Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Revolt in 2100

Rate this book
It wasn't the communists who got us after all...
You can read about its beginnings in Heinlein's immortal STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND: At the height of America's secular decadence came Nehemiah Scudder, bearing the rod and the wrath of the Lord for those who opposed him, and the promise of earthly happiness and heavenly bliss for those who followed him...and America fell under an absolute religious dictatorship that was to last a hundred years. But nothing endures forever. The smoldering embers of liberty have burst into flame again. It is time for a new beginning.


· The Innocent Eye: An Introduction by Henry Kuttner
· If This Goes On - originally published in Astounding Science Fiction February 1940
· Coventry - originally published in Astounding Science Fiction July 1940
· Misfit - originally published in Astounding Science Fiction November 1939
· Concerning Stories Never Written: Postscript by Robert A. Heinlein

336 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published April 1, 1953

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Robert A. Heinlein

787 books9,283 followers
Works of American science-fiction writer Robert Anson Heinlein include Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966).

People often call this novelist "the dean of science fiction writers", one of the most popular, influential, and controversial authors of "hard science fiction."

He set a high standard for science and engineering plausibility and helped to raise the standards of literary quality of the genre. He was the first science-fiction writer to break into mainstream, general magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, in the late 1940s. He was also among the first authors of bestselling, novel-length science fiction in the modern, mass-market era.

Also wrote under Pen names: Anson McDonald, Lyle Monroe, Caleb Saunders, John Riverside and Simon York.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
1,503 (27%)
4 stars
1,978 (36%)
3 stars
1,567 (28%)
2 stars
315 (5%)
1 star
54 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 188 reviews
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
September 26, 2017
I am going to join with Spider Robinson and so many other literary critics who populate the science fiction genre of literature in stating that a bad Heinlein novel is still better than a “good” novel by most anyone else.

Revolt in 2100 is not at all a bad Heinlein, though, it is quite good. Any serious reader of RAH will want to know more about Nehemiah Scudder and the origins of Andrew Jackson Libby, and both can be found in the pages of Revolt in 2100. The Future History of RAH is sprinkled liberally with mention of them both, and so for a devoted fan of Heinlein, this is a must read.

Divided into three loosely connected parts, the first tells the tale of the end of the theocracy Scudder started. In an epiloguecal aside, Heinlein states that he will never write a direct story about Scudder because he dislikes him so much, but he goes into an interesting explanation about his ideas for the possibility, if not probability, of a Scudder like emergence in our culture. The rise of Al-Qaeda and the earlier rise of Soviet communism can also be explained using the same social symptoms.

Good Heinlein.

Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,251 reviews232 followers
September 1, 2022
The USA today seems intent on proving Heinlein right!

As the 21st century comes to a close, Nehemiah Scudder is First Prophet. Once a low IQ itinerant backwoods preacher, he now sits at the pinnacle of a fundamentalist Christian theocracy. It rules the former USA from New Jerusalem, the seat of an oppressive, right-wing government that punishes sin, heresy, blasphemy or even any openly expressed lapses of a doubting faith with all of the awesome power of modern technology, science and even applied psychology or psychotherapy. John Lyle, a young man proud of his recent appointment to the First Prophet’s corps of bodyguards, believes himself to be happy, devout and confirmed in his faith. But when he commits the “crime” of falling in love with one of the Prophet’s brigade of “virgins”, held in thrall for sexual services, he is forced to seek out the help of The Cabal, an undercover resistance movement dedicated to overthrowing the theocracy.

Heinlein posited some thoughts on organized religion, government, power and revolution that were memorably thought-provoking and, if they were relevant in the 1950s, then they are even more important and relevant today:

“You can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.”
“You can sway a thousand men by appealing to their prejudices quicker than you can convince one man by logic.”
“Openly expressed piety is insufferable conceit”
“No people was ever held in subjection long except through their own consent.”

But the fact is that Heinlein’s writing in Revolt in 2100 is unable to clear the bar that he set for himself in such later, more polished novels as Methuselah’s Children. It’s blunt, ham-handed and melodramatic, the dialogue is stilted and trite, the romance is juvenile, and the manner in which the otherwise poignant ideas are expressed is in-your-face and over-the-top with nary a single subtle moment in sight.

I’m not sorry that I took a few hours out of my life to read it. Jeff Sessions’ obnoxious recent establishment of a Religious Liberty Task Force (with the openly stated goal of combating "dangerous secularism")in response to the unrelenting pressure exerted by evangelical Christians in the halls of power in Washington make the message more important than ever. And, if a reader is paying any attention to the current events that are unfolding in the world around him, they will realize that Heinlein was nothing, if not prescient, when he penned Revolt in 2100. But, that said, there is still little positive that can be said about the quality of the story itself. Four stars for the message with a grudging single star for the writing brings the novel in at two stars overall.

