This book is Heinlein's first novel and shows it. That's not necessarily as bad as it sounds. Heinlein was a grandmaster sci-fi writer, and in fact helped define/create the genre. His primitive work can be as good or better than other, established authors' magnum opuses. That said, you will find the seed ideas for many of Heinlein's future masterpieces in this book. it looks like, as was his wont, he did not let rejection kill the project but instead said, "What? You won't buy my book? Well, damn you, now you'll buy it 20 times and more", and proceeded to incorporate the ideas in his future output.
Read it. It will be worth it. Only if you are new to Heinlein you may want to read a few of his other work, especially his acknowledged masterpieces, before coming back to his almost but not quite stillborn first novel...
I have to agree with Spider Robinson, who introduces the book, that this is actually a series of essays thinly disguised as a work of Science Fiction.
I also agree that this first novel is definitely the foundation which will determine Heinlein's future writing style. I was amazed at how prophetic some of his inventions were; and I enjoyed looking at his educated guess at world history and economics, some of which was pretty close to the real thing.
Ah - future worlds; where there is no poverty or hunger, no sexual jealousy or difficult unions, everyone in every relationship to able to hook up and leave any way they want to, and everything is free and easy! Let us all skip through the perfectly blooming tulips . . . smoking and naked.
This is a book published long after Heinlein's death, and one can easily understand why it wasn't published in his lifetime. I struggled through this book a bit obsessively because I loved so much Robert A. Heinlein's other books. Also, the title did me in. It sounded So Good! "For Us, the Living" and "A Comedy of Customs", I am a sociologist and cultural anthropologist so the title suggested mental crack for me.
But being profoundly un-political, this book being about 70% politics, it was an arduous read for me. And secondly, I am woman. A woman over 40, mother of three whom I nursed and this affects a woman. So I scoff at the idea of society as a whole discarding clothes unless weather deemed it necessary. It sounds exactly like something my husband would imagine in the future . . a society where the women run around naked . . OF COURSE. He probably thinks of them as Heinlein did with very fit and perky adornment, or, in the case of Olga, Rubenesque roundness, still very pleasant. I push the the beauty of Rubenesque, but could picture myself walking around naked - except for my perky adornments have long since given up the fight with gravity and are just uncomfortable hanging free. They get in the way, and feel awkward, kinda dangling there. And even though it might be eye candy for my hubby (bless his heart) nevertheless out of my own comfort, I'd still want them strapped, tucked, enfolded, nesting snuggly in some comfortable covering. I can't believe I'm the only one that feels that way. Even for men; yes, some love to free Willy, but I have to imagine that there are others that find the swinging appendages a bit intrusive to your day, and would feel more comfortable in some tighty-whiteys or some such contraption, immodesty be damned. It's more a matter of practicality rather than social norm.
And in this very carefree and la-de-da land, Olga still shaves? What? We're free to be me, but shaven?
Don't expect this to be as polished as some of his later books, after all this one was written pretty much before any of the others but was never published. I noticed many of the authors ideas that we see developed in his later books and it was fun catching those. I very much enjoyed reading something by the dean of science Fiction that I hadn't read before that was 100% his.
I've never read this one but it was given to me by my father who thought somebody out there would like to read it. Apparently this is robert heinlein's very first book that never saw publication. According to the editor's note this was first written between 1938-39.