Read Orphans of the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein Online


A fix-up consisting of the novelette "Universe" (1941) and the novella "Common Sense" (1941). First published in 1963.Hugh had been taught that, according to the ancient sacred writings, the Ship was on a voyage to faraway Centaurus. But he also understood this was actually allegory for a voyage to spiritual perfection. Indeed, how could the Ship move, since its miles andA fix-up consisting of the novelette "Universe" (1941) and the novella "Common Sense" (1941). First published in 1963.Hugh had been taught that, according to the ancient sacred writings, the Ship was on a voyage to faraway Centaurus. But he also understood this was actually allegory for a voyage to spiritual perfection. Indeed, how could the Ship move, since its miles and miles of metal corridors were all there was of creation? Science knew that the Ship was all the Universe, and as long as the sacred Convertor was fed, the lights would continue to glow and the air would flow, and the Creator's Plan would be fulfilled.Of course, there were the muties, grotesquely deformed parodies of humans, who lurked in the upper reaches of the Ship where gravity was weaker. Were they evil incarnate, or merely a divine check on the population, keeping humanity from expanding past the capacity of the Ship to support?Then Hugh was captured by the muties and met their leader (or leaders), Joe-Jim, with two heads on one body. And he learned the true nature of the Ship and its mission between the stars. But could he make his people believe him before it was to late? Could he make them believe that he must be allowed to fly the ship?...

Title : Orphans of the Sky
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 14665908
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 111 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Orphans of the Sky Reviews

  • Lyn
    2019-03-16 07:30

    Lord of the Flies meets Lost in Space. Not one of Heinlein's masterpieces but also not bad, very imaginative and creative. At it's best it is an interesting religious and political allegory, at worst it is campy pulp. But not bad. I think the producers of Disney's Wall-E may have been influenced somewhat by the generational ship concept. This began as a couple of novelettes in the early 40s and then put together in book form and published as a novel in 1963, so this was at least one of his earliest ideas. Like many Heinlein novels, there is inherent and almost casual violence and, beginning to be disturbing, an ongoing theme of cannibalism. Also an early example of polygamy, Heinlein was not a traditionalist. Very good for the genre.

  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
    2019-03-19 10:44

    An imaginative if improbable tale (or more accurately: pair of SF tales combined together to make a short novel) by Robert Heinlein, about a spaceship voyage to colonize another planet. The trip has taken so long that the people being born, living, having children and dying on the huge ship have lost all scientific knowledge about what the ship is and where it's going. To them, it is the world and the universe. The story of where they are from and where they're going has turned into a religion. For excitement, the normal people battle the mutant Muties -- but the leader of the Muties, the two-headed Joe-Jim, actually has rather more of a clue about what's really going on.Love the artwork, lol!I wouldn't recommend that anyone go out of their way to read this story, but if you like old-fashioned SF and Heinlein's stories from the period when they were only semi-weird, this is a fun and quick read. Joe-Jim's arguments with himself are one of the highlights.Written in 1940s + backwards society on the spaceship = women are pretty much nonexistent in the story, and when they do show up they're treated like servants (in one scene, a mouthy woman gets slapped down). Arguably it's realistic for this group of people, but if you're sensitive about this kind of thing, give this book a pass.

  • Manny
    2019-03-13 02:35

    I rather like this religious allegory. They've been on a huge spaceship ("The Ship") for many generations, and all they can remember of Earth are distant legends kept alive in an oral tradition. According to these myths, the Ship was built by "Jordan". Once, there had been a Golden Age, when the ship was ruled by "Jordan's Captain", the guardian of the sacred "Plan". But then there was a mutiny, led by someone called Huff ("accursed Huff, the First to Sin"), and the Plan was lost. Now the Ship is moving aimlessly among the Stars. Educated people, who live in the middle of the Ship, scoff at all this - though they still say "Huff!" when they want to swear. It shouldn't be taken literally, they say. It's a metaphor for the path towards spiritual enlightenment. And what are Stars, anyway? Clearly another metaphor or symbol.But, by accident, the hero finds himself near the outside, in a lawless territory inhabited by mutant pariahs. These people aren't very civilised, but they know things he doesn't. When he expresses doubts about the existence of Stars, they just take him to a porthole so that he can see them for himself. He's very surprised.Similarly...

