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Orphans of the Sky (Future History or "Heinlein Timeline" #23)

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  7,588 Ratings  ·  326 Reviews
The Robert H. Heinlein novella "Universe" was published in the May 1941 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. Sequel novella "Common Sense" was published in ASF in October of the same year. Both were slightly modified by the author and published together as Orphans of the Sky in 1963.

This science fiction classic became a paradigm for many sf plots to follow. An interstella

Hardcover, 153 pages
Published January 1st 2001 by Stealth Pr (first published December 1st 1963)
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Oct 10, 2011 Lyn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lord of the Flies meets Lost in Space.

Not one of Heinlein's masterpieces but also not bad, very imaginative and creative. At it's best it is an interesting religious and political allegory, at worst it is campy pulp. But not bad. I think the producers of Disney's Wall-E may have been influenced somewhat by the generational ship concept. This began as a couple of novelettes in the early 40s and then put together in book form and published as a novel in 1963, so this was at least one of his earli
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
An imaginative if improbable tale (or more accurately: pair of SF tales combined together to make a short novel) by Robert Heinlein, about a spaceship voyage to colonize another planet. The trip has taken so long that the people being born, living, having children and dying on the huge ship have lost all scientific knowledge about what the ship is and where it's going. To them, it is the world and the universe. The story of where they are from and where they're going has turned into a religion. ...more
I rather like this religious allegory. They've been on a huge spaceship ("The Ship") for many generations, and all they can remember of Earth are distant legends kept alive in an oral tradition. According to these myths, the Ship was built by "Jordan". Once, there had been a Golden Age, when the ship was ruled by "Jordan's Captain", the guardian of the sacred "Plan". But then there was a mutiny, led by someone called Huff ("accursed Huff, the First to Sin"), and the Plan was lost. Now the Ship i ...more
J.G. Keely
This novella collects two of Heinlein's earliest stories, both from 1941, but unlike other such combinations, the two stories were originally meant to go together, and form a continuous narrative. As this is a very early attempt from Heinlein, it wouldn't be surprising to find his writing rough and flawed, but it's an unexpectedly solid yarn.

His writing is direct and unobtrusive; something many authors aspire to, but few ever manage. Even at this early stage, his naturalistic prose sets him abov
Amal El-Mohtar
WOW this cover is not the cover I have, which is far less ... Whatever the hell this cover is. ("That must have been the '80s," said my Glaswegian. Goodreads has this as the 2001 cover from Baen. It's a good thing feminism fixed all the world's problems or who KNOWS what kind of cover we'd have.)

I picked this up second-hand (Mayflower-Dell paperback, June 1965), curious to read some more Heinlein in the wake of having recently finished Jo Walton's Among Others. Thus far the only Heinlein I'd rea
Jun 21, 2015 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: muties, dwarves, engineers and astrogators who have never seen the stars
This is one of the original "lost generation ship" stories, a novella stitched together from two of Heinlein's earlier short stories. Considering it was originally written in the 40s, Orphans of the Sky still holds up reasonably well as pure science fiction, with little to betray its golden age origins other than the fact that all the tropes are so well worn by now.

The "crew" of the Ship has never known anything but the Ship, a massive multideck vessel which to them is literally the entire unive
Aug 14, 2016 Cheryl rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Some clever ideas, esp. re' 'scientists' as priests, but too much is undeveloped. And the misogyny is completely gratuitous - when we finally briefly meet them, we learn that women are quite literally chattel, generally not even allowed to keep their own names. (The GR default cover is absolute nonsense on several levels.) I do like Hugh, though, idealistic, intelligent, curious. Clearly this was written for teen boys, the primary audience for SF back in the day.
Ben Babcock
Second Heinlein collection in this book (the first being The Man Who Sold the Moon ). Now we have two related 1940s novellae fixed-up into a single novel in the 1960s. Oh, science fiction publishing, you are so fun.

Orphans of the Sky is one of the ur–generation ship tales. Heinlein immediately seizes on the possibility that something could go so disastrously wrong during the voyage such that the entire crew forgets it is on a ship. For all intents and purposes, the Ship is now the universe. Any
Feb 03, 2011 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Time now for another slice of classic science fiction - this time from the pen of Robert Heinlein. I recently stumbled across a series of essays entitled "The defining science fiction of the (Insert decade) which ran from the 1950s to the 1990s. They are absolutely brilliant and it got me thinking, You see as part of the essay there was listed each year the top most influential and as the title describes defining. This title was one of them and I was instantly drawn to reading it.

Well now I hav
Jeff Yoak
This is a "big idea" novel for Heinlein. It tells the story of the first inter-stellar ship, planing to make a trip that will span generations. Mutiny and a general degradation of culture occur aboard and generations are born who are unable to conceive of, or believe in, a world outside the ship. The story centers on brave and clever men who start to regain this knowledge, stomping a foot on a deck plate and insisting like a similar brave man, "But still, it moves!"

