View unanswered posts | View active topics It is currently Wed Dec 13, 2017 11:53 pm



Reply to topic  [ 36 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2, 3, 4  Next
Farnham's Freehold 
Author Message
Heinlein Nexus
User avatar

Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2008 8:10 am
Posts: 2232
Location: Pacific NorthWest
Post Farnham's Freehold
Just reread this after a 5-10 year break. The time machine strikes me as somewhat contrived. (It didn't before; I'm getting more curmudgeonly as I get older.) I mean, if you had just invented a time machine, would you use it to put someone who hated you in a position to see that you never came into existence? Ponse couldn't have been aware of the many worlds interpretation. Everything was leading up to Hugh and Barbara getting executed and then the deux-ex-time-machina shows up,

I have no problem with the time machine having just been invented; that was explained very well. But using it on Hugh and Barbara made little sense. It would have been more logical if they had found a way to use the machine against Ponse's judgement. The revelation that Ponse was far smarter than Hugh thought was a great twist, so why not twist it further with Hugh rising to the occasion to go one better. After all, he beat Ponse at bridge.

Thoughts? Counter arguments?


Mon Mar 08, 2010 1:43 pm
Profile WWW

Joined: Tue Jul 21, 2009 7:32 pm
Posts: 13
Post Re: Farnham's Freehold
I haven't read that book in many a year, but I do recall thinking that it was really foolish of old Ponce to put Hugh in that position. He (Ponce) woulda known better. But then, these time travel stories always confuse the hell outa me. I'm not even smart enough to figure out how going back to his own time changed Hugh's transmission from an automatic to a manual.


Mon Mar 08, 2010 8:18 pm
Profile
Heinlein Biographer

Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2008 1:33 pm
Posts: 1024
Post Re: Farnham's Freehold
Steve Richards wrote:
I haven't read that book in many a year, but I do recall thinking that it was really foolish of old Ponce to put Hugh in that position. He (Ponce) woulda known better. But then, these time travel stories always confuse the hell outa me. I'm not even smart enough to figure out how going back to his own time changed Hugh's transmission from an automatic to a manual.

He didn't go back to "his world" -- he went back to a similar timeline.

I suspect Heinlein had been playing around with all these different theories of time for a very long time and put everything -- all the different, even incompatible ones -- into The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.

Ponse using Hugh and Barbara as experimental subjects didn't seem all that improbable to me. I took it to mean that Ponse was smart _enough_ to not be entirely bound by the behavioral conventions of his society. "The very powerful are different from you and me" (a fact I have been able to observe at first hand).

I also took it as a message from author to reader that our "realistic" conventions, which would require the story to proceed to the abbatoir, were just that, reading conventions which the author and the story was not bound by. That is, Hugh's -- and our -- horror at the abbatoir was ours, not Ponses's, who took it rather matter-of-factly and wouldn't necessarily consider that an appropriate way to dispose of troublesome people. If the abbatoir does not come to Ponse's mind the way it does to ours, then there are many other possible "solutions" to this dilemma.

In other words, Heinlein is doing what Heinlein does over and over again -- making the story more faithful to the characters' view of their world than to the reader's view. I think it can be argued this is one of the less successful instances of that practice -- but over the years it produced a lot of surprising "depth" to the story-world.


Tue Mar 09, 2010 7:12 am
Profile
Heinlein Nexus
User avatar

Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2008 8:10 am
Posts: 2232
Location: Pacific NorthWest
Post Re: Farnham's Freehold
I glossed over my gripe too quickly. Ponse, having just been shown to be extremely savvy at anything to do with his own survival, sends Hugh and Barbara to a place where they could conceivably destroy him completely. Not very smart if you ask me. They were motivated to do so; they would have faced no repercussions for their retaliation (how can someone who never existed get at you?). Okay, so Ponse was generous enough to want to let them escape to begin with and Hugh botched it. Why not execute them? Wouldn't that be the logical solution to his problem of not wanting Hugh to stick around corrupting the youth? Or exile them back to the shelter, surely out of walking range of the palace?

