I’m always surprise at how many people have not read these two novellas at all, or read them, but completely missed the point. Some readers apparently can’t see any connection between the two stories. They apparently believe the two novellas are in one volume “to fill up space.” Since this is among my favorite stories in science fiction, allow me to remind everyone how good Heinlein was in his prime..
Originally published by Doubleday in 1950, Heinlein’s point was that all technology is a based on our belief that it will work. As long as we believe in it, all is well. If or when we cease believing, it will cease working. Everything is magic.
The stories proceed from that axiom. Humans lose faith in technology. Magic jumps into the void left by vanished technology … and becomes technology. The difference between one and the other is effectively nonexistent.
I read these books at least 50 years ago. I hadn’t read them since, but remembered them. I bought them for Kindle and was glad to re-acquaint myself with them.
These were unique and original concepts when they were first introduced in the 1940s. They were still original 25 years later when I read them. They aren’t stale today, more than 60 years after the stories first publication.
The best science fiction is concept-driven. The ideas in these two novellas have stuck with me for a lifetime. Both are based on a single concept: we believe in what works — and what works is what we believe.
“Nothing is certain anymore. Nothing. Chaos is king and magic is loose in the world.” — Robert Heinlein