  • Amal El-Mohtar
    2019-02-26 02:27

    WOW this cover is not the cover I have, which is far less ... Whatever the hell this cover is. ("That must have been the '80s," said my Glaswegian. Goodreads has this as the 2001 cover from Baen. It's a good thing feminism fixed all the world's problems or who KNOWS what kind of cover we'd have.)I picked this up second-hand (Mayflower-Dell paperback, June 1965), curious to read some more Heinlein in the wake of having recently finished Jo Walton's Among Others. Thus far the only Heinlein I'd read consisted of the bowdlerized edition of Stranger in a Strange Land, picked up from my local library when I was 14 on the recommendation of one of the first people I Knew From the Internet. I remember enjoying Stranger in a Strange Land, in a distant "this was odd by enjoyable" kind of way, and still find myself blinking in perplexity at the stuff people tell me is in the non-bowdlerized version. All this is to say that I had not read enough Heinlein to be able to conceptualize the misogyny which many people have pointed out runs rampant through his books. If Orphans of the Sky is representative, though, I now understand with perfect clarity.This book is essentially Ayn Rand's Anthem in space, except with more men and poorer treatment of women. ("But wait," I hear you say, "there was only one woman in Anthem! She didn't have a name until our hero gave her one! Her entire purpose in the book was to adore him!" Yes. And this is worse.) It's often interesting, and competently written, except for the bit where every aspect of this society's ignorance is complicated and problematized and addressed -- except for the women-are-silent-chattel aspect, which up until the very last page of the novel, is taken as read. It was an interesting window into early Heinlein, and it was even more fascinating to follow this book immediately with some Ursula Le Guin essays from the '70s, notably "A Citizen of Mondath," in which she says "I got off science fiction some time in the late forties. It seemed to be all about hardware and soldiers....I almost totally missed Heinlein, et al. If I glanced at a magazine, it still seemed to be all about starship captains in black with lean rugged faces and a lot of fancy artillery." Orphans in the Sky was published as a two-part serial in 1941.I'm still curious to read more Heinlein, in the ways in which one is curious about history, or bacteria: knowledge I'd like to have of things I'd just as soon remained at arm's length, or that I'm aware of as colonizing my body in various ways.

  • J.G. Keely
    2019-03-04 08:16

    This novella collects two of Heinlein's earliest stories, both from 1941, but unlike other such combinations, the two stories were originally meant to go together, and form a continuous narrative. As this is a very early attempt from Heinlein, it wouldn't be surprising to find his writing rough and flawed, but it's an unexpectedly solid yarn.His writing is direct and unobtrusive; something many authors aspire to, but few ever manage. Even at this early stage, his naturalistic prose sets him above van Vogt or other pulp authors.The story, itself is straightforward; an adventure with some light politics and quite a bit of violence. It is also one of the earliest depictions of a 'generation ship' on a mission to colonize far worlds.There is also a central philosophical theme, a staple in Heinlein, this time concerning the fact that the crew have grown exceedingly detached from reality, thanks to the long voyage. Numerous generations pass in space and the crew forget their mission, their history on Earth, and the most basic tenets of science. Instead they persist in a murky feudalism, fighting over territory in ship and considering 'Earth', 'The Trip', and the destination (Proxima) to be mystical, supernatural concepts.Heinlein is able to play a quite amusing satire on religion, tradition, and ignorance here, successfully providing the characters with very realistic and unusual responses to the world based on their own limited understanding. They are not merely modern characters transplanted in place and time, Heinlein works hard to give them a psychology fit to their situation.Unfortunately, in this brutal, superstitious, uneducated, warlike place, women are fully second-class citizens. Heinlein doesn't harp on this--in fact it rarely comes up--but when it does, it is not entirely pleasant to see. However, it's not an unrealistic portrayal, and it would hardly have made sense to depict a violent, ignorant society as having modern, egalitarian social mores.Heinlein could have tried to make some stronger female characters living under this repressive structure; or alternately, used this as another opportunity to indulge in satire, but instead, we get a bit of the old sci fi boys' club. However, these occurrences are few and late in the book and hardly detract from the story, as a whole.This is a well-crafted adventure story with satire, politics, and intriguing, active characters. Certainly not Heinlein's strongest work, but not without its charm.

