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Tunnel in the Sky
Robert A. Heinlein
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Tunnel in the Sky (Heinlein Juveniles #9)

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  8,435 ratings  ·  280 reviews
Publication date written in pencil, and uncorroborated, except by LC card # (5510142). Copyright date 1955.

Cover rebound within dust jacket. Unatributed art on cover and main title pages. Dedication: "For Jeannie and Bibs".
Hardcover, First?, 273 pages
Published January 14th 1955 by Charles Scribner's Sons (first published 1955)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mike (the Paladin)
One of Heinlein's youth books that stirred my imagination more than most. I really liked this book and read it many times in my youth. A class of young "survivalists" (college and high school students taking survival classes in school) are sent to a distant un-colonized planet to survive...and are lost. They then have to survive on their own with no way to get home.

As I said as a "youth" I loved this book. Rod Walker's teacher is worried about Rod taking the final exam in the survival class (bei
This is not the correct edition. Mine is an OLD mono rip from cassettes done probably 20 years ago or more.

I'm 2/9 of the way in & quite impressed (no, not by the sound quality) by all the things Heinlein's managed to pack into the beginning of this novel. It's not just the neat new way of traveling to the stars, but the whole way he's done the colonization idea. The contrast between low tech pioneering & super high tech travel is economically & socially feasible.

I have to say, sen
3.5 stars. A good, solid Heinlein "juvenile" SF about a group of young adults stranded on a distant world during the final exam of an "advanced survivor" course. I really liked the first half of the book in which the world is introduced, the concept behind the "tunnels" is explained and the effect that the tunnels have had on the form of society. This part is top notch Heinlein and I would have given 4 to 5 stars.

Once they find themselves stranded, I thought the story became less interesting an
For years, a good friend has been recommending Robert A. Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky to me and for years it's sat on my to-be-read shelf, silently accusing me of neglect. One excuse I'd used was I was part of a sci-fi/fantasy book group that read a novel by Heinlein to start the year and I figured we'd eventually get around to Tunnel.

But the book group became extinct and the book just kept sitting there, expectantly. So, I finally dusted it off and cracked the cover.

If you follow my reviews, y
Humans are colonising the galaxy, thanks not to rocket ships capable of taking us to remote star systems, but gateways through hyperspace that allow us to travel anywhere in an instant. But before people are allowed to start a new life in a frontier world, they must take survival classes which culminate in a test in which students are dopped into alien environments and must survive or die.

Our protagonist is takes his test and is sent to an alien world (along with many other students) only to fin
Mary Catelli
One of Heinlein's juveniles. Though you've got to notice that it starts with a college course that has a final of being dropped on some planet -- and surviving. And bright kids can take it in high school.

Rod Walker just learned with the rest of his class that it's the next day. Sees some of his world, filling us in, and has some conflict with his family, but ends up going. His military sister talks him out of a gun but gives him an additional knife.

When he arrives -- the title tunnel in the sky
L.E. Engler
I thoroughly enjoyed this classic YA novel. I always knew it was a "lord of the Flies" type story but the way the teenagers interacted and the way they faced situations was so well done that's its clear why Robert Heinlein was one of the masters of science fiction. Although written over 50 years ago, the book isn't dated much at all. A few turns of phrase that aren't in vogue today, but basically, it is such a good view of the human condition that it is timeless.
When Gene Roddenberry was pitching the original Star Trek to skittish network executives, he used the phrase "Wagon Train to The Stars".

That might actually have been a working title for this book, since the society it's predicated is based on LITERAL wagon trails to the stars (? or alternate universes? It's not really clear...) via stargates.

The basic conceit ('survival' courses for high school seniors, with a final practicum 'graded' so that you pass if you survive a set period in an unfamiliar
I'd like to give this book a higher rating, because it does do some things very well, but I just can't. Things it does well include excellent world-building, a very good record for coming up with interesting or surprising (or both) takes on the situation, at least acknowledging alternat epoints of view (rare for Heinlein), and a relatively unpredictable plot--in a juvenile, this is especially noteworthy.

Unfortunately, Heinlein's virtues often go for naught, and that's largely true here, though p
Doug Turnbull
Copyrighted in 1955, Tunnel in the Sky is the 9th of the Heinlein juveniles and it is noteworthy in several respects. First, while it is set in the future and on another planet, the bulk of the novel isn’t really science fiction at all, it is more of a survival tale. Second, while some of the story involves Robinson Crusoe type details on improvising basic technology, a major portion of it is social and political commentary made through the actions and statements of the characters. And third, th ...more
Here’s the latest reread of Heinlein’s works, as I go through the Virginia Edition series.

And this one is the most personal (so far) for me. Tunnel in the Sky was the first ‘proper’ SF book to grab my attention when I was about 8-9. It was this book that determined that I would spend the next forty-plus years reading the stuff, and continuing to enjoy it (on the whole.) In essence, it was this book that pretty much put me where I am today.

