NESFA Members' Reviews

coverCitizen of the Galaxy

by Robert A. Heinlein

A book review by Mark L. Olson

Scribner's, 1957, 302 pp

Arguably this book is the pinnacle of SF. Well, perhaps that's overstating it, but I don't think it's an overstatement to say that it's the single best work of SF's single most important writer.

Citizen is one of the few books which has never failed to satisfy me when I re-read it. It tells a superb story with economy, color, and excitement, jumping ahead to the next phase when one is done. There's no padding, no preaching, no gratuitous words.

Citizen of the Galaxy shows Heinlein at his best. Many of his books feature intolerably wise old men as mentors – they're almost a caricature in some – but while Citizen of the Galaxy has at least four (Baslim the Cripple, Capt. Krausa, Col. Brisby, and the lawyer James Garsch) none of them are over-drawn or cloying or just-too-wise-to-be-believable.

And the milieus Thorby experiences are uniformly fascinating and exotic. Jubblepore, the Sisu, the Hegemonic Guard ship, and Earth itself. (If I had any single complaint about the book, it's that the segments grow shorter and the pace faster as the book goes on. I realize why he had to do it, but the books is so well done I wish for more.)

(I wonder if Heinlein ever discussed his feelings about Kim? Unlike Poul Anderson's The Game of Empire, which is obviously and deliberately a homage to Kim, it seems to me that Citizen of the Galaxy is influenced by it but isn't in any way a pastiche of it. It's hard to believe that Heinlein didn't appreciate Kipling.)

It seems almost pointless to recommend this since I can't believe that you haven't already read it.

See also my other Heinlein reviews:   The Fantasy of Robert A. Heinlein, Starman Jones, Citizen of the Galaxy

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