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Orphans of the Sky
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Book Of the Month Discussion > Orphans of the Sky -- June 2016 -- spoilers allowed

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Mary Catelli | 2112 comments Mod
Free discussion of any element


message 2: by John (new)

John Van Stry (jvanstry) | 5 comments I think it's a good example of how some people are so stupid that they will not only slit their own throats, but gladly follow those who are more than happy to slit them, for them.
My partner always tells me that they're never amazed by human stupidity, no matter how stupid it turns out to be.


message 3: by Sheryl (last edited Jun 04, 2016 01:06PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sheryl Tribble | 67 comments I struggled considerable with the outdated science in this one. I was too aware of how hard a low weight environment is on the system, and the end didn't work as Heinlein expected it to because I was too aware of their grave lack of genetic diversity. I read this last year in the midst of a Heinlein binge; none of the rest hit me that way, however they were all (or nearly all) re-reads, read in a haze of nostalgia, while I'd never read this one before.

The impossibilities in the Tarzan books never faze me, and I generally don't sweat scientific inaccuracies if an author's world is internally consistent; not sure why it got to me this time.


Jeff Greason | 55 comments A review after rereading a classic, read many times before. But I find with Heinlein that there are often new insights to be found, that no matter what matters may be on my mind there are often themes in the book that resonate with them. On one level of course, this is a simple adventure story; if Heinlein did not invent the concept of the 'generation ship' he was probably the first to popularize it with these stories, the technology of which holds up well -- centrifugal gravity, total conversion drive, and a 'radiation shield' of unspecified type, requiring a lot of power to run, currently not operating as the story begins. The story follows one lead and a number of memorable subsidiary characters as the nature of their 'world', long forgotten, gradually comes to light. What struck me on this rereading was the second half of the book -- in which the various factions on the ship are brought together by politics and force in a common cause, only to find, at the end, that the 'cause' that has brought them together is of no interest or use to the cynical leadership, interested only in power. A lesson to remember in our present times, to put not your faith in princes, no matter what their promises.


Jerry (capvideo) | 37 comments I’m pretty sure I’ve read the first half (Universe) before, but not the second half (Common Sense).

Weird thing that struck me: in the devolved culture of the ship, both women and underlings are treated horribly. The one novel from our time that gets mentioned several times is Dumas’s Three Musketeers, which describes a similar culture.

I also have to think that despite James Ward’s hat checking Non-Stop, Metamorphosis Alpha must have also been inspired by this.


Jerry (capvideo) | 37 comments Sheryl wrote: "…grave lack of genetic diversity"

Well, they have experience with what look like strange mutations already, so I wasn’t too worried about this. Also, some of what they called muties born even in the “civilized” part of the ship must have really been caused by a lack of genetic diversity in the ship.

Despite the long string of good luck, life is not going to be easy for them. Good eating, yes. Also a sort of expulsion from Eden or Egypt.


Jeff Greason | 55 comments They do make it, you know. There's a short bit of dialogue about it in "Time Enough for Love" :)


message 8: by Paul (new)

Paul Howard | 63 comments I took Sheryl's comment as meaning that they shouldn't have made it because of the lack of genetic diversity.

IE she was referring to the scene in "Time Enough For Love".

Jeff wrote: "They do make it, you know. There's a short bit of dialogue about it in "Time Enough for Love" :)"


Mary Catelli | 2112 comments Mod
Paul wrote: "I took Sheryl's comment as meaning that they shouldn't have made it because of the lack of genetic diversity.

IE she was referring to the scene in "Time Enough For Love".

Jeff wrote: "They do mak..."


Good thing they are fictional characters and not real people, then.


Sheryl Tribble | 67 comments Paul is correct that I thought they shouldn't have made it (unless they ran into someone else pretty quick). I was thinking of the theory that if a particular population is reduced to a small number (Amur tigers it was 25-37), then it's at risk because of the lack of genetic diversity.

Although some scientists are questioning the whole theory, because they've discovered that some of the critters they thought endangered through lack of genetic diversity (koalas, for one), have as much diversity as their preserved-in-museums relatives from a century ago. Which indicates this genetic limit is not as damaging as assumed.

Then again, numerous inbred human populations indicate it'd likely be a problem within a few generations with humans unless they manage to introduce more people somehow. Admittedly those problems are not always as dramatic as hemophilia.

Not that Heinlein has any more obligation to pay attention to this than Burroughs did to consider the abilities of actual feral children in creating Tarzan. I was just noting that, with this particular story, for some reason I was hung up on scientific accuracy myself.

Usually with Heinlein stuff I note that scientists are thinking differently now and that's the end of it; for some reason my nitpicky grumbles had a bigger impact with this one. I'm not sure if the characters and story here didn't draw me in as deeply the others do, or if I read the other novels in a nostalgic haze this one lacked because I didn't read it when I was younger. I rather think it's that this is an early effort (or efforts) and shows it, but I can't say for sure.

Guess the only way to know for sure is to tackle another new-to-me Heinlein sometime soon, and see if I connect with it tightly enough that the nitpicks don't impact may enjoyment any.


message 11: by Jeff (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jeff Greason | 55 comments Given that for generations they had been mutating strongly enough that drastic culling was required just to keep external appearance 'human', one might reasonably suspect that genetic diversity was higher than would be normal for a terrestrial sample group.

The Pitcairn island settlement is the smallest group of which I'm aware of a historical record, genetic contribution from 20 individuals of the original 24 (4 died early), 3 more joining 30 years later.


Keith Comeford | 24 comments I hadn't read this in a dogs age (perhaps 2 long lived dogs ages...).
The multi headed/ Multi armed mutants are a sign its dated. Mutation doesn't tend to make those kinds of changes. However it does have that classic Heinlein feel. And yeah very doubtful the 7 person colony would make it. But Heinlein already noted so many ways they'd been lucky whats a few more decimal places of good luck? I'm willing to suspend disbelief to enjoy the story.


message 13: by mobius (new)

mobius wolf (mobiuswolf) | 75 comments I enjoyed rereading it, loved all the knife work. I remember the two-headedness struck me as a bit much even as a kid but it allowed him to have one head get killed which I thought worked really well. Not one of my favorites but a great adventure story.

I'm not a stickler for accurate science anyway, as long as it makes the story work. It would really limit your reading list to be so.

I went with Kloos as I hadn't read him before. Good stuff, I'm on the fourth now.


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