James's Reviews > Orphans of the Sky

Orphans of the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein
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's review
Aug 29, 2011

really liked it
Read in August, 2011

First Impressions:

The book reads rather rapidly and well for a young adult novel, originally appearing in Astounding Science Fiction back in the 1940s. Heinlein's writing and plotting had improved since those days, but there's something fun and unique about his early writings such as Space Cadet, or Starship Troopers, contemporary stories that involved a strong lead character and lots of plot points.


I may be wrong but this may be one of the first stories of a multi-generational ship that had some kind of catastrophe where everyone forgot they lived on a ship and thought the Ship was all there was! I've seen this idea played out in the original Star Trek episode "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky" and the television series "Star Lost."

The main character Hugh Hoyland lives on a Ship where scientists are reverred as holy and the Captain of the ship is near godhood. There are farms going on, and a Converter that is used to create energy from mass (and occasionally from dead bodies). There is an internal struggle with mutants in the upper levels. It's very dictatorial and people know their places. To question is to court death.

But Hugh questions. And he ends up with the mutants, a two headed guy called Joe-Jim and his sidekick Bobo. This small unassuming trio are the vanguard of a major change where the Ship is headed for a star -- but the inhabitants don't even know what space is.

Fascinating scenario, but not enough time is spent on the whole religious aspect of the scientists. They do mention a few scientific facts but have decided its all allegory and ancient myths -- such as the law of gravity!

The part where we move into rebellion, assassination and betrayal towards the end of the book is really fascinating. The end is a bit rushed, but Heinlein acknowledges that as a string of amazing coincidences! Ha!

Overall a great read and highly recommended to fans of early Heinlein.

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