This novelette appeared in the March 1952 issue of GALAXY and is the only work which Heinlein wrote specifically for Horace Gold, the editor of GALAXY magazine. (Heinlein’s novel THE PUPPET MASTERS had been serialized in the September through November 1951 issues of GALAXY but Gold had merely acquired serial rights to a contract novel which had been written for Scribner’s.) Heinlein never again appeared in Gold’s GALAXY. This novelette, set in a near-future only subtly different from the McCarthyite and politically menacing present deals with social deterioration, cultural breakdown in a careful, documentary style which becomes terrifying. His romantically-linked leads are emotionally affecting but never sentimentalized, the background of chaos in which they enact their tragic, drowning love, is sparingly but furiously painted. Heinlein’s 1952 is clearly the apotheosis of those “Crazy Years” which he had noted in his famous chronological Future History, published a decade earlier in ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION as a precis of his intended career. Perhaps no story of this period limns its political and cultural dysfunction as accurately as this novelette. Overshadowed by Heinlein’s juveniles and his famous later novels, THE YEAR OF THE JACKPOT may be the purest version of his portfolio and his most memorable work of less than novel length. It is one of his most exemplary stories and perhaps his best.
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Published October 1, 2011
Science Fiction & Fantasy, Literature & Fiction.