prejudice is best fought with an equal or stronger prejudice. Indeed, the breakthrough weapon is, in essence, a weapon of racism. You set the controls to kill those of "Mongolian-descent" (which BTW doesn't represent the genetic heritage of most Asians) or that of a white man (hardly a genetically homogeneous group). It's difficult to miss the story's conceit of the white male. All the American heroes seem to be white, except for Matsui who is half-white. Women are excluded from helping outside of secretarial duties. Again, this may have represented Heinlein's experience in the segregated military. Even though blacks contributed significantly in World War 2, there is no mention of them or any other minority representing America in this future war. While the American fighters are sweeping cities and towns with this death ray, there is no consideration that American Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Phillipino, or other Asiatics may be killed in the process.
Again, this is a modern view of a work written sixty years ago. Perhaps it now represents something of a study of racial paranoia, the kind that fears one race really is superior to another. But why would we want to believe that now, even in the suspended disbelief of a fictional story?