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ORPHANS OF THE SKY by Robert A Heinlein

ORPHANS OF THE SKY (original 1963; edition 1964)

by Robert A Heinlein

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1,688204,233 (3.5)33
Authors:Robert A Heinlein
Info:Science Fiction Book Club (1964), Edition: Book Club Edition, Hardcover #85
Collections:SFBC, Your library
Tags:Science Fiction Book Club, science fiction, generation starship, mutiny, mutants

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Orphans of the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein (1963)



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English (19)  Italian (1)  All languages (20)
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  jmourgos | Sep 12, 2014 |
Imagination and the ability to believe the impossible. This is what it takes to find out that the world you grew up in, believed in as unchanging, is something much, much more.

Many generations ago, a great Ship was built in orbit around Earth’s moon and its engineers made it so friction, time, tear and wear, would make it last, virtually, forever. The Ship was populated with crew and passengers who set off for a 30 year, one way trip to a new planet. After a mutiny, the crew was killed, the mutineers took off in the life boats, leaving the passengers to fend for themselves. After only two generations the passengers forgot they were on a ship, forgot about Earth, and went on living their day to day lives.

Hugh Hoyland is a young “scientist” who believes, like the rest of his kind, that The Ship is all there ever has been and ever will be. There is no knowledge of Time or Space. The word and concept of Stars has no meaning. Until Hugh is kidnapped by the “muties” and learns the truth.

Orphans of the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein is a story about what happens after the truth is learned. Can people of The Ship change their way of thinking? Can they accept the fact their life has been spent inside a large vessel? Or will they reject the idea and keep on going the way they have for generations? More than being a science fiction short story, it examines how belief can blind and stagnate an entire world. Given the time in which it was written, 1941, it has valid social implications.

Although a bit dry to read, Orphans of the Sky piques the imagination, makes one think. And, after all, isn't that what good fiction should do? ( )
  shelbel100 | Jul 12, 2014 |
Perhaps the first "We've been on the ship so long, we forgot it's a ship" story. Tightly written. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Apr 1, 2014 |
I've been trying to read/re-read a number of the early Heinlein books. This "golden age" short novel was first published in two parts in Astounding in 1941, and for that time it feels very groundbreaking. Keeping in mind when it was written, I thoroughly enjoyed this depiction of a feudal society on a generation ship that have forgotten their mission. There are criticisms of the role of women in books such as this, but for the devolved society that Heinlein has here it shouldn't surprise. The peasant farmer is also scarcely able to speak. Still, the gratuitous roughness at the end was completely unnecessary and offensive.

This is one of those stories where our protagonist, a young man apprenticed to become a scientist, comes to realize that just about everything he has been told about history and his life simply isn't true. His discoveries are revolutionary for the starship society who have forgotten who they were and their purpose. There are parallels to our own civilization's history. 3 - 3 1/2 stars ( )
  RBeffa | Oct 27, 2013 |
I was due for a sci-fi classic and this slim little novel sure did the trick.

Set far into the future, Hugh Hoyland starts exploring "the ship" a 5 mile long (2,000 feet across) steel expanse that is the only known world to its inhabitants. The people on board the ship have no concept of anything outside the ship, the idea that anything could exist beyond its steel walls is inconcevable. The lower decks are inhabited by the citizens and the largely unexplored upper decks are inhabited by the "muties," deformed creatures that attack anyone who ventures up.

One day while exploring, Hugh ventures too far up and is captured by a dwarf (Bobo) and a 2 headed man (Joe-Jim). His captors are intrigued by him and decide to "educate him" and take him on as his slave. Hugh doesn't mind and soon discovers a forgotten room on the upper decks. With the help of Joe-Jim, Hugh begins to understand that the universe is bigger than the ship and for the first time he sees the stars. The question is, what is he going to do about it, can he make the ship move again?

I thought that this book was quite original and the concept was very intriguing. Hugh's world is literally turned around when he realizes that everything he was taught and believed is false. It's a fast read and has an interesting conclusion. Disclaimer, it's quite sexist (the women are subjected as slave wives, and cannot speak up. they are often beaten and not one of the main characters is female) but if you read past it (hey, it was the sixties) you'll be sure to enjoy it. ( )
1 vote ecataldi | May 21, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Heinlein, Robert A.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Griffiths, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sannes, SanneCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"The Proxima Centauri Expedition, sponsored by the Jordan Foundation in 2119, was the first recorded attempt to reach the nearer stars fo this galaxy. Whatever its unhappy fate we can only conjecture...' - Quoted from The Romance of Modern Astrography, by Franklin Buck, published by Lux Transcriptions, Ltd., 3.50 cr.
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"There's a mutie! Look out!"
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Note that the Italian translation is titled 'Universo' (isfdb), so these entries should not be separated out and combined with the novella 'Universe'.
This novel was first published in Astounding Science Fiction in May and October of 1941 as two separate novelettes: "Universe" and its sequel "Common Sense". "Universe" was reprinted by itself in book form in 1951. The two were combined to form this work in 1963.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0671318454, Mass Market Paperback)

Ancient myths told of a place called Earth, but the modern world knew it was nonsense. Science knew the Ship was all the Universe, and as long as the sacred Converter was fed, lights would glow and air would flow through the miles of metal corridors. Hugh never questioned these truths until a despised mutie showed him the Control Room and he learned the true nature of the Ship and its mission.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:19 -0400)

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Classic science fiction. Winner of Hugo award 4 times.

(summary from another edition)

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