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.
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 bought this expecting a realistic account of a man transplanted into a wilderness and his struggle to survive. The book partly delivered that, but I could never get over the conservative values and extreme misogyny continuously trumpeted throughout the book. The hero is an arch man's man and placed in a conservative's wet dream where he must survive by his own strength and wits while commanding those around him with a stern hand. We have two liberal straw men on display in the form of the protaginist's son and wife, the former an atheist fop who eventually comes around to the idea of faith and the latter a social lush who cannot handle reality and craves only her own comfort. Only the main character Hugh has any good solutions to any problems, but he is such a detestable asshole about it, I could never support him. All of the women in this book are weak, emotional children, and entirely dependent on men for any real sort of task and serve only supporting roles. I imagine the likes of Rush Limbagh and Glen Beck would love this sort of tale and find its message entirely appropriate and relevant to today's audience. The only excuse I can give it is that it was written in the 1960's and probably reflected the morality of the times. In fact it has something of an "anti-racist" message. At least I think the book thinks it does. The main character claims not to judge men by their skin color, but then we still see a future ruled by dark skinned cannibals following the extinction of the northern hemisphere. But even if Hugh does not judge a man by his skin color he will judge a person by their gender and has little respect for concepts like equality or democracy or egalitarianism. I guess if you're a die hard conservative, you'll have fun stroking it while listening. For everyone else I can only recommend it as a curiosity
I was told that, "unless you are a white, male, nudist, Heinlein will offend you". This book proves that point. Full of antiquated sentiment, unexplained science (more like masked magic), and way too many hands of Bridge, spending time listening to it felt like a waste.
I'm disheartened by all the bad reviews on the goodreads social network about this book because I absolutely loved it. I started the novel honestly expecting not to like it. I bought it for the Heinlein name and decided to give it a try. This book never has a "twist," but took me on a journey that I never guessed. It was an apocalyptic novel with time travel and parallel universes. I identified with Farnham, the hero of the novel, and his sweetheart-later wife. I didn't read this as a political satire like some of the other reviewers (understandable because that was probably how Heinlein intended it); I just read it like a novel. Maybe that's why I enjoyed it more? I did love how a white author from Mississippi chose to write about a future society that dark skinned humans are the ruling class and light skinned humans are slaves. I think it shows insights to Heinlein's soul.
I grew up reading Heinlein in the 70’s, was surprised to find one of his books that I hadn't read and thoroughly enjoyed him in the 21st century. Ignore any comments about racial language, its just not relevant to a book written in the 60's.
scary, disgusting, true
When Farnham and Barbara returned to their starting point just before the bombing.
Don't know but this was very well done. I listen to hear the separate characters and how well they stay in character and how well the reader maintains that throughout the book. Weiner delivered.
A film of brutal reality and insight into the human condition..twisting and turning through a maze of contradictions and paradox.
RAH is still the king of sci fi
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