Paul Weiss
Profile Image for Deborah Ideiosepius.
1,675 reviews131 followers
June 23, 2020
Having randomly picked this old classic off the shelf for a re-read I wonder how random it really was or whether my subconscious was playing tricks on me. Having just recently discussed another old classic sci-fi that has more recently risen to prominence " The Handmaid's Tale" it was interesting to look at some parallels between the two.

Revolt in 2100 is actually three stories in one cover, however the first uses up 140 of the 187 pages while the other two are in the nature of small vignettes that look at a couple of details after the 'revolt' of the title, they use new themes and characters with no reference to the ones from the first story.

In the main story 'If this goes on' we follow the story of a young and pious John Lyle having lived all his life in an America that has become a religious tyranny of a country, led by a 'Prophet Incarnate' and controlled by propaganda machine that in this future has risen to a science, a religious military and all the other trappings of an oppressive regime.

John Lyle who has never questioned this world of his is a guard in the elite Angels of the Lord, the personal guards of the Prophet Incarnate in New Jerusalem and one night he meets a young woman (a species somewhat alien to his experience). Sister Judith is newly come to be one of the 'Virgins' a holy deaconess in a group whose role it is to serve the prophet in all ways. You see where this is going? So Sister Judith loses her naivety one day when she finds out first hand that 'Virgins of the prophet' is code for "sex salves of the prophet". John Lyle, in the throes of puppy love tries to save her, in the process becoming involved in 'The Cabal'. The Cabal, described by the government of the prophet as heretic devil worshipers, are in fact Rebels (though their is a coy mention of them going back to their 'original purpose' at one stage. What was Heinlein referencing I wonder? The Masons or similar perhaps?). John Lyle and his friend Zeb join their group and sister Judith is saved from sexual slavery.

There is a lot more to the story than just the above, John Lyle is discovered, escapes, flees across country, the rebels rise and conquer most satisfyingly and in it all is the best part of the old science fiction which looks at how societies could evolve, at all the 'what ifs' of people and what they do. These days it would be called speculative fiction, but it is a good story either way.

Now Heinlein is not good at writing women in general, but the women in this story actually do quite well. They are not as fleshed out as the men, but they make suitable vessels for Heinlein to examine power bases between men and women, equality and sexual equality and the uses of made of women under religious control. While this story is dated, a lot of the points he is making are relevant still today, where gender equality in religion is once again in question. Heinlein is more about the societal level, where The Handmaid's Tale was more about personal experience, but, honestly, I feel Heinlein had a lot more to say about the topic AND did it better.

Heinlein always has a lot to say; in fact a lot of the narrative is kind of preachy, John Lyle is forced to face and overcome his own prejudices over many things and that is the platform Heinlein uses to address human idiocies, semantics, human idiosyncrasies and a few more of his old favourites.

I really enjoyed all three of the stories, but the first was the best.
Profile Image for Jeff Yoak.
811 reviews43 followers
April 22, 2020
This is the only story I remember actually based during the 21st Century religious dictatorship under Nehemiah Scudder. The backdrop is a little depressing and the longer two stories lack Heinlein's typical talent for creating amazing characters.
Profile Image for Jim.
1,167 reviews73 followers
March 14, 2023
This book includes a novella and two short stories by Robert A. Heinlein ( 1907-1988 ). The novella is "If This Goes On--" and it's about the revolution that overthrows a religious dictatorship over the United States in the year 2100. I had the book as a kid and I had read a number of Heinleins back in elementary school--but I thought the idea of a religious dictatorship was the most ridiculous idea I had ever heard of. Everyone knows we have separation of church and state, I thought. How could we ever give it up? So I never got around to reading the book! Now, having read this story in 2020, I don't find it so implausible!
The story is about the conspiracy against the dictatorship based in "New Jerusalem"-- I thought it was New York City, but perhaps it's Philadelphia. The conspiracy develops into a revolution that captures New Jerusalem ( you knew the revolution had to succeed!) and the story then ends very abruptly. I think it would have been more interesting to have had a story about the rise of evangelist "Brother" Nehemiah Scudder and how he overthrew the US Constitution and government, but, as Heinlein states in an afterword in the edition I read, he disliked Scudder too much to write any more about him! I didn't realize it until I started reading the book that the story fits into Heinlein's "Future History" and I think he wanted to escape the restrictions that his History imposed on him and write stories that didn't fit into that History.
The two short stories are "Coventry" and "Misfits," both of some interest and could have been developed a little more. "Coventry" is the place that lawbreakers are sent to and reminded me of the 80s movie "Escape from New York." Not surprisingly, it turns out that it can be an unsafe place to be. "Misfits" features the mathematical genius Andrew Jackson Libby, who pops up later, I believe, in "Methuselah's Children."
The book's three stories are not among RAH's best--but it's Heinlein. 'Nuff said.
Profile Image for Collin.
213 reviews10 followers
September 17, 2008
Depending on the quality of your taste, 2/5ths to 3/5ths of the books you read in your life will be better than this one. That's not an awful spot to be, proportionally speaking, but the mediocrity of this book is a definite downer from what Heinlein is capable of. I mean, read this book if you want to complete your collection, but otherwise pick almost any of his other books at random and you'll be better off.

