Monday, January 26, 2009

I can't put Heinlein down...

I tore through two Heinlein novels this weekend, to the chagrin of my sleep schedule. Glory Road didn't impress me—it was funny in a few places and in general a compelling story, but it didn't have enough meat to it to satisfy me. There was a classic Heinleinian critique of democracy at the end, however:
Democracy can't work. Mathematicians, peasants, and animals, that's all there is—so democracy, a theory based on the assumption that mathematicians and peasants are equal, can never work. Wisdom is not additive; its maximum is that of the wisest man in a given group.

But a democratic form of government is okay, as long as it doesn't work. Any social organization does well enough if it isn’t rigid. The framework doesn’t matter as long as there is enough looseness to permit that one man in a multitude to display his genius. Most so-called social scientists seem to think that organization is everything. It is almost nothing—except when it is a straitjacket. It is the incidence of heroes that counts, not the pattern of zeros.

Citizen of the Galaxy, on the other hand, was much more thought-provoking. The protagonist is repeatedly ripped from his comfort zone and forced to adapt to new situations and cultures, and yet through it all he manages to succeed and find his calling. Not as much knock-down drag-out fighting action as in Glory Road, but it's an enjoyable, uplifting, and moderately paced bildungsroman.

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