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Orphans of the Sky

A book by Robert A. Heinlein

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A classic story by one of the masters

  • Sep 22, 2009
Rating:
+5
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, their descendents will revert to the mean and perhaps even lose touch with what their mission is. Throw in the possibility of negative genetic damage due to cosmic rays and a noble cause can degenerate into a primitive society rather quickly.
Hugh Hoyland is a passenger on such a ship where two social groups have emerged. A society composed of "scientists", engineers and other working people and another of the primitive "muties", a term used to refer to both the descendents of mutineers and deformed mutants that managed to survive. These two groups have been at war with each other for some time. While some books still exist, learning is almost non-existent, a physics book is considered to be a collection of fables. In this society where bodies are recycled, sometimes as food, the highest greeting is "Good eating!" as quality food is at a premium.
Heinlein weaves an excellent story of a degenerate society and the attempts by Hugh and his allies to regain control of the ship, reach a state of peace between the two groups and get them back on their mission to colonize a planet around another star. The human capacity to create religious myths out of whatever is available is paramount as well as the unwillingness of such minds to deny the evidence of their own senses when it contradicts their religious beliefs. There is a hint of the history of the Catholic Church against Galileo when the newly installed Captain of the ship denies the existence of stars, even after he has seen them. This is an excellent science fiction story from one of the original masters.

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More Orphans of the Sky reviews
review by . March 25, 2011
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 …
Quick Tip by . March 25, 2011
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.
review by . September 01, 2010
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.  …
About the reviewer
Charles Ashbacher ()
Ranked #78
Charlie Ashbacher is a compulsive reader and writer about many subjects. His prime areas of expertise are in mathematics and computers where he has taught every course in the mathematics and computer … more
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Wiki

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.
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Tags

Books, Science Fiction, Interstellar Travel, Heinlein, Generation Ship, Mutations, Science & Religion, Conformity

Details

ISBN-10: 0671318454
ISBN-13: 978-0671318451
Author: Robert A. Heinlein
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Publisher: Baen
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