I don’t read nearly as much sci-fi as I used to, the only book of Heinlein’s I’d read previously was the epic “Stranger in a Strange Land” I didn’t expect “Citizen of the Galaxy” would be able to match that and it doesn’t. It starts off interestingly as the young protagonist Thorby is bought at a slave auction by the crippled beggar Baslim for a paltry few minim.
The first third sees Thorby learning to beg and running errands for “Pop” (Baslim), who isn’t what he may seem. Baslim, despite having bought a slave, hates the institution of slavery and got his injuries from trying to free some slaves from a slave ship. Baslim fears his days are limited and gets Thorby to memorise a message in a tongue alien to the boy to deliver to one of a selection of space captains who may call into the spaceport where they beg.
In the second part Thorby is adopted by a space “clan” and travels with them through space, his understanding of the clan and their intricate hierarchy is conveniently helped by an “fraki” (one who is not a family member) anthropologist, who explains the customs and clan ties.
The final part is part courtroom and part board room drama as the freed slave finds where he originally came from and works to claim his inheritance and help further Pop’s dream of ending slavery. The final part seems rushed and rather too reliant on coincidence.
The book may be aimed at a younger juvenile audience and so the main character feels like he’s going through the story, rather than acting through it.
My rating : 3 out of 5