I read this book about 2-Jan-2010. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1963. This note was last modified Tuesday, 05-Jan-2010 18:20:32 PST.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
I scored a 2nd printing hardcover in Uncle Hugo's Thursday; no dust jacket, but otherwise in quite good shape, and only $10. So, might as well read it, right?
I seem to remember somebody telling me this was not about Vietnam. Well, the whole book, isn't, no; but what we were discussing was Oscar's military service, and that definitely was in Vietnam. It can't be Korea, because his father fought in Korea earlier. Page 12, "my father made that long walk back from Inchon reservoir". And Page 15, "Ever been in Southeast Asia?". He also explains that they weren't even Military Advisors; they were Military Observers. That's about right for that period in Vietnam (and the book was of course written somewhat before the publication date, which was 1963).
Too bad I don't know who that argument was with any more!
That may also cover some of my confusion about how Heinlein describes Oscar's generation. Since Oscar was a Junior in college in 1962 or thereabouts, he's actually 13 years older than me. So he probably was more the beat generation than the hippie generation. I still don't think they were teaching the kids to not be patriotic in the schools then, though. They certainly weren't where I was, and that was in a very liberal town in a very liberal state.
I've always wondered about this(p.13): "'Going steady' (my generation's contribution to the American Dream) was based on security; it insured that Saturday night could never be the loneliest night for the weak." Is that last word a typo, a pun, or what? It doesn't make wonderful sense either as "weak" or as "week".
Heinlein refers (p.16) to the researches of Major Ian Hay: "Major Ian Hay, back in the 'War to End War,' described the structure of military organizations: Regardless of T.O., all military bureaucracies consist of a Surprise Party Department, a Practical Joke Department, and a Fairy Godmother department. The first two process most matters, as the third is very small; the Fairy Godmother Department is one elderly female GS-5 clerk usually out on sick leave."
And, through the magic of Project Gutenberg, that lead me to read Major Ian Hay's book The First Hundred Thousand.
Heinlein modified the quote for his audience; what Hay actually said was:
So far as our researches have gone, we have been able to classify Olympus, roughly, into three departments—
- Round Game Department (including Dockets, Indents, and all official correspondence).
- Fairy Godmother Department.
- Practical Joke Department.
"Round Game Department" of course means nothing in American English.
P.42—I never noticed this before. The copy of the personals ad in the plain envelope with Oscar's mail at American Express had one word underlined, but I don't recall understanding that that word was "you". (The sentence is given in italics, and "You" is the first word, so having it not in italics doesn't work very well to emphasize it.)
P.159—"Disturbing the ecological balance is the worst mistake any government can make." That's Star speaking, who in the context of this book can be taken, I think, to be pretty reliable on the subject of what governments should and shouldn't do. This in a book published in 1963 (Silent Spring only came out in September of 1962), by a guy frequently described as "conservative". Although it's interesting that the rule is stated as applying against the government specifically. Given the surrounding talk, the reasons for not disturbing the ecological balance are just as cogent for individuals and corporations; perhaps Star is just thinking in terms of her profession. In the real world, mostly the government is involved in preventing other groups from doing it.
P.163—"I'm allergic to dragons—literally, not just scared silly." (Oscar speaking). I don't remember a lot of moderate conventional allergies to alien creatures in SF. It's an amusing detail here, and doesn't play any major part (he doesn't wake the dragons by sneezing, though he comes close once).
Oscar explains that the Twenty Universes government, such as it is, mostly does nothing, because that's mostly the right thing.