This book contains 3 completely unrelated stories, one of which is moderately enjoyable (the first and long one). Since the other 2 are pure toss-off, unessential space fillers, I'll keep my review to the major story.

The US is ruled by a dictatorial theocracy. Revolution occurs.

Two points to discuss. 1) Understand that you don't get any feel for how the revolution is set up. Practically every person seems to be in on it, so I guess the Prophet was corrupt and not well-liked, but the only role you see is merely clerical. Revolutions always work in Heinlein's books so there's no spoiler to say it does here as well, but it does hinge on a cheap trick I won't discuss, and the fighting is glossed over and takes only a chapter. 2) The second love story is half-formed and unconvincing (whereas the first love story was blindingly fast and had no depth). It serves no real purpose that I could find, which is just as well because I was not emotionally invested in how they turned out anyways.

Here's my guess as to why Heinlein wrote this book: he'd written other books that alluded to a previous theocratic government and revolution, so he thought he would actually write a story to go with the allusions. He got 150 pages in, realized his heart wasn't into it, and just finished it off as quickly and cleanly as he could manage.
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 7 books2,042 followers
December 28, 2015
It's a good, fast read with a couple of interesting themes in it. First, the U.S. has become a corrupt theocracy, which is a different future than most SF writers have looked at. The second is a unified field theory for science, where they figure out how gravity, electricity & magnetism all work. This break through in science is leveraged in the revolt. I found it interesting that time was left out, but the pseudo-science is fun.

It's a very monochrome view of a revolution. The bad guys are really bad, the good guys are heroic, with pure motives. Not nearly as good as "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" but not a bad, quick shot at it.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
March 13, 2011
Dystopian SF novel in which an early 21st century US is taken over by a repressive right-wing theocracy. Obviously it could never happen, but fun all the same.

Profile Image for M.M. Strawberry Library & Reviews.
4,225 reviews344 followers
January 31, 2019
If you really want to enjoy these stories, buy 'The Past through Tomorrow', which collects most of Mr. Heinlein's connected short stories in one easy-to-read volume. I bought this book at a bookstore thinking it'd be some new stories (I really ought to have checked the back of the book!) This publisher leaves a lot to be desired in way of how they have handled and organized some of Mr. Heinlein's work.

Again, buy 'The Past through Tomorrow'. It is a much more complete/definitive book than this half-done book.
Profile Image for Timothy Boyd.
6,650 reviews35 followers
February 5, 2016
Even though Heinlein's stories were written decades ago they are still a great read and are classics of early SiFi. While the books are quick reads you find yourself analyzing the deeper questions Heinlein weaves into the story. Always a great read, Very recommended
Profile Image for Stuart.
296 reviews21 followers
December 7, 2017
Good concept, but: Heinlein. Plodding and colorless. Add a somewhat embarrassing adoration of Freemasonry and awkwardness around female characters, and it’s definitely not going to crack the ‘best dystopian’ list.
Profile Image for David Ivory.
38 reviews
September 5, 2021
The real kicker is in the afterword where Heinlein talks about the rise of Scudder, and the means by which Theocracy arose in his future history the US. Disturbingly prescient.

I do wish he had written that book - it would undoubtedly have been a classic in the vein of We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, 1984, Handmaid's Tale, and Brave New World.

But Heinlein was an optimist and didn't want to write downer books. Good for him - that's the attitude!
Profile Image for Ian.
408 reviews81 followers
October 6, 2019
Read this again by accident, as I'd orginally read it so long ago I'd forgotten the title. Nonetheless it was a pleasant trip down memory lane. Collection contains: "If this goes on"; "Coventry,"and "Misfit", all part of Heinlein's Future History timeline. Future as seen from the 50's, that is, with personal rocket ships, individual subway tubes, flying cars, telepathy, 'blasters', etc.

The first two stories deal with the downfall and aftermath of the repressive theocracy that Heinlein figured would be taking over the United States right about now, a sort of precursor to Gilead, with enough's similarities to make you wonder-replace 'Handmaids' with 'Temple Virgins,' 'Mayday' with the Freemasons. I'm certain in this case it's just parallel thinking (and I don't think either Heinlein or Atwood were the first to postulate an oppressive religion overthrowing the government).The last story, while set in the same universe, deals with a math prodigy who saves a space expedition with his calculating brain (a device Heinlein uses again in Starman Jones).

It's typical Heinlien of that era, with numerous data dumps of quaint, old fashioned theories about brain washing and mind control, coloured as always by the author's strong libertarian bent.

