Product Details from Baen's Books
Ebook Price: $8.99
1. Short review: (Amazon rating: 4 out of 5 stars -- I like it.)
2. Long review:2.1. What I liked: "Jerry Was a Man" and the Afterward by David Drake. "Jerry Was a Man" is a 5-star story.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? Both. Four stories are collected in this volume. Some coasters, some walks.
2.2. What I did not like: Sad to say, I have never liked "Lost Legacy". Read it years ago and forgot it. Reading it again, I remembered why I forgot it.
2.3. Who I think is the audience: Science fiction fans. RAH fans.
2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read? Yes. No worries.
2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? Yes.
2.6. The plot in a nutshell:
There are four stories in Assignment in Eternity: "Gulf", "Elsewhen", "Lost Legacy", and "Jerry Was a Man". David Drake's Afterward tells us where these stories were first published and how they came to be published.2.7. Other:
"Jerry Was a Man" is the reason I bought the book. This story alone is worth the book's price.
Jerry was a 'worker', the product of gene engineering from chimpanzee stock. Billionairess Martha van Vogel found him in a pen of 'retired' workers at Workers, Inc., and took a liking to him. When she discovered that Jerry and his cohort were to be terminated because they were no longer economically viable, she raised a fuss and called her stockbroker (by cell phone) to direct him to purchase controlling interest in the corporation's stock. To smooth things over, Workers, Inc., made her a present of Jerry.
Mrs van Vogel found her attempt to gain control of Workers, Inc., blocked. She sought another way to prevent Workers, Inc., from terminating retired anthropoids. What she found was lawyers. They have Jerry sue Workers, Inc.
The key questions in the case are two: 1) What is a man? and 2) Is Jerry a man?
The problem with the story is that the title gives away the ending. But it is still a great story.
Why is it a great story?
I have my view of science fiction. My view is that nobody writes about the future. We write about matters of today using the lens of science fiction to magnify some specific concern.
"Jerry Was a Man" was published in 1947. When RAH wrote the story, blacks were segregated by law. RAH was making a point about racial injustice. If a gene-engineered chimpanzee was a man, was a black human being anything less?
FYI Rod Walker, the hero of Tunnel in the Sky, was black. No less an authority than Virginia Heinlein, RAH's wife, said so.
Johnny Rico, the hero of Starship Troopers, was Filipino.
RAH believed in the equality of men before it was fashionable. He believed that a man is not defined by the color of his skin but, rather, by the quality of his acts.
2.8. Links: The Heinlein Society
2.9. Buy the book: Assignment in Eternity