Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Thoughts on "Farnham's Freehold"

Originally posted Jan. 16, 2009

I just flew through the book at top speed and was excited to read
everyone's comments thus far because after I read some subjects lines
about twists and turns toward the end I stopping reading comments
about the book ahead of time.

Anyway SPOILERS below here:

Hopefully I am coherent, the heat in my apartment didn't come on today
and it's eight below outside so I'm pretty frazzled.

I see that a lot of people said they didn't like the book or didn't
like characters. Others said it was "hard to get through"

I didn't have this trouble at all. I liked some of the characters, I
liked Hugh, even though he was a very thinly veiled stand in for
Heinlein himself IMHO. He was intelligent and offer all a good guy, I thought who was always trying to do the best he could for his family. He cared about his son, stocked cloths and supplies for him in the shelter, even though they didn't really get along and he tried to help his wife, a women most men would have divorced. (myself included).

I liked Barbara too, except that I thought it odd how she fell madly in love with Hugh so quickly and their sex scene on my page 33, has to be one of the worst written passages ever.

Joe seemed like the most good-natured character of the bunch while this were in the wilderness. However, when they are assimilated into the future society he becomes evil. I got the feeling that this was about absolute power corrupting absolutely. Even a nice guy like Joe can turn if given too much power too quickly.

I could not stand Grace or Duke for the beginning. Grace was worthless and Duke was a momma's boy.

As I said before it was awfully strange that a woman in her 20s was so attracted to a man in his 50s but I accepted it A) because it was a survival situation and Hugh proved himself to be the best at surviving. B) I got the feeling that Heinlein was living out a sort of fantasy so of course every woman was crazy about the character he identified with. The incest line that was skirted in this story was uncomfortable to say the least, especially the bizarre conversation Karen had with Hugh about wanting to marry him. But at least that was all it was, talk. It skirted the line but didn't cross it. I think it can be interpreted as Karen saying that she would want to be Hugh's
wife. Not Karen saying she wanted to have sex with her father.

But enough about that there are much more interesting things to discuss.

Like Double Star, which I felt was two book ideas patched together, this book came off to me as several ideas together. There was the atomic bomb story in the beginning, the survivalist story in the middle, the story of a futuristic society in the middle eight, and I time travel story tagged on as an epilogue. In my opinion with the exception of the ending transition which I didn't think quite worked I though the storied transitioned effectively.

I didn't think it was odd that they were forced to go outside shortly after the bomb hit. This was explained, the bomb shelter was designed to keep them alive indefinitely but the fan that filtered air for outside broke so that they were forced to go outside of suffocate.

I found each of the different stories to be interesting in their own right. Never having been in a bomb shelter it was fascinating to think how they worked and what would have to go in them and what people would forget. Then the survivalist story was fun because though they all had modern knowledge they soon realized how incomplete that knowledge is because they never had to learn very basic things like how to properly gut an animal or how to farm. This knowledge is all well known, but society is so fragile because no one can know everything.

The futuristic society I found most interesting of all. Though they have superior technology it seems to not influence their everyday lives too much. Instead of enjoying a better life than people today, this future more closely resembles court life in Turkey or somewhere around the times of the crusades. And yet when you look at it from Ponse's side you do believe he has the best interest of his people in mind, until you learn that he is a cannibal. I looked at the society
with different eyes at that point and hoped that it could one day be brought down my the Underground. However, a culture as stagnant as the one portrayed ie, no original scientific discovers could not survive for long.

I did think it was interesting that like Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Stranger in a Strange Land this book explored alternate societies. What was it that made Heinlein so interested in that sort of thing?

The ending where they sent Hugh and Barbara back I felt was way out of character. I felt there was no way Ponse would let Hugh live after his escape attempt. Why did he send all 4 of them back in time. Surely he knew that if he gave Hugh exactly what he wanted, he would get nothing
in return. I think it would have been much more likely that Ponse would have sent Hugh back in time alone and claimed to be able to recall Hugh back to the future somehow if Hugh did exactly as instructed. He might even promise to let him and Barbara go after the experiment was a success. Then Hugh would have left the watch in place at the bank and Ponse would have proof of time travel and could have invaded history. Man is it a good thing none of that happened. And
also how do Ponses scientist come up with time travel when it was made clear that technology has become stagnant.

Well those are my thoughts. Still no heat here.


p.s. I forgot to mention that another thing that I liked was the Bridge theme going all through the book. Some of my friends and I love Bridge. We used to play when I was in college and now we all live far away from each other, but whenever we meet up in NYC or Baltimore we'll play for hours. I even play with one of my friends online about once a week to stay sharp. But I understand that if you don't know Bridge parts of the book might make less sense.

Does anyone know if Heinlein played?

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