Heinlein has always been this strange mix of space opera and often perceptive observations about the development of American society. Take the character of Nehemiah Scudder, the 'Prophet', a television personality who uses money and propaganda to win the Presidency and abolish democracy. Sound like anyone we know?

Undoubtably dated in the 60 plus years since first publication but with enough ideas in it still to keep it (mildly) interesting.
And nostalgia inducing for the old fogies.
Profile Image for Roddy Williams.
862 reviews33 followers
March 4, 2015
A minor fix-up novel from Heinlein, where he explores the theme of insurgency and revolution; a concept he was to return to again and again. In ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’ the residents of Luna revolted and declared independence. ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ examined a subversive yet benign cultural revolution. Here, the rebellion is against a repressive Theocracy which has taken over the US in the year 2100.
A naïve young soldier in the private guard of The Prophet (the despotic leader of the Theocracy) is recruited into an Underground Resistance Movement and we follow his career until the moment of revolution.
An additional tale is set at a time when the new state has used psychological tools to create a mentally stable society.
Not all are happy in this tame paradise however and those who employ violence or seek to promote dissent are banished to a lawless community within a forcefield which is called Coventry. Another rash young man ends up here and finds himself attempting to escape, but only to warn the external society that the lawless misfits are about to break out and declare war.
The three stories employed here form part of Heinlein’s Future History series and comprise of ‘If This Goes On—‘ (1940), ‘Coventry’ (1949) and ‘Misfit’ (1939)
Profile Image for Ryan.
1,155 reviews150 followers
August 9, 2020
A collection of three stories (one novella, two long short stories) with sort of the same theme but standing independently. Some of Heinlein's lesser-read books, but still great. First, a religious cult (Falwell-style) takes over the US and an exploration of the lives of good people living within it (spoiler: they act like Heinleinian heroes...). Basically "Handmaid's Tale" by Heinlein.

Second, an exploration of "the paradox of tolerance" in a society with perfect government. Not as fully developed, could have been a great novel too, but a good short story.

Third, a shorter story about an exceptional individual in space (probably the weakest of the three, but still a good story).

Even the worst Heinlein stories are among the best of science fiction. These definitely aren't his best, but they're pretty good, and based on length, quite worth reading.
Profile Image for Chan Fry.
236 reviews6 followers
June 11, 2021

Especially the first story, but really the entire book is a solid contribution to the science fiction of its day — and thus influencing countless stories afterward. It’s rare that I’ll rate something of Heinlein’s five stars, especially anything over 200 pages, but the opening novella If This Goes On— was amazingly good.

(I have published a much longer review, including mini-reviews of each story, on my website.)

Profile Image for Wampuscat.
314 reviews18 followers
March 5, 2017

Just looking at some of the other reviews on this one before writing mine forces me to say.... A science fiction book should not get five stars simply because it was written by Heinlein.

I think this was a bad place for me to start on Heinlein's future history work. I hadn't done my homework on Heinlein that much, so I didn't realize it was the third in a series of collected works. So, this review is from the perspective of someone with zero background on the first two books in the collection/series... anyone reading it should take that for what it's worth.

If This Goes On... (1 star)
Regarding the story's plot, I have absolutely no concept of how we could possibly get to the Religious Theocracy point in America. Even knowing what life was like in 1955 when this was written, I think I would still have to call bullshit. But... suspending disbelief I continued. And... Bleh.

Puritanical, dogmatic character John Lyle is the Pious Pilgrim's Pilgrim, but then he give it all up for a good looking chick. Pfft! Trope! Next. He immediately understands that he had been brainwashed all his life and converts to the rebel heretics, but he can't seem to get the goody-goody out of his system until his buddy convinces him that God is a 'private thing'....oh, yeah, and he sees a naked chick... spare me the anti-religious rhetoric, Bob.

Top all that off with the Psychobabble, mind control, hypnosis, psychic nonsense (how's that different from superstitious religion, Bob?), and you have a very mushy story. Wow, I was going to give 3 stars for creativity until I talked myself down to 1 here. Hmmm, I didn't realize how much I didn't like this one until I wrote it all out. Ahhh, writing is catharsis!

Coventry (3 stars)
A short story about a non-conformist who is removed from society because broke the Covenant - do what you want as long as it brings no harm to others - and refuses to be 'mentally reconditioned'. He is sent to a reservation for such as himself called Coventry that is kept separated by a force field. What he expects to find there, and reality are far far different.

I enjoyed this one. It had a better pace, and the concepts were more interesting to me. 3 stars.

Misfit - 4 stars.
Short story with a lot of scientific detail in it. A group of young men who just don't fit into society are given an opportunity to better themselves by helping mankind make a space station out of an asteroid. In the process, one young man with a rare gift is discovered, and gets his opportunity to save the project; thus proving that one groups misfit is another groups superstar. 4 stars.

