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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Freedom is Choice, Constrained
Citizen explores just what freedom really is as it follows a young man, Thorby, as he matures from boy to man. Starting as a slave sold to a most unusual beggar, Baslim, we see the first aspect that many equate with the absolute opposite of freedom, though we see that in fact 'slaves' sometimes have more freedom of choice than 'free men'. The society he paints here is...
Published on 13 Sept. 2004 by Patrick Shepherd

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Scifi
This book is one of Bob's early works, and it shows. Unfortunately the story-line is weak, and the characters shallow.
Published 19 months ago by Mr. E. Bray


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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Freedom is Choice, Constrained, 13 Sept. 2004
By 
Patrick Shepherd "hyperpat" (San Jose, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Citizen explores just what freedom really is as it follows a young man, Thorby, as he matures from boy to man. Starting as a slave sold to a most unusual beggar, Baslim, we see the first aspect that many equate with the absolute opposite of freedom, though we see that in fact 'slaves' sometimes have more freedom of choice than 'free men'. The society he paints here is vivid and believable (though the economics of slavery in a star-travelling culture has always seemed a little dubious to me). Baslim is far more than he appears to be, and puts Thorby through a rigorous education, both academic and practical. How do you become a really good beggar? Here Heinlein falls in with Ayn Rand - whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability, from begging to juggling. Also there are several comments included here about the integrity of the self - lies to others and misleading yourself both come in for some dictums. These are items that may pass over young readers' heads, but perhaps planting seeds that all assumptions should be examined, nothing should be accepted on 'faith', that personal integrity is more important than 'success', that consequences of actions should be examined carefully before committing to that action.

Later, Baslim calls in some favors and sends Thorby to live with the Free Traders, a group of space merchants that keep to themselves with their own unique culture. Here Thorby discovers another aspect of freedom: a person's ability to do as he wishes is severely constrained by the culture in which he lives. The Free Trader society (which owes much to Margaret Mead's seminal ideas, and highlighted by an anthropologist character named Margaret Mader - Heinlein was not usually so obvious with his names) of rigid matriarchal domination and separation into moieties provides security, peace of mind, and the ability through rigid rules of formalism to allow a small group of people to live together for extended periods without breaking any heads, but has as its downside great limitations on freedom of choice. This section of the book may be the best part, as the society is so different from today's American culture that it becomes fascinating in its own right, apart from its effects on Thorby. Thorby himself grows and changes significantly in this part of the book, from first love to determining just how he must balance the demands of duty and personal desires.

The last section deals with Thorby back on Earth, within a society not much different from our own, and shows a third aspect of freedom: the internal courageousness to make your own decisions and act upon them. Freedom is just as constrained by internal timidity and/or defining decisions as by external forces. As this last section offers little in terms of new or different views of society (though it is a good mirror of some of the flaws of a capitalistic/lawyer dominated one), it isn't as engrossing as the first two sections, but is highly important in terms of completing Heinlein's thematic investigation of all aspects of freedom.

Characterization other than Thorby and Baslim is pretty thin, especially for the females that appear in supporting roles. This was fairly typical for his juveniles, as they were basically strong adventure novels with their primary focus on their central character. But the thematic line on slavery/freedom is much stronger than his most of his messages in other books, and as this particular position is also stated in some of those other works (most especially Farnham's Freehold), has to be seen as one of Heinlein's personal beliefs (unlike some other positions he proposes in his books that seem mainly designed to stir up debate).

This book is not Heinlein's absolute best, nor even the best of his so-called 'juveniles' (which are typically better reading than most 'adult' mainstream bestsellers), but still provides an engrossing, fun, and illuminating read. Recommended for all readers willing to look at life styles different from their own.

--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long memory, Great Book, 18 July 2000
This review is from: Citizen of the Galaxy (Hardcover)
Like the first reviewer, I have not read or laid eyes on this book for the best part of my life. I was 8 when I read it, and it was the first book I evr CHOSE to read. I couldn't put it down, and took it out from the library every other visit. WHen the library closed, I tried to buy a copy, but discovered it was long out of print. Please someone reprint this wonderful book...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superlative Science-Fiction., 8 July 2008
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This review is from: Citizen of the Galaxy (Paperback)
I read this book when I was about 10. One of the first I bought myself. Soon afterwards I was mystified to discover it had gone missing. I was even more mystified when it turned up amongst my pile of Christmas presents the following December.

