A short book... a brilliant book... and the first of four of Heinlein's Hugo winners. An able actor, Lorenzo Smythe, is recruited to assume the persona of an influential, progressive but unavailable political figure, the Right Honorable John Joseph Bonforte, former Supreme Minister and now leader of the Expansionist movement. Thus Mars' relationship with Earth will never be the same again. It's a story of identities assumed and identities lost, of sacrifices of conscience and sacrifices of desperation. I believe this book touts a tremendous social statement about the art of politics, possibly not too flattering of politicians, but extremely endearing of their devoted staff members. I won't say more of the plot so as not to spoil the story. Characterization is second to none. As guided or misguided he may be, Heinlein's using the temporal to moralize about the spiritual (as in Stranger in a Strange Land) is not easy to miss.
The people will take a certain amount of reform, then they want a rest. But the reforms stay. People don't really want change, any change at all--and xenophobia is very deep-rooted. But we progress, as we must--if we are to go out to the stars.
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