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Orphans of the Sky Mass Market Paperback – December 1, 2001
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About the Author
Robert A. Heinlein, four-time winner of the Hugo Award and recipient of three Retro Hugos, received the first Grand Master Nebula Award for lifetime achievement. His worldwide bestsellers have been translated into 22 languages and include Stranger in a Strange Land, Starship Troopers, Time Enough for Love, and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. His long-lost first novel, For Us, the Living, was recently published by Scribner and Pocket Books.
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Heinlein has this way of packing in references to interesting bits of technology, but then letting them fade into the background and be a part of his world. There is no wasted time describing how everything works, and to me that’s his greatest strength. The reader is thrown into the world he places you in, and you’re right there with the main character, Hugh Hoyland, throughout all of his discoveries. It helps his work stand up today, even though a lot of the tech/science is dated. There are also portions of the story which are awfully misogynistic, something that is rampant throughout Heinlein’s work.
While “Orphans of the Sky” is not without its faults, such as an abrupt ending, I found myself unable to put this down. The cultural division that develops between the decks of the ship was a pleasure to experience. There is also one standout character in the form of a Siamese twin mutated by radiation who really steals the show.
I suspect people in the mid 1900’s must have been even more spellbound by the story than I was. While a tad dated, I’d highly recommend Orphans of the Sky to any fan of Heinlein or Golden Age science fiction.
'In the Beginning there was Jordan, thinking His lonely thoughts alone.
In the Beginning there was darkness,formless,dead, and man unknown.
Out of the loneliness came a longing, out of the longing came a vision,
Out of the dream there came a planning, out of the plan there came decision-
Jordan's hand was lifted and the Ship was born!
Just as we wonder whats after death and our beliefs and non-beliefs comes a story of the question of; is the ship just the ship?
We meet Hugh Hoyland, once a boy who drifted up through the levels of the ship into no weight. It was a question everyone aboard the ship wanted to know and about what the decks of the ship contained. At death people go to the converter to fuel the ship, but for what, Jordan of course, their deity.
The mutants who live in the higher decks keep society from learning it's truth. Does the ship move? What are those lights?
Soon enough Hugh's adventurous ways gets him into trouble with the muties leader, the two-headed man named Joe-Jim and his friend and slave,Bobo. But a alliance is erected along with Hugh and some friends with the muties. Wonderfully written and a page turner.
What I loved most about this book was it's religious aspect. If people believe, do they really want to know the truth, how would that affect the crew?, or yourself? I absolutely loved this book and it's philosophies contained within. If you loved 'Stranger In A Strange Land' or 'Citizen of the Galaxy', this is a sci-fi must read for sure.
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.