Another entry in my "Reread Heinlein" project. (15 to go!) And this one totally took me by surprise. The last time I read it was (probably) over fifty years ago (yes, I'm old). I remember liking it. But this time through… well, I really liked it. It came out in 1957, and the other novels Heinlein novels around that time (The Door into Summer, Have Space Suit—Will Travel, Time for the Stars, Starship Troopers) all seem (to me) to be Heinlein at his peak.
It's set in the far-flung future, where mankind is smart enough to have mastered interstellar travel, but is also dumb enough to have revived one of mankind's worst ideas: slavery. It's accepted practice on the planet Jubbul, where filthy, snarling human child Thorby is up for sale, after incorrigible behavior with past masters. After some dickering, he's purchased by a one-eyed, one-legged beggar, Baslim. Who brings him home to his hovel… which is surprisingly liveable, for a beggar.
But there's more to Baslim than meets the eye (heh). There's also more to Thorby than one might suspect from his near-feral behavior. No further spoilers!
Heinlein does a fine job of explicating the weird cultures humans can develop in response to environment and economics. Not just on Jubbul, but also… whoa, I said no further spoilers!
I feel like giving a copy of this book to every 13-year-old boy I know.