  • David
    2019-03-11 04:29

    This is one of the original "lost generation ship" stories, a novella stitched together from two of Heinlein's earlier short stories. Considering it was originally written in the 40s, Orphans of the Sky still holds up reasonably well as pure science fiction, with little to betray its golden age origins other than the fact that all the tropes are so well worn by now.The "crew" of the Ship has never known anything but the Ship, a massive multideck vessel which to them is literally the entire universe. They have no conception of movement, or there being anything "outside" the Ship. They have long since lost their understanding of the ship's technology and origins, even as they do the rote things necessary to keep its systems running. "Scientists" are now basically bards reciting holy writ passed down without understanding. And in the upper decks of the Ship dwell "muties," mutants who are descended (supposedly) from mutineers.The story is about a young man on track to become a scientist who is captured by a band of muties led by a particularly intelligent two-headed leader named Jim-Bob. Jim-Bob, with a library of his own which he actually understands better than the so-called crew does, shows Hugh the stars and the true nature of the Ship. When Hugh goes back to tell his fellow crewmembers the truth, it goes over about as well as you'd expect. What follows is more than one mutiny and betrayal, as Hugh tries to make everyone understand that the Ship is not only moving, but that it's about to arrive at its destination.Okay, Heinlein's rocket science, as usual, holds up much better than his biology, and there aren't even any Heinleinian women here, just "wives" who are little more than chattel and don't have a single line of dialog. This was not one of his more progressive stories, but while there aren't a lot of politics in it either, it still packs a fair amount of flinty and contrarian human nature, treated honestly and realistically, even when the humans in question are two-headed mutants. People react stupidly, some adhere to their religious faith in the face of contrary evidence, others doubt, others scheme, some are opportunists and some are idealists. Heinlein's strength, besides his imagination, was always in presenting very human characters with human foibles rather than archetypes. Well, aside from the women.This is clearly one of his early works, and while not one of the better ones, it's also far from the worst. It's a quick classic adventure that has left its fingerprints on every story of lost generation ships that followed.

  • Cheryl
    2019-03-05 06:15

    Some clever ideas, esp. re' 'scientists' as priests, but too much is undeveloped. And the misogyny is completely gratuitous - when we finally briefly meet them, we learn that women are quite literally chattel, generally not even allowed to keep their own names. (The GR default cover is absolute nonsense on several levels.) I do like Hugh, though, idealistic, intelligent, curious. Clearly this was written for teen boys, the primary audience for SF back in the day.

  • Ben Babcock
    2019-02-27 05:26

    Second Heinlein collection in this book (the first being The Man Who Sold the Moon). Now we have two related 1940s novellae fixed-up into a single novel in the 1960s. Oh, science fiction publishing, you are so fun.Orphans of the Sky is one of the ur–generation ship tales. Heinlein immediately seizes on the possibility that something could go so disastrously wrong during the voyage such that the entire crew forgets it is on a ship. For all intents and purposes, the Ship is now the universe. Anyone, like Hugh, who challenges this worldview is accused of heresy. (There’s a nice little shout-out to Galileo’s trials and tribulations with the Catholic Church.) This plot was executed most memorably for me in “For the World Is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky,” an episode in the third season of the original Star Trek.There’s something about generation ships that doesn’t really apply to me as a motif. I really didn’t like Journey into Space, and I wasn’t crazy about this book either. As far as the writing goes, it is pretty much what I expect from Heinlein now—a lot of conversation, a lot of scientific speculation and libertarianism disguised as the desire for open scientific inquiry.The plot is mediocre. Lots of repetitive actions culminating in an all-too-predictable betrayal and a mad dash towards near-certain death. It goes through the motions, follows certain forms, and so it is minimally fulfilling in that barest of ways. While it is true that this is among the first (if not the first) story of its kind, I suspect that others who have since picked up on these themes have used them better, or in more interesting ways, or with better characters.I also can’t forgive the level of misogyny in this book. Heinlein’s sexism in The Man Who Sold the Moon is problematic, sure, but mostly for its erasure of women—he does at least feature a single woman scientist, even if she is objectified. But in Orphans of the Sky, women play a far smaller and worse role. Women of the Ship, it seems, exist to be wives and breeders. Hugh “selects” two women, graciously “allowing” the first to keep her own name because she behaves. The other, however, is “wild as a mutie” and bites Hugh, so “he had slapped her, naturally, and that should have been an end to the matter” and then “had not got around to naming her.” Later on Heinlein talks about how she is better behaved after Hugh knocks out a tooth! Because there’s nothing like trivializing domestic abuse, amirite?If you’re a diehard Heinlein completist (I’m not) or you have a particular fascination with the subgenre of generation ships (I don’t), you should probably read this. Otherwise, give it a miss.

