Farnhams Freehold (Robert A Heinlein)

ray gower

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Farnhams Freehold

Starting from the backdrop of the great panic that gripped the US around the Cuban Missile Crisis the book follows the activities of the Farnham family, when the unthinkable happens and the nuclear missiles fall in one massive blitz.

Of course as this is Heinlein it is never going to be as simple as a 'How we saved the American Civilisation and beat the Commies' book. Sure enough he gets bored with that theme quite quickly. It turns out that the Farnham's shelter has been picked up and propelled forwards through time by several thousand years. The ruling casts are now Negroes whilst white under classes form the backbone of a Tsarist civil service kept high on 'Happiness' and a promotion system that rewards advances with various forms of 'modification'. Probably worth a good political discussion in its own right.

Of the five members of Farnham's family, the black servant manages to become ingratiated with the Boss, Ponse 'Their Charity', Mother and son become happy playthings, whilst Father and his mistress rebel. Their escape attempt goes wrong and after a deep meaningful discussion with 'Their Charity' they are returned to their own time to reface the dangers of the bomb.

This is not one of Heinlein's best books!

One of the great beauties of Heinlein's writings are the characters he builds to drive his stories. They are generally believable, if a little preachy. In this case Hugh Farnham, the father, is unlike any service Trade Chief I have ever known. His outlook preparing for Nuclear Holocaust felt right, but from there on the deeply philosophical preaching did not, either with the paranoia or his history.
There are a good many other plot holes as well. Particularly with the return to 'real time'. Why bother with returning to the same time line, but slightly different culture? And if 'Their Charity' and his scientists really wanted to find out if he got there, surely they would have given them a little more time to plant the clock that would tell them they had succeeded?

That said, it is an absorbing read.
 

j d worthington

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I agree. Not his best book. In fact, I'd venture to say that "F. F." is probably Heinlien at his worst.
I think for that you might have to go to Sixth Column/The Day After Tomorrow. At least with Farnham's Freehold, he tackles some interesting themes in such a way as to provoke debate and dissension; whereas in Sixth Column the entire thing is extremely flat. Granted, this one wasn't Heinlein's choice, but I would have to nominate it as his worst novel....
 

J-Sun

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Beyond This Horizon is worse, to me, than Sixth Column, which I actually liked okay - it's well plotted or paced or whatever (and I didn't hate BTH - I wouldn't call anything Heinlein published before '60 his "worst", though BTH strangely prefigures late-Heinlein).

I haven't read every Heinlein but Farnham's Freehold is the one Heinlein book I started and tossed aside without finishing, so I'd count it his worst. ray gower's synopsis makes it sound even worse than what I thought I was avoiding.

Actually, even up to 1967, the only ones I'd give a miss to would be that one and Glory Road, though I finished GR without too much pain. :)
 

j d worthington

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Beyond This Horizon is an odd book... and the thing that throws so many is the sudden shift in the type of book it seems to be. As has been noted (by Spinrad? iirc), the entire thing working hinges on that one short passage between the moment of his being gassed and his recovery, and that one passage puts an entirely different spin on what's going on... and yet is deftly prefigured by the motif of games and numbers.

In various ways, it is definitely a precursor to later works, from Stranger in a Strange Land (with its probing of various metaphysical themes) to The Number of the Beast, to The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. I must admit that it is one of my personal favorites, in part because it is a surprisingly complex book in such small compass....
 

Lobolover

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Well,Sixth Column seem to be the only one I could get into by now,thematicaly, mainly because of some-striking similarities with something else ive read.
 

Triceratops

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I did toss this book, mainly because I thought it was self-indulgent. Certainly not his best work. It seemed rushed, for some reason.

Chris
 

D.A. Madigan

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I have had several Heinlein fans expound to me for lengthy periods about why this isn’t a racist book, and they’re just doing what all Heinlein fans but me do… desperately trying to keep from believing that their hero-god had any actual human flaws. Look, folks… Heinlein was born in a deeply racist society. Like most of us white guys who were born and raised in 20th Century America, he was a racist. We can’t help it. He took admirable steps to get over it, like many of us have. But he was a racist, and this is a racist book, and beyond being a racist book, it’s a bad book. Hugh Farnham is without a doubt Heinlein’s most loathsome male character, his concubine Barbara is the most brainlessly dependent and useless Heinlein female that RAH ever attempted to portray in a positive manner, the future world they find themselves hurled into along with their utterly vile and noxious cast of co-dependents is, in and of itself, the most simultaneously stupid and horribly bigoted future society Heinlein (or any other non-card carrying Illinois Neo Nazi) has ever created, and, honest to God, this is just a really really bad book. Its plot is stupid and essentially pointless. You cannot possibly care about any of its characters. The only really interesting and memorable image in the book comes at the very end, when Hugh and Barb have set up their trading post in bomb shattered America; if Heinlein had written that book, it might have been as good as, I don’t know, Alas, Babylon or Systemic Shock, and ranked up there with great nuclear Armageddon fiction throughout the ages. But he didn’t; instead he wrote this virulently racist tract in which the evil darkies take over the world and start eating all the white people like cattle. It’s a deranged xenophobic nightmare worthy of any Klan Kleagle, and even if it weren’t, this would still be a lousy excuse for an SF adventure.
 

nightdreamer

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I remember Farnham's Freehold for being "grungy." I didn't like his later work nearly as much as his juveniles and I've always thought of Farnham's Freehold as the turning point. I didn't even finish I Will Fear No Evil.
 

hitmouse

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A book that is both bad (pompous, bombastic) and quite offensive.
My least liked Heinlein after I Will Fear No Evil, which is just embarassing.

Not talking about slightly dated politics or fatherifigure worship etc.
 

BigBadBob141

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I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the cannibalism, the ruling Blacks not only use the Whites as slaves and servants but also as a food.
All in all a think this is a very racist and self indulgent book much like his later ones.
 

jastius

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I liked how the different timeline allowed for hope. that the events as depicted might not come to pass but a better future could be found for his older children. I liked the idea that perhaps this time the daughter would not perish, and that the son would not be castrated.

As for the speculations upon what an unimpeded culture of African origin might entail, I believe that all the elements depicted were at one time or another part of the cultures of origin. How such things would actually have fleshed out is pure speculation.

Cannibalism might have been practiced by such a culture, or may have fallen out of fashion. Many cultures have had a brush with cannibalism in one form or another. In fact it is often argued that the consecrated host of the mass is a form of substitutive or reflected cannibalism.

As for the idea of cannibalism after a disaster? We have overpopulated the planet to the point where soylent green may actually occur in such a situation.

To be frank I find the idea of eating guinea pigs to be more horrifying. But that we may some day have brood dames whose job it is to act as a wet nurse and express milk as part of a human dairy? Not so much. And as for the 'long pig' references? ... who really knows. Pure speculation. The story of 'alive' was brutal in its reasoning for such an act.
 
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