Profile Image for Amir Nakar.
114 reviews7 followers
April 11, 2018
Cool ideas, not well done.
The book is a futuristic sci-fi book that is split into 3 stories (which sort of follow each other in chronology but the connections are vague to non-existent)

The first which is the longest and weakest is about a dystopian religious America, where a prophet rules the country in a very Orwellian way (1984-ish), and a revolt against said prophet. I don't want to spoil it but my biggest problem was the inconsistency: the hero ditches his whole life philosophy several times and not for good reasons and characters make huge impact and are then forgotten about, only to be used again to badly tie their own loose ends. This inconsistency and loose-ends make this story seem thoughtless and carelessly written.

The other 2 stories are about the future after the revolt. they are much shorter and are thus less damaged by inconsistencies (though still not very well done). The best part about these is the insight into the world of technology and engineering, seen through the eyes of a former military engineer.

Generally this is the brightest spot in this book - Heinlein, a former army engineer, writes compellingly about rocketry, space, flight and underground excavations. He appears to both understand the issues of trying to live on an airless, gravity-free asteroid and offer futuristic plausible solutions for them. Which makes the writing special and unique, at least in my opinion.

FYI - if you're looking for realistic characters, especially female ones, look elsewhere.
Profile Image for Jack Webb.
359 reviews1 follower
April 9, 2019
Scary and fun

Great anthology from the master. Always liked this introduction to the wonderful character of "Slipstick" Libby. And like Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale", Heinlein's novella "Revolt in 2100" scares the heck out of me, due to it's all-too-possible scenario.

Profile Image for Thomas.
2,067 reviews
March 2, 2020
Heinlein, Robert A. Revolt in 2100. 1953. Baen, 1981.
Revolt in 2100 began as separately published magazine pieces—a novella, “If This Goes On--,” and shorter pieces, “Coventry” and “Misfit”— written at the outset of the second world war. In the early 1950s, the stories were expanded and joined with a short outline of Heinlein’s future history. In 1939-40, Heinlein seems to have been worried that religious fundamentalism with a charismatic tyrant could lead the United States into its own form of homespun fascism. In putting the book together, he shifts some of the focus to a distrust of a high-tech nanny state and of most of the alternatives to it. In the original version of “If This Goes On--,” he sent his hero back into civilian life after the despot was overthrown. The expanded novella has a more open-ended conclusion. “Coventry” in context seems like a sequel to it, in which the second American Revolution has produced its own kind of mind control, although it may be better than alternatives produced in the gulag. “The Misfit” is more optimistic—mathematical genius and engineering skill may get us to \the stars where other options can be tried. The book is not Heinlein at his best, but it remains readable, if you can overlook the novella’s similarity to Margaret Atwood’s much better take on religious tyranny in The Handmaid’s Tale.
Profile Image for Mel.
162 reviews6 followers
August 30, 2017
I think I would have enjoyed this even more if I'd a) read the World as Myth and peripheral books in a better order, and b) understood that Lazarus Long does not make an appearance. When you're waiting for something to happen, and it never does, it's confusing and frustrating. But that's had no impact on my rating.

There were 3 main stories in this book, connected only by date, not characters. The latter introduces Andrew Jackson Libby, a character in Methuselah's Children. It's a good follow-up to Stranger in a Strange LandStranger in a Strange Land, and lead-in to Methuselah's Children and the rest of the World as Myth books.
319 reviews1 follower
January 23, 2018
I got the three in one edition with 'Coventry' and 'Misfits' included.
The core story is good and does the usual Heinlein trick of making you sympathise with a moderately unpleasant set of 'good guys.' The setting is rich and believable but at times there is simply too much explaining going on to make this a truly great novel. Having the Masons as the underlying revolutionary force was unexpected but worked weirdly well.
'Coventry' makes it worth reading 'Revolt' some great discussions of justice and it is always nice to see a naive individualist getting their comeuppance.
'Misfits' is a bit average and goes exactly the way you expect it to go.
Profile Image for Robert Arl.
104 reviews12 followers
November 14, 2016
A re-read of a one of the four volumes of Heinlein's future history stories. The main story in this collection, If This Goes On--, is very timely. It details the 2nd American Revolution.... the story of the overthrow of a hundred year long despotic religious dictatorship.

Of particular interest is Heinlein's afterward in which he (accurately) describes the future he thought was possible from trends he observed in 1953 America.

An interesting read given the results of the 2016 presidential election.
Profile Image for Dane Morgan.
36 reviews
January 8, 2020
Revolt in 2100 was a quick read and full of great quotes. I find all of Heinlein's work to be full of great quotes. I probably enjoyed the first short, Coventry, set in the future after the revolt of the main story the most. I would love to have seen that explored further, into a full novel or even a trilogy.

