Hugh Farnham is a practical, self-made man, and when he sees the clouds of nuclear war gathering, he builds a bomb shelter under his house, hoping for peace and preparing for war. But when the apocalypse comes, something happens that he did not expect. A thermonuclear blast tears apart the fabric of time and hurls his shelter into a world with no sign of other human beings.
Farnham and his family have barely settled down to the backbreaking business of low-tech survival when they find that they are not alone after all. The same nuclear war that catapaulted Farnham 2,000 years into the future has destroyed all civilization in the northern hemisphere, leaving Africans as the dominant surviving people.
In the new world order, Farnham and his family, being members of the race that nearly destroyed the world, are fit only to be slaves. After surviving a nuclear war, Farnham has no intention of being anyone’s slave, but the tyrannical power of the Chosen race reaches throughout the world. Even if he manages to escape, where can he run to?
©1964 Robert A. Heinlein, 1992 by Mrs. Virginia Heinlein (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.
“Heinlein’s story is as engrossing now as it was in its original form decades ago.” (Midwest Book Review)
If you read my other reviews, you know that I am a Heinlein fan. This is an excellent recording of a novel unique to the Heinlein cannon. Tom Weiner delivers a wonderful performance using a number of unique and engaging voices. When the story lags, the excellent narration carries things along nicely.
About half the book is the story of a family that survives a nuclear holocaust, and lives a survivalist life. The second half deals with their lives when they encounter a future culture. To go any further will spoil the plot.
But Heinlein always uses his novels to comment on culture, and this one addresses slavery and the slave mentality, marriage and fidelity, and prejudice and bigotry. Remember that this book was written in the early 1960s. What seems silly and obvious now would have been cutting edge and liberal then. The book has been criticized for its language and misogyny. No swearing - but lots of racial insensitivity.
This should not be your first Heinlein novel (Moon is a Harsh Mistress, or Starship Troopers are better choices). But if you are curious about the evolution of this sci-fi master, or if you want to hear a fair story with lots of social commentary from RAH, then this is for you!
You never have to wait for anything if you bring a good book.
40 plus years ago as a teenager I spent many afternoons and evenings locked away in my bedroom reading Robert A Heinlein, and I still enjoy his stories and his social libertarianism (advocacy for unashamed nudism, polygamy, etc).
This is an enjoyable story and in spite of several ways this book is philosophically alien to me (described briefly below) Heinlein is too good a craftsman to let his polemics bog down the plot.
Some call this book racist because it posits a future where the northern hemisphere was wiped out by nuclear war and despotic Africans have become the master race and whites are slaves. There are definite racist elements from cultural context of 1950s America that makes a modern reader cringe (use of the n word on several occasions for example), but my sense is that by reversing races in the slave/master relationship Heinlein is being anti-racist more than racist.
This story appears to spring from Heinlein's own experience of building a bomb shelter during the cold war and imagining post-holocaust scenarios. As such the pro-nuclear polemics beat you over the head with notions that an all-out nuclear war is survivable, including the premise of this story that if you get a direct hit it sends you 2000 years into the future.
Heinlein admits he "has been worried about America for a long time" and this part of his story is a troubling subtext - that you can save the best part of America by killing off 95% of the people. Taking this a bit further, it also troubles me the way Heinlein embraces eugenics - "eliminating the bottom third would be good for the gene pool", and asking his daughter if her unborn child "comes from good stock." These notions are so reminiscent of Nazi philosophies that they are genuinely troubling elements.
This is my 1st book by Robert Heinlein. And I have to say I did enjoy the book, I really did, but a couple things were less than perfect IMO.
#1 I got lost at the beginning of the book on which characters were talking, not sure if that's just me or if it was the narration. Other than that part, the narration was great.
#2 The ending was good, but I found myself looking for Farnham’s Freehold part 2. I wanted to know more. Its not a cliff hanger, but i do feel I have some loose ends that need tied.
Going into the book, I only knew it was about a guy surviving a nuclear Holocaust (which is the reason I got it). I enjoyed listening about how things would be in that situation, with the "Life Boat Rules" and all of a sudden having to reinvent EVERYTHING.
It is true this book has some racial insensitivity in it, but that's not what this book is about. The author isn't trying to see how many times he can throw out derogatory terms (if I recall correctly there only seemed to be 1 character that liked to use such words). The second half of the book isn't really about the "life of a slave" (work, work, try to escape, caught, whipped) type thing. Nor is it about "the shoe is on the other foot and lets see how you like it". It is much more political than that.