Heinlein's skill at envisionin
J.j. Metsavana
Nov 23, 2015 J.j. Metsavana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Noor ja vihane Heinlein paneb hästi ja hoogsalt. Tegevus ja põnevus püsivad ja maailm on loodud lahedalt praktiliste ja küüniliste inimeste/mutantidega. Ei pea vastu ja toon siinkohal ära ühe lõigu

"Üks usutaganejast teadlane, üks röövitud teadlane, üks juhm talumees, üks kahepäine koletis ja üks õunasuuruse ajuga debiilik; viis nuga, kui Joe-Jimi ühe eest lugeda; viis aju, kui Joe-Jimi kahe eest lugeda ja Bobot üldse mitte arvestada; viis aju ja viis nuga, et pea peale pöörata kogu kultuur."

Marta Duò
Feb 06, 2017 Marta Duò rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Breve ma geniale.
Un'immensa astronave, alla deriva nello spazio da innumerevoli generazioni, ospita un'umanità regredita, che considera libri sacri i testi scientifici, incapace di comprenderli e concepire un universo al di fuori della Nave. La società è divisa tra umani e mutanti, i nati deformi in seguito alle radiazioni provenienti dall'esterno, fazioni in lotta nella reciproca ignoranza. Tra i mutanti spicca Joe-Jim, dalle due teste sagge, avido lettore e pensatore. Hugh invece è l'umano che
Mary Catelli
A classic of the science fiction genre, a defining one for the trope of generation ship.

Hugh Hoyland lives on the Ship. After a venture to low weight decks, where he's endangered by a mutie attack, we find the humans living in farms on the high weight decks, and he hears the religious text on the Mutiny and is inducted into the ranks of the priestly scientists.

It's when he ends up a prisoner among the muties that he learns much of what the astute reader has pieced together earlier. The tale invo
Sep 21, 2013 Leah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Because this sentence exists "the other wife, the unnamed one, kept out of his sight after losing a tooth, quite suddenly"
Nov 24, 2014 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
1977 grade A
1995 grade A-
2016 grade B+/A-

Failed generation ships were a pretty common theme in early hard SciFi. In fact, some publishers would give an idea to multiple authors and ask for each to write their own interpretation. No two that I read ever came out the same.

The following description is not really a spoiler, but lightly describes the set up similar to that on a book jacket. After this review there are two other book themes mentioned. If anyone knows the names of those stories, pleas
Rebecca Schwarz
Oct 19, 2012 Rebecca Schwarz rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read this because it was one of the earlier examples of a story that takes place on a generation ship and I'm preparing to write a novel set on a generation ship. This is early Heinlein and I wished he hadn't mentioned women at all, sexism by omission would have seemed so much less sexist than the few sentences he included that reference women. In the first novella, the only mention of a woman is Hugh's (the main character) aunt, who looks up when he returns home but says nothing "as is fittin ...more
Rhett Bruno
Oct 14, 2014 Rhett Bruno rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I downloaded this book because I have a huge interest in "Generational Ships" in my own work and was curious to see how one of the masters handled it. Overall I love the premise. No need to summarize it in detail as this is a well known enough novel, but the idea of creating a world that has become lost in time and space is almost like a writers playground. Anything is possible, and Heinlein fills his ship with a myriad of intriguing ideas.

Heinlein has this way of putting forth interesting bits
Elizabeth S. Q. Goodman
I read it, and it was a quick Heinlein read and rather fun. However, the two appearances of women in the plot were so irrelevant and so misogynist (from the author more than the characters) that an editor might as well cut them out and change the genders of various main characters. I assure you, it would make no difference to the book, except that I wouldn't want to go back and punch Heinlein in the nose.

Seriously. This one dude gets picked out at the beginning of the story for being exceptional
Jun 26, 2009 Merciful rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book - like many of Heinlein's books - really blew my mind as a kid. Very trippy concept - a spaceship bound on a lightyears journey to colonize another world ran into trouble with its nuclear reactor and (at the time the novel begins) has been adrift in space now for centuries with countless generations come and gone and all knowledge of the outside world forgotten... Check it out, especially if you're a kid. It's a really cool idea.
Stephanie "Jedigal"
This is the most memorable sci-fi title of my youth. I loved the idea that people born on a deep space ship might not know that it WAS a ship, that it was the extent of the universe to them, and that the concept of "outside" would be horribly frightening.

To anyone interested, this is a short one! Short & sweet. :o)
June 2013 - finished another re-read. Still love it.
Jul 08, 2009 Quentin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the most important books of my childhood. The questioning of authority, existential inquiry and transcendence are just some of the themes that are explored.
Sep 16, 2016 Nathaniel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
First, I love the title. "Orphans of the Sky," is one of those titles that makes me love sci-fi.

Second, this is one of those books that originated--or at least was an early adopter--of ideas that have come to be central to sci-fi. In this case, the concept is a generation ship. Generation ships are slow-moving space ships that would take so long to get from point A to point B that entire generations would live and die in the ship during the journey (hence the name). According to Wikipedia, the
Mar 08, 2017 Andi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
review coming... was good up until the hero took two women and beat them up when they didn't do as they were told or when he was displeased by them. :/

So, god damn it, Sci-Fi was most certainly not for girls back in the 50's and 60's.

