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Farnham's Freehold
(1964)


Hugh Farnham had prepared for the worst, and therefore is able to scuttle his family and friends to safety just before the nukes fall. A bumpy ride ensues (ahem), but after the dust settles, a pleasant surprise awaits them outside. The dysfunctional Farnham clan is soon able to carve out a comfortable niche for themselves in their new post-nuclear habitat, until sudden personal tragedy inflames already fomenting inter-personal tensions. But before the family even has a chance to split up, an incredible twist of plot finds the Farnham clan enslaved in a racially-reversed, future-retro (retro-future?) culture.

This is an interesting apocalyptic, interracial piece of sci-fi written in the shadow of the cold war and missile crises and underground bomb shelters. I found the first half of the story to be tolerable, being caught between being annoyed at the priggishly pragmatic Hugh Farnham and being intrigued at what curious eventualities the clan would face. But the second half I found fascinating as Heinlein undertakes to introduce us to a plausible post-nuclear, technically-advanced, tribal society. Overall I was disturbed by the book, which is not always a bad thing. I'm almost inclined to wonder if RAH was in a bad mood when he wrote it. I've come to expect the "times dictate morals" theme popular in his later works, but some racially-biased moralizing left me a bit unnerved. Indeed, give it a read.



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