All in all
This book is a good listen and Its a good 10 hours of entertainment for 15 bucks.
This book has some notoriety among Heinlein's legions of critics for being a "reverse racism" story in which a group of white people (and their one black house-servant) are blasted thousands of years forward in time by a nuclear war, and find themselves in a future ruled by black overlords, served by an underclass of subservient whites.
Farnham's Freehold is actually not that bad, nor is the narrative message as ham-fisted as I expected; Heinlein was a progressive for his time, and notwithstanding all those people who claim he was a libertarian, less plausibly, a "right-winger," or absurdly, a fascist, he was clearly trying to make a positive statement about freedom, self-determinaton, and racial coexistence. The story is more complex than some of the more inflammatory reviews give it credit for — most of the characters, white and black, are decent by their own standards but flawed in various ways, and no one is made out to be inherently better or villainous by virtue of their race.
That said, it's understandable that a novel written in 1964 about blacks imposing chattel slavery and racial supremacy over whites — and literally ranching them for food — might be seen as a somewhat less than elevating contribution to the genre today.
As a story, this was okay, but not one of Heinlein's best (though certainly not his worst either). Hugh Farnham is a typical Heinleinian omni-capable Everyman, aided and assisted by a typical Heinleinian woman (hot, willing, smart and capable but knows her place and likes it) as they try to escape from the dystopian nightmare they have found themselves in. Actually, as dystopias go, none of the characters in the book are treated particularly badly, a point made repeatedly by their "Charity"/master, and refuted effectively by Farnham when he points out what the "King's Charity" really means. Like most Heinlein novels, there is food for thought here, and a decent amount of adventure, and a lot of nubile fourteen-year-old sex slaves (who the main character of course is too noble to take advantage of).
Interesting but dated, and not what I would recommend to someone new to Heinlein, but if you like his other, better works, Farnham's Freehold will probably entertain you.
Normally I like Heinlein, even though I would not call him a hardcore SciFi author. Normally he brings a lot of cultural nuance to his stories that make him unique, which I like. However, in this case, the "cultural references" amount to preachy neoconservatism which results in characters that are more caricature than anything else. The women in the story are either drunks, airheads or sex objects. The "hero" appears to be cut from the same cloth as the cigar-chomping army general of the Incredible Hulk, and the son is portrayed as a weak, worthless spoiled rich kid. The only interesting character was the "butler" which in this case Heinlein chose to make a stereotypical black servant complete with a snappy repertoire of "Yes boss!" Really? I could not even get through the third chapter of this sorry excuse of a story. Unfortunately the narrator just reinforces the already ridiculous stereotypes.
I'm sure the storyline must have shocked many when it was first written, but as others have said, it seems a bit dated now. Especially annoying are the vacuous female characters.
Tom Weiner did a very good job narrating and I think he brought to life the character of Hugh Farnham in all his anachronistic glory. He even did a decent job making Ponse believable and even somewhat sympathetic.
One thing that made me laugh was that I kept visualizing the commander from the "Team America" movie whenever Hugh Farnham's character spoke. That's OK though since those characters are really one and the same.
Overall a good job, but not one of my favorites.
I most enjoyed the ending (which I won't explain in detail) because second chances were involved.
I have long been a Heinlein fan and read this story many years ago. It was very interesting to have the characters and narration voiced. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Also Heinlein's thing about daughters wanting to sleep with their dads is weird. It's in several of his books. Also a serious time piece of Heinlein being 'progressive' for the time about racism.
Terrible in concept and execution. It's not only the worst book Heinlein wrote, it's the worst book Any major SF writer from the Golden Age, who was not addled by drugs, has written.
It's hard to tell if Tom Weiner's performance is good or poor ... he has to speak Crap.
Yes, he can't turn Dreck into Gold so I don't blame him.
Spoiler ... At some points it is so bad ... a Monty Python skit ... that you laugh.
Facing certain death due to the firestorm over the bunker ... they decide to play bridge to pass the time.
I'm not sure even this dysfunction family would continue with their banter, puns and family arguments after America is destroyed (no comment is ever made about friends and relatives who were nuked) and they are going to be cooked alive.
I've read and re-read Heinlein novels and stories for over sixty years. I'm sure I started reading this one back in 1964 when it first came out. Now I know why I never finished it.
But Amazingly! ... he followed this with an Hugo winning novel in 1966 ... "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress"
Retired high school English teacher. I liked and worked with the at-risk student. Interested in about everything, but I love a good story.
A visit to the time of the Cold War when we were all afraid it would turn to disaster. Compelling characters and story line.
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