Sixth Column by Robert A. Heinlein

 

Science Fiction Sixth Column by Robert A. HeinleinSixth ColumnRobert A. Heinlein; Baen 1990WorldCatThe United States is no more. While the US was closed off from Asian, politics there changed. The Asian people grew strong, united, then launched atom bombs at the US, taking out Washington DC and other military and politically strong areas. Then they moved in personally, turning the United States into a military state. No native of the country can leave his or her own region without the proper identification and code. No gatherings of people are allowed. Religious services are allowed, but otherwise any groups of people are suspicious, possibly killed on sight. If one attempt is made on a ruler’s life, one hundred innocents are taken and killed.

But the Citadel and its six people survive. The Citadel was a hidden research facility that the US military established for weapon research. Major Whitey Ardmore comes to the Citadel with special orders. The atomic attack happened while he was en route. He and two privates are the only military left of the former United States. The three genius scientists complete a project shortly after his arrival. They now how a weapon that can defeat or survive almost anything except a direct atomic blast. But they are six against six million. Is there any way to take back the United States?

This is an intriguing book. The reader has to remember Robert A. Heinlein had just lived through World War II when Sixth Column was published in 1949. If Heinlein were writing this book 70 years later the antagonists would probably be Middle Eastern. Also, the language in Sixth Column is inflammatory – definitely not politically correct. This is partly because the terms used were acceptable in 1949. This is partly because of the time. This is also partly because the enemy is vilified by the oppressed. An unwilling slave is not going to use politically correct terms when referring to his owner or jailer.

Ardmore sends one of the other military out of the Citadel to do reconnaissance.  They quickly realize there is no sort of attack that would work. Now they have to figure out what the six of them can do to defeat the PanAsians and return the United States to its own citizens.

Heinlein was one of the early Grand Masters of Science Fiction, writing from the 1940’s through the 1970’s. A lot of his work reflects the attitudes of his time. The Cold War was at its height. People were moving from conservative attitudes to be more liberal. The Free Love and Life hippie generation bloomed in his lifetime. Sixth Column reflects the beginning of the Cold War. It was published before feminism started growing as a force so the women in this book are vague background characters.

Sixth Column is a book of heroism and patriotism. The Americans go up against overwhelming odds and find a back door solution to defeating their enemy. Sixth Column is a reflection of life after World War II in the U.S. When the background is taken into consideration, this book highlights Heinlein’s deftness at writing what the readers want to read and give us a bit of entertainment as well.

More books by Robert A. Heinlein

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