Farnham's Freehold

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A little history: I got this book sometime in the mid-sixties, a cheapie edition from the Science Fiction Book Club. I still have some of those old SFBC books, but not Farnham's Freehold. It might have simply fallen apart; I know that's what happened to the first book I got (a ten-cent come-on): Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, all three books in one flimsy volume.

Anyway: read once, way back then. And not reread until it came up in the Great Reread-Heinlein Project.

So I got the Kindle version from Amazon for $7. A few typos caused, I assume, by scanning. For example, three occurences of "modern" are spelled "modem" on the Kindle.

The book begins with a scenario we managed to avoid (at least for now): an all-out nuclear holocaust between the US and USSR. The protagonist, Hugh Farnham is prepped with a fallout shelter. He and his companions manage to survive a couple nearby detonations, but then a really big bomb makes a direct hit…

But instead of radioactive oblivion, the shelter and its occupants get transported to, um, somewhere else. Sort of. (Trying to avoid spoilers for a 57-year-old book.) And we get a tale of survivalism: Hugh didn't expect to have to recreate hunter/gatherer society on his own. He would have packed differently!

He is accompanied by his shrewish, alcoholic wife, Grace. His mama's boy son, Duke. Daughter Karen, and her friend Barbara. And black servant Joseph. There's some tedious (but standard Heinlein) folderol about how things should be run in this new world; although he'll listen to advice, Hugh insists on his command decisions being obeyed. Duke attempts to resist, but it's futile. Joseph also has qualms.

But they muddle through, until… oops, turns out they're not alone.

So I read this book as a (relatively) straitlaced Omaha teen, and—whoa!—there's a pretty explicit sex scene right there at location 613, I think I was shocked.

OK, a small spoiler: you may detect Racial Overtones in the book. The N-word appears ten, count 'em, ten times. And there's shoe-on-the-other-foot speculation about a society where… Well, Heinlein's descriptions have come in for some rough treatment. There are certain kinds of dystopia you can't describe.