Friday, August 19, 2011

Revolt in 2100 by Robert A. Heinlein

Revolt in 2100Revolt in 2100 is another collection of stories set in Heinlein's Future History series. The first and longest story is set in the time of the Prophet's theocracy. John Lyle is a West Point graduate, granted the special honor of being assigned to the Angels of the Lord, responsible for guarding the Temple. He is from the back woods, and extremely naive, which lands him in trouble when he finds himself falling in love with one of the Temple Virgins, Sister Judith. The Virgins only remain so in name, after they are called to "serve" the current Prophet once.

John is taken under the wing of Zebediah Jones, another one of Heinlein's wise avuncular characters, and gets his eyes opened to what really goes on in the world of power and politics, even among the Faithful. When they decide that Judith must be saved from "a fate worse than death (it rarely is)", they become involved in the Cabal, a resistance organization which sprang from the Masonic Lodges when the first Prophet, Nehemiah Scudder, declared his vision to be the only true religion and seized all political power in the U.S. The Cabal has been working for years to build an organization to overthrow the repressive state, and John and Judith's innocent love affair provides the trigger for the revolution to start.

Once again, Heinlein is given a bully pulpit to preach his own brand of political libertarianism through the mouths of Zeb and the Cabal leaders. It's a pretty good story. I only wish Heinlein had written a longer one that followed John Lyle's future a little farther.

The second story, Coventry, takes place after the Prophet is overthrown, and when all of the citizens of the U.S. live at peace and harmony with each other. If they don't, they can either be cured of their antisocial tendencies by psychological reprogramming or sent to Coventry, a rugged isolated area where rugged individualists have carved out their own dystopia. This is the story of one man who elects to keep his mind intact, and take exile as his lot, but who ends up cured of his madness after all. Sort of a treatise on crime and punishment, in the usual Heinlein fashion.

The final story, Misfit, gives us a look back at the humble beginnings of Andrew Jackson "Slipstick" Libby, Lazarus Long's companion in the misadventures of Methuselah's Children. Andy has his first job on a construction crew on an asteroid far from Earth. His natural genius for mathematics, denied any outlet in the rural countryside, suddenly comes in very handy, when he learns about demolition, construction and orbital ballistics. Fun filler material for fans, but nothing truly startling.

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