A logical scenario for Ponse putting Hugh and Barbara in the past occurs to me in only two ways: First, that he demonstrated such generosity to Hugh in giving him what he wanted so much and didn't think possible (return to his own time) that Hugh was profoundly grateful and would never again think of revenge. Not shown, and not believable (Hugh is never going to forget Duke). Second, that Ponse knows that putting them back minutes before the bombs go off leaves them insufficient time to change the future enough to eradicate him. Not credible either technologically (they had only so far used a mouse, for a two week trip, in the other direction; couldn't possibly be that accurate) or for continuity (why would the scientists ask Hugh to leave them evidence of his arrival if they knew he would have no time to go to the bank?), or for strategy (who's to say that the best opportunity to change the future wouldn't come after the bombing?). Ponse didn't know about a many-worlds interpretation of time travel that would leave him intact in his own timeline, and if he had, he wouldn't have expected any widget secreted by Hugh in a bank vault to come forward to his own time.

Dan's way of getting in a time machine in Summer was more believable. I rest my case.


Tue Mar 09, 2010 1:00 pm
Profile WWW

Joined: Sun Jan 25, 2009 7:52 pm
Posts: 136
Post Re: Farnham's Freehold
I first read Farnham's Freehold at age 12 in 1969 (bought it from a drugstore rack); it was among the first of the non-"juveniles" I read (along with the Three by Heinlein hardcover in my junior high school library, i.e., The Puppet Masters, "Waldo," and "Magic Inc."). I last read it around 30 years ago and don't expect to return to it ever again.

The ending is just one of the many things that I found indefensible about Farnham in retrospect. There is no reason offered or even implied for the differences in the past that Hugh and Barbara and the babies return to. Alternate pasts cannot simply be presented on a whim. The ending of Farnham feels tacked on; the only effective part of it (Karen still being alive, etc.) would have been equally effective if they had returned to the same past.

I admit that my view about this has been affected by Gregory Benford's very rereadable Timescape (1980), which is all about an effort to change the past. That book offers many rewards, and not just at the end - I'm thinking of the moment in the 1997 timeline when the safe deposit box is opened and the note from the now-changed 1963 era is read: "MESSAGE RECEIVED LA JOLLA." Of course this brings up the idea that Benford read Farnham and was thereby moved to think about what would then happen to Ponse's era - would it go on existing somehow in isolation from the "real" timeline? - and thereafter started working on Timescape in part to write about the fate of the 1997 (Cambridge, UK) era after the 1963 era was changed. This was left ambiguous at the end of the book but is moving and memorable nonetheless. If Farnham did somehow lead to the writing of Timescape, then it has justified its existence after all.


Tue Mar 09, 2010 2:59 pm
Profile
Heinlein Nexus
User avatar

Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2008 8:10 am
Posts: 2232
Location: Pacific NorthWest
Post Re: Farnham's Freehold
Oh, I don't find any problem with there being differences in the timeline they return to. The characters discuss it at length; any number of possibilities come to mind (you can't return to your own timeline, therefore you have to go to another one which will be nearby but more or less random otherwise - think about the quantization of the universe following the Big Bang as an example of discrete choices being made in an otherwise uniformly distributed sea of possibilities). And it is a familiar theme in Heinlein, not that it shouldn't stand on its own merits.

I have no problem with any other part of the book. In particular, the discussion of racism and the way it is presented now strikes me as enormously gutsy now that I am, in later years, aware that he wrote it a year before Selma. A facet I was unaware of as a child reader.


Tue Mar 09, 2010 3:51 pm
Profile WWW
Heinlein Nexus
User avatar

Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2008 8:10 am
Posts: 2232
Location: Pacific NorthWest
Post Re: Farnham's Freehold
Mind you, if there is any precedent for a decision so foolish, it would be the British Government giving a fertile and resource-ful continent to a bunch of prisoners. Not to mention the cost of sending them on a sea voyage to the other end of the Earth.