I enjoyed all three stories though, and the themes written those decades ago still ring through to our condition here in the US today.
Profile Image for Mrklingon.
437 reviews8 followers
July 12, 2017
What a crazy idea, the US controlled by a xenophobic, intolerant religious dictatorship - where do these SF writers get their ideas??? (glances at newspaper) Oh, right.

This is classic Heinlein and sadly, sadly prescient.
Profile Image for Jake Saunders.
51 reviews4 followers
September 21, 2017
Another Heinlein classic made new by his prescient understanding of American culture and politics. It is typical of his books and by that I mean a novella and two shorter stories connected by a setting made real by thoughtful details.
Profile Image for Mark.
564 reviews157 followers
February 18, 2019
This is the third collection of Robert A. Heinlein’s so-called Future History. The first was The Man Who Sold the Moon, the second was The Green Hills of Earth .)

By this third book stories are being deliberately connected together into Heinlein’s loose timeline framework, which developed from a conversation with Astounding editor John W. Campbell in 1941.

The stories in this edition are:

"If This Goes On—" (Expanded from the version originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, February & March 1940)
"Coventry" (1940; his seventh short story published, originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, July 1940)
"Misfit" (1939; his second published story, originally published in Astounding Science Fiction, November 1939)
Afterword: "Concerning Stories Never Written"


The original 1953 hardback also included, for the first time, a copy of Heinlein’s Future History chart and a Foreword by fellow author Henry Kuttner, "The Innocent Eye".


Although Revolt is the third in this series, most of the stories, in their original publication state, date back to those included in The Man Who Sold the Moon. As such, they are early Heinlein writing, albeit with some revision, and in some cases, it shows.

Despite this book having fewer stories, it is the biggest of the collection. To make the book even bigger, some later US editions included the novel Methusulah’s Children (1958) as well, which I may get to read next. In terms of context, this would make sense, as the novel, like many others of its time, was a ‘fix-up’ from what was published in the magazines – in this case, the three-part serial in Astounding from July-September 1941. This means that Heinlein was writing it at about the same time most of these other stories were published, and it is clearly mentioned in the Future History chart.

"If This Goes On—" begins this collection with a bang, and is a great start on the whole. In fifteen chapters and 133 pages, this novella tells of the ‘Crazy Years’, a time when a theocracy has taken hold of the USA and the country is in the despotic control of the infamous Nehemiah Scudder, who was mentioned in Logic of Empire in The Green Hills of Earth. It is bleak, grim and chilling, I suspect reflecting, in part, the global events of 1939-40. It questions Christian fundamentalism (although not all religions) through the eyes of John Lyle, initially a legate and guardsman in the Temple of the Lord in New Jerusalem, one of the elite guard of the Prophet Incarnate – never named here, but presumably Scudder. Lyle falls in love with Sister Judith, one of the Virgins ‘ministering’ to the Prophet, and as a result Lyle becomes part of the resistance in order to engineer her escape from the prophet’s palace.

The middle part of the novel is what happens when Lyle, at risk of being discovered, also escapes the temple.  He becomes a courier, working as a sleeper agent with an unknown message buried deep in his subconscious by hypnosis.  As Lyle runs away, in this part of the novella we see through Lyle the consequences and reality of living in a theocratic state – severe authority control, constant surveillance, fake news, and propaganda.

The conclusion of the story involves Lyle working at the secret headquarters of the resistance, ultimately becoming part of the revolution against Scudder.  Showing all those traditional Heinlein values of honour, loyalty and ‘doing the right thing’ even at a personal cost, the end shouldn’t really be a surprise.

Despite its age, “If This Goes On…” is a sobering story, and even in its first form surprisingly mature for a story written by a writer at this point barely beginning his career*. (It must be said that this version is expanded from approximately 33 000 words to 57 300, nearly double its original length from the original two-part Astounding serial.) Whilst there are weak points (the initial romance is unconvincing, as most of its 1930’s contemporaries were), the overall impression is of an adventure story with a message, a salutary reminder of what can happen in a dictatorship state. Originally published in 1940, as the Germans were occupying Western Europe, it is perhaps as relevant now in 2018 as it was nearly 80 years ago.

*It may be worth reading the original version, which shows how far Heinlein had progressed as a writer from 1939-1953. (Part One is HERE, Part Two is HERE.) The second 1953 version is more complex and more nuanced, but has lost a bit of its innocence and charm. (For example, in the original 1940 version at the end John Lyle leaves the military after the Revolution, marries Judith and takes up the career his covert character managed undercover, in textiles.)   In the second edition we have more sex – Judith in the original first meets John when the Prophet is discussing taxes, in the 1953 version her role is more physical. There’s a scene of nude bathing in underground caves that applies Freudian imagery with a broad brush, to symbolise John’s spiritual and physical awakening.

