troperville

tools

toys


main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Literature: Sixth Column
Sixth Column is a Science Fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, first published in 1949.

Sixth Column tells the story of six surviving US soldiers after Pan-Asian invaders conquer America. Having recently invented a Doomsday Device that confers its wielder powers not much unlike omnipotence, the surviving Americans begin plotting to free their country using this new technology.

Complications arise as they realize how fickle the PanAsians are and how easily they resort to executing captive Americans. To avoid unnecessary loss of life, the Americans decide to set up a fake religion to take advantage of the only freedom given to American people anymore, and start working covertly to overthrow the Asian rule.


Provides Examples Of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The original didn't bother to explain the racial bioweapons, and Heinlein had to come up with some sci-fi Hand Waves and Techno Babble.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: "The Ledbetter effect", which is explained via technobabble as the unifying principle of matter and energy, grants nearly godlike powers to the protagonists.
  • Author Appeal: More like Editor Appeal. The story was a reworked version of John W. Campbell's unpublished All. Campbell was adamantly of the opinion that Northern Europeans were the best of races. Campbell was the editor of Astounding Science Fiction and at the time thoroughly dominated the field of Sci Fi. Heinlein was uncomfortable with the racism and published Farnham's Freehold sixteen years later, inverting racist tropes. Given that Heinlein was of the opinion that he had removed the racist aspects of the story, consider what the story originally must have been.
  • Author Tract: Heinlein pulls no punches with his opinions regarding the likely outcome of a United States that fully embraces isolationist politics.
  • Back from the Brink: America is almost completely held by PanAsians, and the main characters are most of what remains of the United States Army. They do survive, though.
  • Brown Note: The Ledbetter effect can be used to disorient, incapacitate, or kill organic life, and can be tuned to the point where it affects only people of specific races. Point your staff at someone and make them crap themselves, pass out, or flee in terror? Done. The pistols handed out by the protagonists to their rebel recruits are specifically designed to kill only PanAsians.
  • Cardboard Prison: The "priests of Mota" allow themselves to be imprisoned, knowing that they can use their powers to escape with ease. This has the intended effect of simultaneously emboldening their "congregation" while demoralizing the PanAsians.
  • Chess Motifs: The main protagonist confuses the PanAsian commander in chief by presenting him with an insoluble chess problem.
  • China Takes Over the World / Japan Takes Over the World: PanAsia, an amalgamation of Asian cultures, uses the opportunity of a severely isolationist American foreign policy to develop superweapons and make a surprise invasion.
  • Day of the Jackboot: The PanAsians have taken over.
  • Expy: It's thought that Calhoun (the one who goes crazy and thinks he's actually divine) was a parody of Campbell, the racist editor. As Calhoun was also the name of an inveterate defender of slavery in the nineteenth century and Campbell, rather infamously, also defended the practice...
  • A God Am I: All of the main characters have near-omnipotence thanks to their weapons, but Calhoun is the one who eventually goes crazy about it and actually thinks he's a divine in their scam religion.
  • Hobos: One of the first people the protagonists recruit as a priest is a self-proclaimed hobo and helps recruit more to their cause.
  • Holy Halo: One of the "powers" of the staves is to project a holographic halo above the heads of the priests, for psychological effect.
  • Impact Silhouette: Invoked for dramatic effect. When the "priests of Mota" stage a prison breakout, they use their staves to carve man-shaped holes in the walls, complete with halo.
  • Imperial Japan: PanAsia is very much like Imperial Japan.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: The entire Asia has amalgamated to a massive nation of PanAsia, with most elements resembling Japanese culture.
  • Invaded States of America: United States is taken over by Asians via surprise attack, with nukes thrown in.
  • La Résistance: The eponymous Sixth Column.
  • Nuke 'em: The PanAsians' Superweapon Surprise that allowed them to conquer America was for all intents and purposes the atom bomb. The threat of more destruction is what forces the resistance to operate so surreptitiously.
  • Old Shame: The novel is actually a version of John W. Campbell's All with the racism toned down. Heinlein considered Sixth Column an Old Shame that he wrote to garner the favor of the racist but influential Campbell.
  • Overnight Conquest: The war with PanAsia was over in little more than a day, after they nuked all the major command and control centers in a surprise attack.
  • Pig Latin: The protagonists use this as a secret language to fool the PanAsians, as they observe that it is incomprehensible to someone who is not a native English speaker.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Heinlein did what he could to tone down the racism of the original story.
  • Scam Religion: In order to fool the Asians, the Americans set up a temple of Mota. Using staves fitted with omnipotence-granting weapons, they even perform miracles to keep the Asians away from the temples - in which the revolution is planned.
  • Simple Staff: The "priests of Mota" bear a staff with a multi-colored cube on top. They claim it as a holy item to get around the occupiers' ban on weapons. The cube is the Ledbetter projector and the staff has concealed controls to choose the desired effect from a wide range of options.
  • Smart People Play Chess: Both the main protagonist and the PanAsian commander play chess.
  • Super Weapon, Average Joe: The Americans have Applied Phlebotinum that allows them to manipulate matter and energy on a fundamental level. They use this along with some old-fashioned subterfuge to turn the tide on an overwhelmingly powerful enemy.
  • Yellow Peril: In 1949 you could get away with writing novels about evil Asians conquering the USA.

The Rolling StonesCreator/Robert A. HeinleinSpace Cadet
Shadow OpsMilitary Science-FictionStar Carrier
Seven Men of GasconyLiterature of the 1940sSlan

random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
13848
35