Still, I digress.

This is one of Heinlein's most accessible books. Read it as a child, come back to it as an adult. Unlike a lot of Heinlein's more famous works it isn't tacky, doesn't advocate the promiscuous, hippy lifestyle or glorify war and right-wing fantasies (Friday, Stranger in a Strange Land, Starship Troopers all spring to mind).

Instead it's a touching story about a young slave boy, Thorby. The book starts with an auction: Thorby is rescued from servitude at the heart of the Sargon's Empire by an old beggar, Pop Baslim. When Baslim is killed by the Sargon's security forces Thorby is forced to seek help from the Free Traders and escape offworld. Heinlein's attempt to describe the peculiarly restrictive lifestyle of the Free Traders is excellent, and you really find yourself drawn into it. But just when Thorby has found acceptance he is forced to choose between his new, adoptive family, or to go further in his quest to discover who he is, and who his parents were. The third phase of the book then begins with Thorby's induction into Earth's Hegemonic Guard, and it ends with Thorby wresting his father's business empire from the hands of his treacherous Uncle, and discovering the fate of his parents.

All three phases of the book are brilliantly realised, and I found life aboard the Free Trader Sisu to be particularly compelling. In addition, Heinlein manages to keep his latent misogyny under control throughout the book, which is a plus.

If you enjoy this, you'll also enjoy Heinlein's The Green Hills of Earth.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heinlein's most inspirational juvenile novel, 20 Jan. 2003
By 
Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA) - See all my reviews
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Citizen of the Galaxy is probably Heinlein's most mature juvenile novel and is certainly one of his most inspirational. It contains a sweeping indictment of slavery and provides a stirring message about citizenship and civic responsibility. Thorby is a slave; the only memories he has are a tangled morass of mistreatment spread among faceless men on nameless worlds; all he brings with him to Sargon are a filthy piece of clothing and an ugly assortment of scars and sores. On the block, no one values him enough to even bid on him, all except for the beggar Baslim. He takes him home (a hole beneath the abandoned amphitheatre) and raises him as a son rather than a slave. Thorby learns the art of begging from his new Pop and enjoys the happiest years of his life with him. Then Baslim, whom Thorby eventually learned was much more than a simple beggar, is arrested as a spy. Thorby satisfies his Pop's wishes by evading capture himself and taking a message to a certain ship's captain. Captain Krausa adopts Thorby as his own son and makes him a member of the Free Trader family on the ship Sisu. Here Thorby learns the complexities of Free Trader family life, makes real friends, and assumes a pivotal job protecting the huge spacecraft from raiders. Then Thorby is displaced once again, as Krausa takes him to the first ship of the Hegemonic Empire he comes in contact with. While Thorby hates to leave his new family, he does it to satisfy Baslim's ultimate wish for him to find his true family. Thorby soon learns that wealth does not make you rich as he strives to fight slavery in the galaxy and become the son his birth parents wanted him to be
Heinlein gives us three strikingly different looks at family life. While Thorby is happy as a part of the immensely complicated Free Trader family on Sisu, he looks back at his days with the beggar Baslim as the happiest of his life. On the ship, one is barely acknowledged as existing if he/she is not a part of the family. The only person who talks to Thorby at first is an anthropologist, and she gives a poignant explanation of this type of society. The family is free, yet each individual in that family is in some way a slave; Thorby is told what to do and when and where to do it. The ultimate lesson is learned on Terra, where the prescripts of Baslim continue to guide Thorby's actions. He is determined to fight against the slave trade, which is something most Terrans don't even believe exists because it is taking place far, far away. For Thorby, it is personal and he devotes his life to fighting against it. The ultimate responsibility he learns is to fully devote himself to the noble cause, to be willing to give us his own freedom, even to become a beggar as Baslim did, in order to work for the freedom of others. The story is as much fantasy as science fiction, but the message it contains and the moral lessons it teaches make it one of Heinlein's most important and enjoyable novels.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars one of the all time greats, 9 Nov. 2013
By 
F. Gamble (Uganda) - See all my reviews
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I must have read this 10 times over the years and it never palls. A classic Heinlein tale of space opera, politics, passion honour and drama, easily read and satisfying. The hero is again typical Heinlein, slightly bemused, stumbles from success to success but maintains his decency right the way through despite being taken advantage of from time to time. The plot is simple, rich boy taken as a slave in childhood, doesn't know who he, is adopted on a far flung planet by a overachieving commando spy, escapes and is adopted again by space traders (with an interesting aside into cultural differences) gets back to Earth and recovers his heritage and uses it to DO GOOD. Read it in a sitting it turns the pages easily.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first and best science fiction book I ever read, 9 Aug. 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Citizen of the Galaxy (Hardcover)
This book has so many levels that it is difficult to know where to begin which is probably why I must have read it over twenty times in the last 15 years. It follows the life of Thorby, an orphan and a slave, on his quest to find the family he was kidnapped from in his babyhood. The characterisations of the central character and those he comes into contact are completely believeable and we can all recognise someone we know in them from time to time. It is a story about good triumphing over evil and learning right from wrong, a crusade against the inter-galactic slave trade, a children's adventure story, a study of future cultures, an essay on anthropology and, finally, a jolly good read. Everyone old or young will be gripped by the story. It is the best Heinlein I have ever read and the rest are brilliant too. Every time I read it I see something new. Happy reading. This one is unmissable!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Seasons of a Boy's Life, 22 Dec. 2013
By 
John M. Ford "johnDC" (near DC, MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Citizen of the Galaxy (Paperback)
Readers follow Thorby through several distinct phases of his young life. We first encounter him being sold as a slave on the planet Sargon. He is bought by an old beggar, Baslim, who feeds, protects, and educates him. It soon becomes clear that Baslim is an intelligence agent, tracking the movements of the interplanetary slave trade. When Baslim's activities are discovered, Thorby barely escapes from Sargon with his life.