In this Future History, Coventry and Misfit are stories set after “If This Goes On…”, when society has become more secular. Both stories are about the consequences of this time, when both of the story’s protagonists reject the society they live in, to forge their own destiny.  Both are worth reading, though not as memorable as the first novel/novella.

Coventry (Link HERE) is a story of David MacKinnon, a professor in the time after “If This Goes On…”, who, after punching a man who offended him, is taken to trial. The State convicts him for being capable of morally judging his fellow citizens and feeling justified in personally correcting and punishing their lapses. He is given two choices as punishment - psychological readjustment or exile to Coventry, a place separated from the rest of the world by a force-field barrier. Obviously, MacKinnon chooses Coventry.

The world of Coventry is, in reality, the world in micro-cosm and split into different parts. Like Scudder’s theocracy before it, the so-called ‘New America’ is actually corrupt, relying on taxing its residents into submission. The “Free State” is even worse, a dictatorship, often at odds with New America. In the hills to the North of New America lies ”The Angels”, what is left of Scudder’s theocracy with a new Prophet. When MacKinnon and his prison buddy Fader Magee discover a plot by New America to invade the world outside Coventry, the story turns into more traditional Libertarian fare, and it ends as you might expect, albeit rather abruptly and conveniently.

Originally this was Heinlein’s seventh published story, published after The Roads Must Roll but before Blowups Happen. It’s a surprise to me in that it’s really a political story, which I tended to think came later in his career. (Admittedly, this was before For Us, the Living was discovered.) Yes, there’s an adventure story in there, but it’s basically political diatribe wrapped up in a romp, and one without the skills of the later Heinlein to totally make it work.

I think the most interesting point for me is that whilst Coventry seems to extol the virtues of the individual (as “rugged individualists”) in times of stress, Heinlein also shows us the consequences of the Second Revolution and does not like everything he sees. Despite all of the sacrifice shown in "If This Goes On—", this ‘brave new world’ has set itself up to repeat the mistakes of the past and possibly end up worse than before. It’s a reminder that once the war is won, the battle must continue, in order to maintain order and improve what has happened before. A message perhaps appropriate for 1940, when the globe was heading towards World War II.


Misfit (link HERE) is a tale of Andrew Jackson Libby, nicknamed ‘Pinky’.  After an overtly political tale, this is Heinlein in a more typical mode, an adventure story of an outsider who has been sequestered to work and manages to face up to the challenge. It’s rather proto-Starship Troopers, though told in the second person rather than the first, of how young men will modify asteroids into habitats that will support future exploration into space. Libby is a red-headed, untrained misfit with a gift for Mathematics and, in the usual Heinlein way, is shown to be a hero.

I saw it as another story that is Heinlein’s call-to-arms, written at a time of approaching world war to show that the future can be bright. The minor point that Pinky is a redhead will become more important in later books. We will meet the character again (albeit briefly) in Methuselah’s Children and The Cat Who Walked Through Walls.

Lastly, there’s a short but intriguing postscript written by Heinlein long after the stories were originally published in 1953, explaining how the Future History stories came about and how they tied together. Most interestingly, he tells us of stories he may (or may not) write to fill in the gaps of the History.

Three are mentioned here. Firstly, The Sound of his Wings, originally planned to start shortly before Logic of Empire (in The Green Hills of Earth) and extending beyond Logic’s timespan, would have told of the early life and rise to power of Nehemiah Scudder, the First Prophet of ‘If This Goes On…’ Heinlein here, writing in 1953, suggests that the story would have been ‘down-beat’, and that there’s enough of that in the daily headlines to merit adding more.

The second unfinished story, Eclipse, would have told the story of the breakaway and independence of Mars and Venus, followed by ‘the cessation of interplanetary travel.’ It’s parallels with the American Revolution and the global breakup of colonialism is deliberate. Heinlein said that it would probably never get written because he had since written two novels following similar themes, not bound by the restrictions of a Future History.

Lastly, The Stone Pillow would have been about the growth of an underground counterculture leading up to the Second American Revolution. Like The Sound of his Wings, it was felt by Heinlein to be too downbeat to be worth pursuing further, although there are clearly elements of this in ‘If This Goes On…’  and Coventry.

All of these are intriguing ideas, but I do feel that Heinlein may have been right not to develop them more.

So: in summary, how do these stories hold up? Although the stories were first published in 1939-40, they were, of course, not easily available to reread until this collection was published in 1953, with expansion and revision. How does this collection fit in context? Well, 1953 was also the year of Starman Jones and the collection Assignment in Eternity, (containing the four novellas Gulf (1949), Elsewhen (1941), Lost Legacy (1941) and Jerry Was A Man (1947)) before The Star Beast in 1954).