I liked the idea of a ship that kept building layers and layers ontop of itself and that the original 'explorers' and their 'mission' became lost over time. But, where the hell are all the women? Not a single woman was involved in this story. If they were involved,
Leo Walsh
I am always of two minds about Heinlein. He writes clear, easy to follow prose. And he is better at drawing an engaging character than his peers in the classic age of SF, like Asimov and Clarke; One need only think of Mycroft Holmes and Mannie from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress to understand what I am saying. And his ideas are pretty good too. Unlike most world-builders, he doesn't get too carried away. And I love the way that he just mentions a technology, and doesn't harp on its origin or exa ...more
Jun 07, 2016 Joseph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know if this was actually the first generation starship story, but it was almost certainly the most influential. Hugh Hoyston was born (as were his to-the-nth-generation ancestors) on the Ship, but to him it's just the world -- it's only natural that the Decks curve and that your weight decreases as you ascend. Then he gets captured by the Muties (Mutineers/Mutants -- take your pick) and their two-headed leader Joe-Jim, and discovers that there's actually an outside to the world ...

Feb 21, 2016 Jaan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Heade ideedega raamat generatsioonidelaevast ja sellest, kuidas vana teadus on aja jooksul muteerunud religiooniks, kuid lõpu viimases veerandis hakkas iga keeratava leheküljega tunduma, et asi saab natuke liiga järsu finaali, kuigi materjali oleks veel teist nii pika loo kirjutamiseks. Nii ta ka läks. Sujuv lugemine, kui soov midagi ette võtta, mis ühe või kahe õhtuga läbi saab. Samuti soovitan võrdluseks ka neile, kellele meeldis Kantileen Leibowitzile, kuna mõlemas on mandunud tsivilisatsioon ...more
The story of a group of forward thinking people who begin to realize that their 'world' is actually the inside of an ark like starship. Over many generations and various mutinies, all knowledge of their actual situation has been lost and replaced with weird superstition and religion.
A pretty good story and nice to read an older classic from one of the masters. By today's standards, this may seem a little short, but back in the day authors didn't need 600 pages to tell a story.
Mike (the Paladin)
One of my long ago Heinlein reads and one of the (I'm sad to say) less satisfying "colony starship with a crew who have forgotten they are on a ship and think it's the whole universe", stories.

I'm pretty sure that short of a longer synopsis and a few spoilers that about says it. A mutiny on a colonization starship ends in most everybody in charge getting killed. the survivors farm the hydroponic gardens and time passes, until that rare breed of individual is born.... a protagonist.
Aug 08, 2007 Joshy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First Heinen book I was ever exposed to. My Uncle Bill read this to me and my cousins one summer when I was about ten. Addicted me to science fiction and specifically to Heinlein instantaneously. I owe Bill for lots of things, but this one's up there. Thanks, man.
Mitchel Broussard
The impetus for every sci-fi novel with a generation ship that followed it, Heinlein's original is still exciting and wildly intriguing almost 70 years later.

I think I'll be checking out some of his other stories very soon.
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Goodreads Librari...: Please add cover 3 8 Apr 28, 2017 08:53PM  
Orphans Of The Sky = "Lost Machine" by Voivod? 1 2 Dec 08, 2016 10:56PM  
Hoyt's Huns: Orphans of the Sky -- June 2016 -- spoilers allowed 13 10 Jun 26, 2016 05:34PM  
Hoyt's Huns: Orphans of the Sky -- June 2016 -- no spoilers 2 8 Jun 04, 2016 12:59PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Missing data for book provided 2 30 Oct 27, 2011 12:57AM  
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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

Future History or "Heinlein Timeline" (6 books)
  • The Man Who Sold the Moon
  • Requiem
  • The Green Hills of Earth
  • Methuselah's Children
  • The Past Through Tomorrow (Future History, #1-21)

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“Two bodies attract each other directly as the product of their masses and inversely as the square of their distance.' It sounds like a rule for simple physical facts, does it not? Yet it is nothing of the sort; it was the poetical way the old ones had of expressing the rule of propinquity which governs the emotion of love. The bodies referred to are human bodies, mass is their capacity for love. Young people have a greater capacity for love than the elderly; when thy are thrown together they fall in love, yet when they are separated they soon get over it. 'Out of sight, out of mind.' It's as simple as that. But you were seeking some deep meaning for it.” 23 likes
“There is a misconception, geocentric and anthropomorphic, common to the large majority the the earthbound, which causes them to visualize a planetary system stereoscopically. The mind's eye sees a sun, remote from a backdrop of stars, and surrounded by spinning apples -- the planets. Step out on your balcony and look. Can you tell the planets from the stars? Venus you may pick out with ease, but could you tell it from Canopus, if you had not previously been introduced? That little red speck -- is it Mars, or is it Antares? Blast for Antares, believing it to be a planet, and you will never live to have grandchildren.” 6 likes
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