I still have my original copy, a rather battered second-h
Glenn Conley
Awesome book. Quite the compelling read. Damn thing kept me up all night. Once I started it, I couldn't put it down. Which kind of sucked because I started it around 2am. So, here I am. It's 6am now, and I just finished this book. And there's no way I'm getting any sleep because damn... This book was so gripping. It has my mind in a vise.

That being said, the book is pretty much "The lord of the flies" in space. Or, on a different planet, anyway. Its a pretty simple story. It's just very well wri
OMG this book started out with such a great premise and then totally TANKED like halfway through. SERIOUSLY "let's get stranded on another planet with infinite social possibilities and make sure to reinstate all the most booooring institutions FIRST THING." urgh. plus heinlein is a sexist sexist jerkface.
Karen Mardahl
The idea for this story is quite amazing. The technology for travelling to distant planets is a kind of compact wormhole tunnel. It is also used to get around planet Earth rather quickly. You can work in New York and live in Arizona thanks to such technology. Very cool and intriguing.
The idea of the "bootcamp" follows that technology. How do you train people who go to live on faraway planets that might have a dangerous environment? You send them off as senior high school students to to a anothe
Carena Wood beimler
I've yet to read anything by Heinlein that I don't adore, do recognize that a 4 star rating is kinda low.
The main character was remarkably mature for this adventure and he never really grows as a person, despite running a colony when he is relatively young. In fact, he begins to act mulish and childishly stubborn when his colony is rescued and he doesn't want to go home.
That was irksome. But overall this was a good book. I'll be giving it to my daughter who is going on her Alaska Survival Trip
Our family loves listening to Heinlein youth novels on long drives. This one has a sci-fi Robinson Crusoe element to it, which is irresistible to adolescent boys and adults alike. I think what I like most about these novels is that they ooze a post WWII sense of optimism and love of democracy and country. These novels are clearly seeped in the mid twentieth century. They feel dated, but not in a bad way-in a nostalgic way. They are fun to read.

Heinlein is going to be Heinlein, so if you have rea
Jeff Yoak
Robert A Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky is fairly typical of his juvenile novels. It has a fast-moving plot, interesting child characters (though a little older than is typical for him) and a fantastic speculative setting.

Rod Stewart is precocious enough to be taking Advanced Survival in high school instead of the more typical college timing. The final exam requires spending 2-10 days on a raw frontier planet, transported there through a trans-dimensional gate. Accident causes the gate to stop fun
Jim Mcclanahan
I find myself wondering if Heinlein had read Golding's "Lord of the Flies" (1954) before publishing this novel in 1955. If I'm charitable, I'll assume he didn't. Otherwise, I would have to conclude that he was portraying a society built by kids from scratch that works (after a fashion) as opposed to one that emphatically does not.

Keeping that in mind, I also find that RAH ascribes much more maturity and stalwart nature to his characters than is likely to be the case in reality. The snappy repar
For a book aimed at teenage boys this was definitely better than I was expecting. Heinlein does some really interesting things with gender roles in this book, which considering it's aimed at male teenagers in 1955 is very good. There are strong women characters, fighters, and warriors, and while everyone still shares 1950s prejudices and seem far too keen on getting married, there is still a new perspective being offered that I really liked. The plot of this book I found interesting, a far futur ...more
Jul 31, 2009 Linnae rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those new to the science fiction genre.
Recommended to Linnae by: my husband
Rod Walker and his classmates at Patrick Henry High have only the final exam left in Dr. Matson's survival class. A 5-10 day solo survival field trip--any planet, any conditions. They can bring any gear they want to bring, will be equipped with the weapon of their choice, and as long as they are still breathing when the gate opens back up to Earth, they pass (assuming they make it back through the gate.)

Only there's been a glitch. The test period has long been over, and no gate has opened back
Although it's not really heavy on the science fiction (it's a survival story that involves spending time with low levels of technology surviving on an alien planet that isn't significantly different from Earth), this is a good story that reminds me a lot of the survival portion of Shards of Honour. The characters feel very real, although a few of them, such as the teacher, sound like they are probably extensions of Heinlein himself. There's a lot of world building packed in here, but it made the ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Survival stories are frequent in YA literature, and Tunnel in the Sky was probably one of the first, originally published in 1955. It is referred to as one of "Heinlein's Juveniles," and is a great tale of adventure with a life-threatening scenario. Rather than making a statement, as some of Heinlein's works attempt to do, this book is just danger and kids using what they have learned to create a new society and survive on an alien planet. Anyone who enjoyed The Hunger Games or Ender's Game woul ...more
The more Heinlein I read the more I see how much modern sci-fi is dirivitive of his work.
He is often called the Grandmaster of sci-fi, I submit he should instead be thought of as the Grand Father of modern sci-fi.