Of the three collections that make up the history, this is perhaps the weakest of the three, although strangely, it is the biggest.  Revolt in 2100 is worth reading just for the first novella alone, although Heinlein’s comments at the end intriguingly fill in some of the gaps. (I have also noted that For Us, the Living, Heinlein’s first novel published after his death, also mentions Scudder, so have added that to my reading list, as perhaps re-reading the Future History’s last hurrah, Methuselah’s Children.)

In short, then, are these stories worth reading? Whilst they are undoubtedly “of a time”, they do have their merits and their issues. These stories, compared with the later material, do show less complexity and style, but they are noticeably showing the writing voice that the author was cultivating, even in those early years.

Despite the naivety, perhaps more importantly they show less of the elements that Heinlein’s critics are unhappy with in his later work. They are worth reading, if not only to show how important Heinlein was in the 1940’s and ‘50’s.  Of all the work written by RAH, the Future History series exhibit the author’s strengths, with less of the weaknesses. (As an example, compare this with I Will Fear No Evil, Time Enough For Love or To Sail the Sunset.) For all of their issues, if you want a flavour of the author’s best, I would steer you more towards this early work than the later ones.
Profile Image for Jon.
983 reviews13 followers
December 25, 2020
Revolt in 2100 is another collection of stories set in Heinlein's Future History series. The first and longest story is set in the time of the Prophet's theocracy. John Lyle is a West Point graduate, granted the special honor of being assigned to the Angels of the Lord, responsible for guarding the Temple. He is from the back woods, and extremely naive, which lands him in trouble when he finds himself falling in love with one of the Temple Virgins, Sister Judith. The Virgins only remain so in name, after they are called to "serve" the current Prophet once.

John is taken under the wing of Zebediah Jones, another one of Heinlein's wise avuncular characters, and gets his eyes opened to what really goes on in the world of power and politics, even among the Faithful. When they decide that Judith must be saved from "a fate worse than death (it rarely is)", they become involved in the Cabal, a resistance organization which sprang from the Masonic Lodges when the first Prophet, Nehemiah Scudder, declared his vision to be the only true religion and seized all political power in the U.S. The Cabal has been working for years to build an organization to overthrow the repressive state, and John and Judith's innocent love affair provides the trigger for the revolution to start.

Once again, Heinlein is given a bully pulpit to preach his own brand of political libertarianism through the mouths of Zeb and the Cabal leaders. It's a pretty good story. I only wish Heinlein had written a longer one that followed John Lyle's future a little farther.

The second story, Coventry, takes place after the Prophet is overthrown, and when all of the citizens of the U.S. live at peace and harmony with each other. If they don't, they can either be cured of their antisocial tendencies by psychological reprogramming or sent to Coventry, a rugged isolated area where rugged individualists have carved out their own dystopia. This is the story of one man who elects to keep his mind intact, and take exile as his lot, but who ends up cured of his madness after all. Sort of a treatise on crime and punishment, in the usual Heinlein fashion.

The final story, Misfit, gives us a look back at the humble beginnings of Andrew Jackson "Slipstick" Libby, Lazarus Long's companion in the misadventures of Methuselah's Children. Andy has his first job on a construction crew on an asteroid far from Earth. His natural genius for mathematics, denied any outlet in the rural countryside, suddenly comes in very handy, when he learns about demolition, construction and orbital ballistics. Fun filler material for fans, but nothing truly startling.
169 reviews1 follower
March 13, 2021
Revolt in 2100 is a 1953 science fiction collection by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, part of his Future History series. Interestingly when one looks at social political items in sci-fi what comes to mind is Isaac Asimov with his foundation series We know his foundation series is based on the Roman Empire and the decay from within. Robert Heinlein talks about the future in the United States.

It's interesting because in the United States you have a lot of different groups of people that have different philosophies. Religion, Science and Atheism, etc. Heinlein wrote stories for his series in the middle of the 1940s and thought about what would happen if the United States became a theocracy. The short novel, "If This Goes On is a story about a rebellion against The theocracy. Wiki writes this " The Story served as the vehicle for Heinlein to criticize the authoritarian potential of Protestant Christian fundamentalism. The work is not an attack on religion in general, however, as he has a Mormon community take part in the anti-theocratic revolt."

He makes a distinction between people who are abusive in leadership and sincere believers. When abuse is discovered in the leadership it causes those who have real faith in religion to have serious doubts. one may guess this is about correct in all religions.

In the second story, he writes about people who don't conform to society and society's reaction. In this story which is related to the first one, society creates an environment That is called the Covenant or Coventry People don't conform, society is removed from the nonconformist. Normally you think about removing the individual from society but it doesn't happen in this second story so you might be interested in reading about it. The third story talks about a boy genius who is apparently group along with other children, these children are sent off into space to work in mines.

It reminds the reader, of the United States back in the day when you had what is called child labor at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. Many people don't know about that particular dark part of history in the United States. I wonder if they will talk about that in the canceled culture that we live in today.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 188 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.