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Welcome to my blog. Here you will  find my writings, my thoughts on writing and from time to time a post about something else that intreests me.

Review: Short Story: The Roads must Roll

As the world becomes more technological and populations grow the need to keep the machinery of the civilization working becomes more important and while we may be able to trust machinery the true question always lies in the men who run those machines? What would happen if those who ran the internet, or the airlines, or the truckers who bring us our food went on a general strike?
This question is as relevant or more so now than it was in 1940 when Robert A. Heinlein wrote "The Roads Must Roll" and while the technology that is used in this story can feel a little silly the basic idea that is explored is one still worth exploring.
The roads in "The Road Must Roll" have been replaced with what amounts to moving sidewalks. These can be used to move people and goods quickly across the country. Their only real flaws are that the belts can break, though that has been largely fixed and the technicians who are needed to run them. The story is about those technicians realizing the power that they have and the attempt to exercise that power.
The main character of this story is about the chief engineer of those technicians. A large part of his job is to ensure that the technicians continue to run the road well so when one of his chief deputies shuts down a major roadway and threatens to attempt a general strike it is him who is forced to deal with it.
More impressive than the technology in this story is the political idea that is set forth of a new type of social order. This group call themselves the functionalists and believe that each man should be able to use the importance of his function in society to get what he wants. This idea works because each person believes that his function in society is vital and in large part it is thanks to the interconnectivity of our society. It works especially well with the road technicians who have a near monopoly on transportation in this world.
Of special note in this story is the use of what amounts to a Segway. It is described as a two wheeled vehicle that is kept upright and used to travel though the small areas of the roads mechanisms quickly because it is little wider than a man's shoulders. I don't know if this is the first description of this technology but as this story was written in 1940 it seems likely.
All of Heinlein's work is fun to read. With reasonable action and a quick pace he spends more time than I would like describing the technology of the road but he does it well and makes it seem like a real technology which is what was required and this is a story I would strongly recommend it.

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