In this work, a number of school kids go to a far off unknown planet as the final exam in their survival course, their method of travel is the Star Gate. SG1 of Atlantis, take your pick, this is the origin of that whole thing as far as I can see.

The story itself is FANTASTIC, survival
The final for a high school Survival Class is for the class to survive on another planet for 2-10 days with only what they can carry on their person. Unfortunately, the gate between earth and the planet is broken, leaving the students to fend for themselves for 2 years. They create their own city with its own government and marriages.

I found this book to be quite an interesting read. Heinlein definitely included his military survival training knowledge in the situations the students encountered
Ross Richey
Who should read this book?

Anyone who likes old-school science fiction and hasn't read this already, and perhaps even if you have read it already, particularly if you're a fan of Heinlein's juvenilia.

Favorite passage:

I know how good a gun feels. It makes you bright-eyed and bushy- tailed, three meters tall and covered with hair. You're ready for anything and kind of hoping you'll find it. Which is exactly what is dangerous about it-because you aren't anything of the sort. You are a feeble, hairl
Jay Seaborg
This book introduced me to a lifetime of reading Heinlein, and he remains the author who most influenced me with his relatively simple descriptions of characters while using the plots for something more than just moving the story along. As a third grader this book took me a week or more and I clearly remember being swept up in the whole idea that a high school class (adults to my third grade mind) might have to pass a survival test to graduate. In this case, the test goes badly wrong and they ar ...more
Having read this book when I was a teen, I revisited it and found that it stood up as a novel, but that I noticed more of the flaws, and couldn't ever get inside the head of the main character. For my tastes, Rod reacts more than he acts, and while he is mature for his age, his actions occasionally failed to make sense, especially near the end of the book.
The basic premise is halfway in between Survivor and Lord of the Flies, as a wilderness survival test goes horribly wrong. I had trouble belie
Felix Purat
Wanting to introduce myself to a more accessible side of Heinlein than that found in his short stories, which are qualitative but very inaccessible, I randomly bought this paperback in a store since it was cheap and seemed interdimensional (which it was). Safe to say I found what I was looking for in Tunnel in the Sky.

Tunnel in the Sky is, in modern terminology, a young adult book, only the term didn’t exist in the mid-50’s when it was published. In fact, the storyline is so similar to the Hung
Mar 15, 2015 Jonathan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: young kids who don't like to read
This was really the one that started my love of books and reading. I was 13 years old when I first read this book and had the same copy of it until it just about disintegrated.

I had of course read books before I was 13 but had never enjoyed it, not until Tunnel in the Sky.

My school was having a book fair and I went on the first day and chose this book for two reasons:

A) I was told I had to buy at least one book to read and give a report on.

B) I really liked the cover.

I went home and read the bo
Edoardo Albert
I was a big fan of Heinlein's juvenile novels when growing up - I'm still a big fan of them now - and I have kept my collection neatly lined up on a shelf over the years, occasionally dipping into favourites. My favourite is probably Have Space Suit, Will Travel, but Starman Jones runs it close.

Anyway, I'd not read Tunnel in the Sky for a long time, so I picked it up for a re-read (my edition dates from 1978 when it cost 60p!). In the end, I found it slightly disappointing. Tunnel in the Sky has
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Robert Anson Heinlein was an American novelist and science fiction writer. Often called "the dean of science fiction writers", he is 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 genre's standards of literary quality. He was the first SF writer to break into mainstre
More about Robert A. Heinlein...

Other Books in the Series

Heinlein Juveniles (1 - 10 of 12 books)
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  • Space Cadet
  • Red Planet
  • Farmer in the Sky
  • Between Planets
  • The Rolling Stones
  • Starman Jones
  • The Star Beast
  • Time for the Stars
  • Citizen of the Galaxy
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“PATRICK HENRY HIGH SCHOOL  Department of Social Studies   SPECIAL NOTICE to all students Course 410    (elective senior seminar) Advanced Survival, instr. Dr. Matson, 1712-A MWF   1. There will be no class Friday the 14th. 2. Twenty-Four Hour Notice is hereby given of final examination in Solo Survival. Students will present themselves for physical check at 0900 Saturday in the dispensary of Templeton Gate and will start passing through the gate at 1000, using three-minute intervals by lot. 3. TEST CONDITIONS: a) ANY planet, ANY climate, ANY terrain; b) NO rules, ALL weapons, ANY equipment; c) TEAMING IS PERMITTED but teams will not be allowed to pass through the gate in company; d) TEST DURATION is not less than forty-eight hours, not more than ten days. 4. Dr. Matson will be available for advice and consultation until 1700 Friday. 5. Test may be postponed only on recommendation of examining physician, but any student may withdraw from the course without administrative penalty up until 1000 Saturday. 6. Good luck and long life to you all!   (s) B. P. Matson, Sc.D.    Approved: J. R. Roerich, for the Board” 1 likes
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