Thorby next finds a home on the Free Trader ship Sisu, where he learns the skills of spaceship life and lives by the unusual customs of Free Trader families. There are interesting comparisons made between life as a slave and the obligations and structured roles of the Free Traders. Thorby soon transfers to a military ship of the Earth-based Hegemonic Empire. On the way to Earth, Thorby adjust to a new culture, learning the customs and constrains of military shipboard service. Investigations finally reveal Thorby's true identity and family connections. He takes up the reigns of a new set of obligations on Earth. Ultimately he must make some decisions about what kind of life he wants to live.

This book is yet another book of successful Robert Heinlein "juvenile" science fiction. Written in an age of technology focus, this work points the way to a sociological emphasis more typical of late 60's and early 70's genre writing. Not only does Thorby encounter and compare several distinct cultures, but even has the help of an anthropologist at one point to guide his growth in perspective. Heinlein has written something far beyond the clichéd space opera typical of his time.

This is classic, old-school science fiction by one of the Grand Masters. Definitely worth reading.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Freedom is Choice, Constrained, 3 Sept. 2009
By 
Patrick Shepherd "hyperpat" (San Jose, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Citizen of the Galaxy (Paperback)
Citizen explores just what freedom really is as it follows a young man, Thorby, as he matures from boy to man. Starting as a slave sold to a most unusual beggar, Baslim, we see the first aspect that many equate with the absolute opposite of freedom, though we see that in fact `slaves' sometimes have more freedom of choice than `free men'. The society he paints here is vivid and believable (though the economics of slavery in a star-travelling culture has always seemed a little dubious to me). Baslim is far more than he appears to be, and puts Thorby through a rigorous education, both academic and practical. How do you become a really good beggar? Here Heinlein falls in with Ayn Rand - whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability, from begging to juggling. Also there are several comments included here about the integrity of the self - lies to others and misleading yourself both come in for some dictums. These are items that may pass over young readers' heads, but perhaps planting seeds that all assumptions should be examined, nothing should be accepted on `faith', that personal integrity is more important than `success', that consequences of actions should be examined carefully before committing to that action.