Tue Mar 09, 2010 3:56 pm
Profile WWW
Heinlein Biographer

Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2008 1:33 pm
Posts: 1024
Post Re: Farnham's Freehold
PeterScott wrote:
I glossed over my gripe too quickly. Ponse, having just been shown to be extremely savvy at anything to do with his own survival, sends Hugh and Barbara to a place where they could conceivably destroy him completely. Not very smart if you ask me. They were motivated to do so; they would have faced no repercussions for their retaliation (how can someone who never existed get at you?). Okay, so Ponse was generous enough to want to let them escape to begin with and Hugh botched it. Why not execute them? Wouldn't that be the logical solution to his problem of not wanting Hugh to stick around corrupting the youth? Or exile them back to the shelter, surely out of walking range of the palace?

A logical scenario for Ponse putting Hugh and Barbara in the past occurs to me in only two ways: First, that he demonstrated such generosity to Hugh in giving him what he wanted so much and didn't think possible (return to his own time) that Hugh was profoundly grateful and would never again think of revenge. Not shown, and not believable (Hugh is never going to forget Duke). Second, that Ponse knows that putting them back minutes before the bombs go off leaves them insufficient time to change the future enough to eradicate him. Not credible either technologically (they had only so far used a mouse, for a two week trip, in the other direction; couldn't possibly be that accurate) or for continuity (why would the scientists ask Hugh to leave them evidence of his arrival if they knew he would have no time to go to the bank?), or for strategy (who's to say that the best opportunity to change the future wouldn't come after the bombing?). Ponse didn't know about a many-worlds interpretation of time travel that would leave him intact in his own timeline, and if he had, he wouldn't have expected any widget secreted by Hugh in a bank vault to come forward to his own time.

Dan's way of getting in a time machine in Summer was more believable. I rest my case.

It's difficult to discuss/argue with your points because I don't have a solid grasp of what Ponse knew aboutthe fine details of what he was planning to do. I don't think throwing a problem a few hundred years into the past is all that unreasonable a way of getting rid of the problem, even if he didn't know about Many Worlds. It seems to me that weighing what we might call Ponse's wager is just about impossible unless we have some better idea what he thought he was wagering . . .


Tue Mar 09, 2010 7:32 pm
Profile
Heinlein Biographer

Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2008 1:33 pm
Posts: 1024
Post Re: Farnham's Freehold
PeterScott wrote:
Oh, I don't find any problem with there being differences in the timeline they return to. The characters discuss it at length; any number of possibilities come to mind (you can't return to your own timeline, therefore you have to go to another one which will be nearby but more or less random otherwise - think about the quantization of the universe following the Big Bang as an example of discrete choices being made in an otherwise uniformly distributed sea of possibilities). And it is a familiar theme in Heinlein, not that it shouldn't stand on its own merits.

I have no problem with any other part of the book. In particular, the discussion of racism and the way it is presented now strikes me as enormously gutsy now that I am, in later years, aware that he wrote it a year before Selma. A facet I was unaware of as a child reader.

ISTR the Freedom Riders were already getting fire-bombed. And ISTR also, the book was written dealing with those subjects in that way because of the confluence of things that happened in November - on the day the Cuban Missile Crisis formally ended (the deadline passed, complied with), Kennedy issued an Executive Order ending segregation in Federal Housing.


Tue Mar 09, 2010 7:35 pm
Profile
User avatar

Joined: Thu Jul 16, 2009 3:18 pm
Posts: 345
Location: Minnesota
Post Re: Farnham's Freehold
Very much a book of its day, written in a white-hot typerwriter smoking heat by an author that perhaps was pretty steamed too just then. Every artist has some works that age better than others that really are very much of their moment. I think to me the most interesting part of it is RAH tieing it to his old bete noir, slavery, and slavery to cannibalism.

_________________
"Rub her feet." --Woodrow Wilson Smith

"Hey, if I'm going to pass on the timeless wisdom of the ages in a Sig, that pretty well qualifies, in my experience." --Geo Rule


Tue Mar 09, 2010 7:57 pm
Profile WWW
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Reply to topic   [ 36 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2, 3, 4  Next

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 5 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group.
Designed by STSoftware for PTF