  • Jeff Yoak
    2019-02-28 04:36

    This is a "big idea" novel for Heinlein. It tells the story of the first inter-stellar ship, planing to make a trip that will span generations. Mutiny and a general degradation of culture occur aboard and generations are born who are unable to conceive of, or believe in, a world outside the ship. The story centers on brave and clever men who start to regain this knowledge, stomping a foot on a deck plate and insisting like a similar brave man, "But still, it moves!"Heinlein's skill at envisioning future cultures emerging out of unusual circumstances is brought to a new height in Orphans. His talent for creating unforgettable characters is only aided by generations of drifting in space being bombarded by radiation as the crew has lost the knowledge to upkeep the radiation shielding. Most of his stories have settings that prevent his creating two-headed, knife-wielding philosophers, but this isn't even among the stranger elements of Orphans.

  • Andrew
    2019-03-06 06:39

    Time now for another slice of classic science fiction - this time from the pen of Robert Heinlein. I recently stumbled across a series of essays entitled "The defining science fiction of the (Insert decade) which ran from the 1950s to the 1990s. They are absolutely brilliant and it got me thinking, You see as part of the essay there was listed each year the top most influential and as the title describes defining. This title was one of them and I was instantly drawn to reading it. Well now I have - and I must admit this book has got me thinking. The first reason is purely nostalgia - its been a while since I immersed myself in classic Heinlein. This book was written in 1951 and as such exposes its short comings in science and technology, from its assumption that not breathing in mildly radioactive gas from a broken fitting is perfectly safe to the idea that a journey to the stars would only take a couple of generations. However once you accept these flaws I think it adds to the appeal of the book.The second aspect is that of the generation starship - no I am not giving spoilers as its is clearly stated on the back of the edition I was reading. This is not an uncommon idea and there have been some classics written using the idea - but this is probably the first instances (or at least the earliest) that I can remember. And then there is the final aspect- the fact that the book focuses less on the science and wonder and more on the human elements - after all even with such huge (and faith shaking) discoveries being made personal agendas and selfish drives still rear their heads. Not sure if this is a good thing or a distraction - I will have to think on that. Either way - read on its own - the book is an acceptable example of Robert Heinlein and his vision for the stars, when read in context of the year it was written you can start to appreciate why it is seen as a landmark book and deserves the attention it gets.

  • J.j. Metsavana
    2019-03-17 04:30

    Noor ja vihane Heinlein paneb hästi ja hoogsalt. Tegevus ja põnevus püsivad ja maailm on loodud lahedalt praktiliste ja küüniliste inimeste/mutantidega. Ei pea vastu ja toon siinkohal ära ühe lõigu"Üks usutaganejast teadlane, üks röövitud teadlane, üks juhm talumees, üks kahepäine koletis ja üks õunasuuruse ajuga debiilik; viis nuga, kui Joe-Jimi ühe eest lugeda; viis aju, kui Joe-Jimi kahe eest lugeda ja Bobot üldse mitte arvestada; viis aju ja viis nuga, et pea peale pöörata kogu kultuur."Kuid tegemist pole vaid hoogsa märuliga, kuna taustal kumab ka sügavam mõte, mis pisut analoogne Lapikmaa omaga. Täpsemalt üritab Heinlein nutika-lihtsustatud näide varal visualiseerida kuidas nii religioosne kui materjalistlik vaade mingile maailmale võivad olla üheaegselt vildakad, kui vaadeldakse kõike liiga kitsast punktist. Teadlased ja usumehed vaidlevad maailma tekke ja olemuse üle aga tõde on lõpuks märksa erinev ja suurem.

