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Beyond This Horizon by Robert A Heinlein (Books 2020, 10)

I like these short books you can read in a day.

A reread, of course. I read most or all of Heinlein from my early days of reading SF. But I read the blurb on the back of this and didn’t recognise it at all. Started reading, and it still wasn’t familiar.

Then as I got closer to the end, it did start to seem familiar. Did I read the last quarter of it recently? Or is there a short-story version of part of it that I read not long ago? I don’t know, but it’s often strange how memory works.

Anyway, the first point about this: the sexual politics are horrific. It’s a future society where men go armed routinely — and so it is a ‘polite’ society. It may be where the phrase ‘an armed society is a polite society’ comes from. I wonder what Heinlein (assuming that to be his actual view) would think of today’s armed society in America.

Women, on the other hand, do not go armed, or do much else apart from be decorative and have babies. Mostly. One woman character wears a sidearm, but the protagonist does not exactly treat her with the respect he gives to other men.

Men can choose not to go armed, in which case they have to wear the ‘Brassard of peace,’ and are treated as second-class citizens by the armed ‘braves.’

But it’s not mainly about any of that. It’s about eugenics, and how and whether it’s possible to improve the human race ethically.

In story terms it’s OK. It’s interesting enough that you want to know what happens, but it feels like its main purpose in existing is to examine the philosophical questions around eugenics. I note that it was published in 1942, so before the Nazis’ experiments were known about.

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