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.
But the discerning adult reader who cares to dig a little more deeply will appreciate that Heinlein, in the space of an incredibly short 128 pages, has provided us with the fodder for many a thoughtful conversation - science as religion; religion as science; the tendency of established religion to view thinking outside its doctrine as unforgivable heresy; the extreme societal antagonism to sea change and paradigm shifts in philosophical or scientific thought; the difficulties scientists often encounter in the interpretation of their own data when the results run counter to their intuition; and, of course, the prejudice, fear and hatred we are all prone to in dealing with societies or individuals "different" from ourselves. Heinlein no doubt took the light-hearted humorous expression "Don't look at me like I've got two heads!" and turned Joe-Jim Gregory, a mutant with two heads, into a metaphor for the whole bigotry issue. In the closing chapters, Heinlein even deals with the cruel necessity for persecuted individuals to occasionally strike out blindly on their own and establish a new pioneering society norm as an expedient for basic survival.
"Orphans of the Sky" is a classic that can be read at a single sitting but you'll savour it for years to come!
Heinlein, in the space of an incredibly short 128 pages, has provided us with the fodder for many a thoughtful conversation. One more in a string of ground-breaking sci-fi classics that, on the surface, tells an exciting story but, at the same time, deals with serious issues - in this case, bigotry and the perennial science vs religion debate.
What was your first impression? This is another book I read back in the not so dim mists of time. This was the first time I ever encountered the concept of mutations. A man with two heads. A woman with four arms. People killing mutated babies. This book creeped me out. Plot summary? The stars are VERY far away. If faster than light travel is impossible then it could take a long time to get there. So this is the story of a generation ship. … more
There is a statistical principle called "regression to the mean" that can also be applied across human generations. It means that when a parent is extremely intelligent the probability is very high that the children will be closer to the mean, in other words be less intelligent. That principle has often been used to predict the consequences of having multi-generational spaceships travel between the stars. Even though the original inhabitants will be selected for their intelligence and dedication, … more
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.--This text refers to theHardcoveredition.