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Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A. Heinlein
Published by Del Rey Books
Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel
This classic juvenile begins with a terrified boy on the slave auction of an exotic, decadent city. But this is more than the typical oriental despotism, as we learn moments later when a spaceship takes off behind the slave market.
The boy seems unmarketable until, half as a joke, a bid comes from one of the beggars that gather round the wealthy buyers. One noble dandy decides to humor the audience and forces the issue, and the boy ends up in the old man's keeping.
However, old Baslim the Cripple is more than the ordinary beggar, as the boy quickly discovers. He quickly teaches the lad, who gives his name as Thorby, how to beg for alms. In time he also teaches Thorby other, more dangerous arts, including how to make info drops.
Baslim is a spy, and in time that costs him his life. Suddenly Thorby is on the run, deprived of what little security he once possessed. He finds refuge with oneof his adoptive father's associates, Captain Krause of the Free Trader ship Sisu, who gets him off the planet and away from the Sargon's secret police.
Life aboard a Free Trader ship is much different from that on the streets, as Thorby soon discovers. However it is also full of possibilities, if he can only fit into their tight-knit and hidebound culture. Yet he is still driven by old Baslim's mandate, and by the deep need to find out who he really is, what lay before the terrified early memories of torment and abuse at the hands of the slavers.
That trail points to Earth, the original home of all humanity, and to things even more wonderful and more constraining than the life of a Free Trader. They may even promise the possibility of destroying the slave trade once and for all. But Thorby must learn the rules of a new game if he is to avoid destroying the very tools by which he can accomplish his dream.
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This review posted June 2, 1999
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