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Orphans of the Sky Hardcover – January 1, 2001

4.2 out of 5 stars 83 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Heinlein's 1951 novel offers a ship drifting through the currents of space as a microcosm of society, complete with class struggles, politics (including war between inhabitants of different decks), and love and family. Protagonist Hugh Hoyland fights to understand it all and to bring unity to the crew. Stealth titles are available directly at www.stealthpress.com.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Robert Anson Heinlein was born in Missouri in 1907, and was raised there. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1929, but was forced by illness to retire from the Navy in 1934. He settled in California and over the next five years held a variety of jobs while doing post-graduate work in mathematics and physics at the University of California. In 1939 he sold his first science fiction story to Astounding magazine and soon devoted himself to the genre.

He was a four-time winner of the Hugo Award for his novels Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), Starship Troopers (1959), Double Star (1956), and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966). His Future History series, incorporating both short stories and novels, was first mapped out in 1941. The series charts the social, political, and technological changes shaping human society from the present through several centuries into the future.

Robert A. Heinlein's books were among the first works of science fiction to reach bestseller status in both hardcover and paperback. he continued to work into his eighties, and his work never ceased to amaze, to entertain, and to generate controversy. By the time hed died, in 1988, it was evident that he was one of the formative talents of science fiction: a writer whose unique vision, unflagging energy, and persistence, over the course of five decades, made a great impact on the American mind.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 153 pages
  • Publisher: Stealth Pr; First Edition edition (January 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1588810070
  • ISBN-13: 978-1588810076
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,150,692 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
The mutiny took place many, many years ago on an enormous star ship outfitted for a multi-generational voyage to Far Centaurus. The last remaining member of the original crew, for right or wrong, made a political decision to hide the logs and, in effect, to bury the present crew's real history. As a result, for those alive today, now drifting aimlessly in a deep space of which none of the inhabitants are even aware, the ship constitutes their entire universe. None of them has ever been outside the ship and, indeed, even the existence of "outside" is a concept beyond their ken and imagination. They farm, they eat, they raise their families, they live and die, and they battle mutants that inhabit the upper levels of the ship. Scraps of past knowledge such as a book entitled "Basic Modern Physics" have been re-interpreted as religious artifacts and scientists have become the priesthood of the ship's "religion". Hugh Hoyland, a young man who had hopes of becoming a scientist, is captured by the mutants as he indulges himself in typically reckless young men's high jinx on the upper levels of the ship. Although he has been presumed dead by the ship's crew he left behind, the mutants reveal the true nature of the ship and its place in the universe to Hugh who decides he must somehow return to the lower levels and persuade them to complete the trip to Centaurus.

Like many of his other ground-breaking classics such as "Methuselah's Children" or "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", "Orphans of the Sky" can read on the surface as a short exciting adventure tale that succeeds brilliantly. Indeed, it is so simple and straight forward that one could easily classify it as juvenile fiction that would thrill the young readers in your family and convert them to life long fans of the sci-fi genre.
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Format: Hardcover
This entry in Gollancz's classic reprint series was originally published in two parts in the magazine Astounding Science Fiction back in 1941 and if you bear this in mind while reading it you'll appreciate what an achievement this was. Despite the efforts of H G Wells and others, science fiction was still very much in its infancy, and I would imagine that works of fiction that quoted Newton's inverse square law of gravitation (hilariously misinterpreted near the beginning of this book) or tried to compare the concepts of space travel with knitting a sweater or baking a cake must have been pretty thin on the ground. Read it with this in mind and you'll enjoy this rather brief tale of a starship community which has existed for generations, succeeded in misinterpreting its flight manuals and lost all concept of the fact that it is, in fact, flying through space. Don't worry, I haven't given anything away that isn't mentioned on practically the first page of a story which presumably inspired Brian Aldiss's later 'Non-Stop'- a novel which tells a similar tale though perhaps without quite so many slit throats and two-headed mutants. The attitude to women and to the ship's mutant community is what one would expect for the time in which it was written but doesn't serve to detract too much from Heinlein's rapid pacing. Probably ground breaking for its time and still a pretty good read today.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
While it shouldn't be compared to his later genre-busting novels, Orphans of the Sky is an entertaining Robert A. Heinlein book in its own right. The concept is one often mentioned in science fiction, but rarely expanded upon: a giant, self-contained spaceship - it's own Universe - in which humans eat and breathe, sleep and breed. The twist here is that they've been in it for so long that they can't remember life before it - or even imagine it, as they now believe the the Ship IS the Universe. It is an interesting social critique, as it shows how perfectly viable truths (indeed, Common Sense) can be reduced to mere mythology and religious twaddle. The book is well-written. Short, compact - two stories in about 120 pages - it is very tight, and this is one of those rare stories where not a single word is wasted (a complete contrast to some of Heinlein's later novels, one might say.) These are also the last two stories in Heinlein's Future History (never included in The Past Through Tomorrow.) A worthwhile story, I'm glad to see it back in print. Certainly not a heavyweight novel, but Heinlein fans will enjoy it. Reccommended for them, or as a good distraction.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This may not be the first generation starship tale, but it's probably the first where the passengers have forgotten that they're in a ship and that its corridors and rooms are not the universe.
This novel combines the story of Galileo with political intrigue and military conquest, all aboard a starship that has lapsed into feudalism after a mutiny in the crew long ago. After the mutiny, people forgot not only their mission to travel to Far Centaurus but that there was a universe outside the ship's hull. Books are still around, but physics and astronomy are treated like elaborate allegories by the "scientists" and not realities. Barbaric muties roam the upper decks, and cannibalism is not unknown, infantcide a common practice.
Scientist novitiate Hugh Hoyland plays the Galileo role. He is captured by two-headed mutant Joe-Jim and, when he's not playing checkers with either of the twins, has the run of their library and the benefit of their intellects. It's from that unlikely source that Hoyland learns the truth about the ship and the world outside.
And he begins to form a plan to complete the mission.
First published in 1941 as two short stories, "Universe" and "Common Sense", this story still entertains with its heroism, intrigue, and action. They are, chronologically, also the last short stories in Heinlein's Future History.
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