Matt’s Reviews: Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein

audiobook cover: Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein

  • Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks
  • Published Date: 2004
  • Print Copyright: 1957
  • Format: Audio CD (8 disks)
  • Length: 9 hours
  • ISBN: 0786183810
  • Author: Robert A. Heinlein
  • Read by: Lloyd James
Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein is one of the author’s series of ‘juvenile’ novels. This was a series of novels that Heinlein published between 1947 and 1959. While classified as a series, each of these novels is a ‘stand-alone’ story. These days, these might be considered “Young Adult” novels, but perhaps that is a misnomer. While the protagonists of these novels are generally younger people, teen-age to young adult, the concepts and language are not dumbed down. Heinlein respected his younger readers and gave them full rich stories with multiple levels of sophistication. Citizen of the Galaxy certainly meets this richness, but it is also just a fun adventure story. If you didn’t get the sociological commentary when you read it half a century ago, then read it again now.
Thorby is a young boy approaching teenage years. He is up for sale on the slave auction block on the planet Jubbul. When none of the aristocratic buyers are interested in the skinny young merchandise, he is purchased for next to nothing by an old beggar, Baslim the cripple. Baslim turns out to be much more than he appears on the surface, and he takes Thorby under his wing and treats him, not as a slave, but as his own son. He uses hypnosis and other means to help the boy to overcome some of his traumas and give him some additional survival tools. Thorby becomes a fairly successful mendicant in his own right, as well as helping deliver messages and other duties for Baslim, aka “Pop”. When things go bad on Jubbul, Thorby goes off planet once again and joins a family of ‘traders’ on their ship, as they do business around the galaxy.  They also begin a mostly unsuccessful search for his birth identity.
This story is a fun adventure as Thorby runs from corrupt authorities, does space battles, deals with corrupt corporate leaders, family dynamics on multiple levels with different ‘families’, etc. It is also a coming-of-age story as the young slave learns lessons about life and integrity and survival from his ‘Pop’ and others. It is also an exploration of human cultures, human prejudices, and ways we have, and may, react to different environments.
Some of the most thought provoking parts of the story are when Thorby has conversations with a sociological researcher on the traders’ ship. As she explains how and why the people follow customs strange to the young man, she also helps us think about how our own society has customs that restrict what is ‘normal’ and that ‘normal’ and ‘right’ are in the context of where you are and who you are with.  As Thorby moves from one situation to another with different people and different cultures, you may start to think about your own situation and your own culture and how it defines and restricts you.  Slavery can come in different ways, and does not always depend on being sold for money. You can be slave to a family, or to a position, or to money, or even to a literal owner. People will see what they want to see and believe what they want to believe, especially if it their livelihood and peace of mind depend on it.
I’ve said before, I am a huge Heinlein fan and it has been fun to revisit some of these stories that I haven’t read in decades. I recently reviewed his collection of short stories, The Green Hills of Earth. I expect over the next few months and years, I will revisit a few other of the Grandmaster‘s works. Stay tuned, and let me know in the comments: What are your favorite Heinlein stories?
In the meantime, you can read the first novel by another hard science fiction author:

Plastivore by Matt Truxaw

Book Cover: Plastivore by Matt Truxaw

Please take a moment to support Amazing Stories with a one-time or recurring donation via Patreon. We rely on donations to keep the site going, and we need your financial support to continue quality coverage of the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres as well as supply free stories weekly for your reading pleasure.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Previous Article


Next Article

Noah Chinn Reviews: The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde

You might be interested in …