Review of Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein

Science Fiction Audiobook - Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A. HeinleinCitizen of the Galaxy
By Robert A. Heinlein; Read by Lloyd James
8 CDs – Approx. 9 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2004
ISBN: 0786183810
Themes: / Science Fiction / Space Travel / Sociology / Politics / Contractarianism /

SLAVE: Brought to Sargon in chains as a child — unwanted by all save a one-legged beggar — Thorby learned well the wiles of the street people and the mysterious ways of his crippled master…

OUTLAW: Hunted by the police for some unknown treasonous acts committed by his beloved owner, Thorby risked his life to deliver a dead man’s message and found himself both guest and prisoner aboard an alien spaceship…

CITIZEN: Unaware of his role in an ongoing intrigue, Thorby became one of the freest of the free in the entire galaxy as the adopted son of a noble space captain . . . until he became a captive in an interstellar prison that offered everything but the hope of escape!

Thorby’s earliest memories are of his “papa” Baslim, a professional mendicant, purchasing him at the slave market on the capital city of Sargon, a distant planet that was long ago colonized by a now space faring mankind. There Baslim teaches the rebellious Thorby the art of begging which in itself is an interesting enough trade – but Baslim also has a secret job, one that will eventually propel his adopted son all the way across the galaxy. Citizen Of The Galaxy is one of the most conceptually expansive of Heinlein’s juvenile novels, it tackles many issues including social organization, the nature of ontractarianism and most of all freedom. The society aboard the free-trader starships for example is one of the most interesting Heinlein ever invented (it would have worked as a single novel unto itself). Exploring that culture for me was the best part of the book but there were plenty of other good bits too. Of course heavy handed straw men are peppered throughout the novel to trip up our hero. This has been a big problem for Heinlein, he could never make a villain smart in any meaningful sense. Had Heinlein given us some villains along the lines of Roy Batty of Blade Runner or “The Operative” in Serenity, in other words three dimensional villains, he’d be even more luminous in reputation than he has. And that really is hard to imagine! Straw men aside, there aren’t that many interesting dilemmas for Thorby to overcome in this
one, he’s a relatively passive hero who reacts more often than he acts. As a juvenile novel it works extremely well. A great listen for teenagers and adults.

On the audio end of things Blackstone has made my wish come true! Lloyd James is becoming the definitive voice of unabridged single voiced Heinlein audiobooks. He can do both youth and adults of both sexes easily and ads accents where appropriate. Sound quality, as always these days from Blackstone, is phenomenal. The CDs had not even a hint of anything other than the voice of the text recorded on them. Well done. The original cover art on the Blackstone packaging is a triptych of Thorby from the three sections of his youth. I’ve reviewed here the “library edition” which comes in a library style clamshell binding – but also available are an MP3-CD and cassette edition as well as a retail edition on CD. Check one out in your preferred format, you’ll be glad you did.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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