Later, Baslim calls in some favors and sends Thorby to live with the Free Traders, a group of space merchants that keep to themselves with their own unique culture. Here Thorby discovers another aspect of freedom: a person's ability to do as he wishes is severely constrained by the culture in which he lives. The Free Trader society (which owes much to Margaret Mead's seminal ideas, and highlighted by an anthropologist character named Margaret Mader - Heinlein was not usually so obvious with his names) of rigid matriarchal domination and separation into moieties provides security, peace of mind, and the ability through rigid rules of formalism to allow a small group of people to live together for extended periods without breaking any heads, but has as its downside great limitations on freedom of choice. This section of the book may be the best part, as the society is so different from today's American culture that it becomes fascinating in its own right, apart from its effects on Thorby. Thorby himself grows and changes significantly in this part of the book, from first love to determining just how he must balance the demands of duty and personal desires.

The last section deals with Thorby back on Earth, within a society not much different from our own, and shows a third aspect of freedom: the internal courageousness to make your own decisions and act upon them. Freedom is just as constrained by internal timidity and/or defining decisions as by external forces. As this last section offers little in terms of new or different views of society (though it is a good mirror of some of the flaws of a capitalistic/lawyer dominated one), it isn't as engrossing as the first two sections, but is highly important in terms of completing Heinlein's thematic investigation of all aspects of freedom.

Characterization other than Thorby and Baslim is pretty thin, especially for the females that appear in supporting roles. This was fairly typical for his juveniles, as they were basically strong adventure novels with their primary focus on their central character. But the thematic line on slavery/freedom is much stronger than his most of his messages in other books, and as this particular position is also stated in some of those other works (most especially Farnham's Freehold), has to be seen as one of Heinlein's personal beliefs (unlike some other positions he proposes in his books that seem mainly designed to stir up debate).

This book is not Heinlein's absolute best, nor even the best of his so-called 'juveniles' (which are typically better reading than most 'adult' mainstream bestsellers), but still provides an engrossing, fun, and illuminating read. Recommended for all readers willing to look at life styles different from their own.

--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The story of a slave-boy's search for identity, 8 Aug. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Citizen of the Galaxy (Hardcover)
I have not read this book for twenty-five years, but its influence on the nine-year old I was when I first read it was profound, and my memory of it is vivid - if not necessarily wholly accurate. Suffice it to say, my copy of the paperback had disintegrated beyond repair by the time I reached my teens...
Citizen of the Galaxy is the story of a young boy, Thorby, and his search for identity. He begins his journey as a slave on a distant planet, is bought by a beggar who is more than he might seem, is adopted into a spacefaring family, becomes a space cadet [or something of the sort] and finally, as a young adult, rediscovers his natural family on planet Earth and becomes involved in corporate conflict. In each of these contrasting social environments Thorby remains to some extent an outsider, and if the novel does not explicitly deal with alienation, social determinism and the nature of freedom, then it certainly raised questions about them in my young mind...
As a nine year old, I was able to identify with Thorby, partly because things seemed to just "happen" to him (which is how I saw my own life at the time) and partly because in many respects he is an empty persona, waiting for the reader to project their own personality onto him.
For me, the novel that in childhood moved me to tears and left me feeling inspired is beyond my powers analysis - perhaps it was foolish of me even to try...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stunningly good story of a frog who turns out to be ..., 9 Aug. 2014
By 
Sue Bentley (Cheshire) - See all my reviews
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Stunningly good story of a frog who turns out to be an interstellar prince. Despite the over-used cliche of the plot, the setting of a galaxy of different races and civilisations, the rich variety and depth of the characters and the way the story moves through time and space make this a really wonderful and compelling read. The only slightly jarring part for me was the character of Leda, who I distrusted from the moment Heinlein brought her onto his stage. I still think she was much too good to be true.

The hero of the book is a young boy called Thorby, a slave at the start of the story who is bought by a local beggarman and finds a father figure who educates and cares for him. Thorby moves from one father figure to another until eventually finding out who he really is.
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Citizen of the Galaxy
Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein (Paperback - 17 May 2005)
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