I read this book about 7-Jul-2020. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1941. This note was last modified Friday, 10-Jul-2020 14:54:48 PDT.
This note contains spoilers for the book.
This book probably gets a worse rap than it deserves; at least some. And Heinlein, from all available info, did a lot to make it less racist from Campbell's initial version.
But it has not aged terribly well; it treats race rather too seriously (and completely ignores the existence of races other than "white" and "PanAsian"; no blacks, no native Americans, etc. And apparently all asians are really the same). And we didn't know, back then, how nearly identical we are, genetically, to say a chimpanzee; that makes the ability to tune a ray to disrupt the haemoglobin of one race but not another kind of unreasonable.
In chapter 2, Finney (who makes Thomas's fake identity document) takes offense at being offered money, but responds to "I wish there were some way to do something for you" with "That is another matter. Help your brother when you can, and help will come to you when you need it." That's not actually quite "pay it forward", the famous Heinlein concept from later. Which is good, because Thomas "found the old anarchist's philosophy confused, confusing, and impractical."
On the other hand, the character Jefferson Thomas, high-powered lawyer who ten years ago chose to become a hobo (certainly not a tramp or a bindlestiff), is a very fine one, and deserves more attention. He's the one who goes out to make the first reconnaissance and find out what's going on out there (and who meets and brings back Frank Mitsui, who is important in the story).
(It's interesting that Lazarus Long, in Time Enough for Love (#4), makes a point of exactly the same distinctions.)
Ardmore, as a PR person, is the right one to end up in charge. The new weapon is essentially developed (not fully ready) by page 30, but the question is how can 6 men use this to take back their country. That's solved by playing head games, basically, which a PR person is the best suited to doing.
When the PanAsian Lieutenant first visits the first Church of Mota (built over the Citadel), when he goes up the steps, there's a musical note for every step he steps on. Lately I've seen that in museums and shopping centers (sometimes on stairs, sometimes on flat ground). Took us long enough!
The PanAsian empire (and Heinlein does BiCap it; I don't think of that as going back to 1941!) seems too Japanese for what it claims to be, but my own knowledge of the various cultures it assimilated isn't that good either (China and India and Russia, in addition to the smaller ones like Korea and Vietnam and Thailand and Cambodia and so forth). (But I like the melange of conquered peoples on the moon in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (#2) better, myself.)
More troubling to me, though, is that an awful lot of African Americans and Native Americans are going to be collateral damage in this fight. They set their projectors for "kill everything but white people" and go spraying them around completely promiscuously in the dozen or so biggest cities in the USA, that's gonna happen. No mention of it, no consideration that there are any people but PanAsians and "whites".