  • Marta Duò
    2019-03-08 07:30

    Breve ma geniale.Un'immensa astronave, alla deriva nello spazio da innumerevoli generazioni, ospita un'umanità regredita, che considera libri sacri i testi scientifici, incapace di comprenderli e concepire un universo al di fuori della Nave. La società è divisa tra umani e mutanti, i nati deformi in seguito alle radiazioni provenienti dall'esterno, fazioni in lotta nella reciproca ignoranza. Tra i mutanti spicca Joe-Jim, dalle due teste sagge, avido lettore e pensatore. Hugh invece è l'umano che scoprirà la verità e la meraviglia dello spazio esterno, lottando per diffondere la sua scoperta e guadagnandosi l'accusa di eresia.La vita all'interno della Nave è resa perfettamente, claustrofobica come le menti degli abitanti, ed è affascinante la suddivisione in livelli a diversa gravità, fino alla gravità zero che segna il confine con l'ignoto, l'Universo.Non assegno cinque stelline per due motivi. Il primo è stilistico e riguarda la tendenza del POV a essere alquanto ballerino, togliendo potenziale a diverse parti. Il secondo riguarda il ruolo delle donne, ovvero assolutamente assente. Senza nessun motivo legato alla trama, le donne sono solo esseri ottusi e stupidi: voglio vederlo come il simbolo definitivo della degenerazione della società umana a uno stadio fortemente patriarcale, ma non ne sono così convinta. Resta comunque un aspetto che non intacca la meraviglia che suscita questa breve storia.

  • Mary Catelli
    2019-03-21 10:16

    A classic of the science fiction genre, a defining one for the trope of generation ship.Hugh Hoyland lives on the Ship. After a venture to low weight decks, where he's endangered by a mutie attack, we find the humans living in farms on the high weight decks, and he hears the religious text on the Mutiny and is inducted into the ranks of the priestly scientists.It's when he ends up a prisoner among the muties that he learns much of what the astute reader has pieced together earlier. The tale involves a two-headed mutant, lots of books, a violent war, the question of whether what Hugh sees is real, the Converter in duplicate, and but very spoilery fact: (view spoiler)[In a later Heinlein work, characters mention that the ship was traced. They found a surviving human colony on the moon, and a completely dead ship. (hide spoiler)]

  • Leah
    2019-03-18 07:41

    Because this sentence exists "the other wife, the unnamed one, kept out of his sight after losing a tooth, quite suddenly"

  • Leo Walsh
    2019-03-17 10:14

    I am always of two minds about Heinlein. He writes clear, easy to follow prose. And he is better at drawing an engaging character than his peers in the classic age of SF, like Asimov and Clarke; One need only think of Mycroft Holmes and Mannie from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress to understand what I am saying. And his ideas are pretty good too. Unlike most world-builders, he doesn't get too carried away. And I love the way that he just mentions a technology, and doesn't harp on its origin or exactly how it looks. But Heinlein is also very much a man of his times. He can be sexist -- despite his futile attempts at Feminism in Time Enough for Love, where Feminism equates to liking sex and being able to shoot a gun. Or thinking that the way to win a woman's heart is to "mind meld" with her as she dances erotically, so she can understand why men like women so much. At least, that's how Valentine Michael Smith went about wooing women in Stranger in a Strange LandYou get the point. Even to the 1940's and 1950's, he was a bit backwards. But, at least, he was aware that he was. And tried...Another fault is that Heinlein can be a bit callous. His characters do not "walk a mile" in other people's shoes. Instead, they function like detached, completely rational Free Market decision machines. Which, of course, is ludicrous.Both his strengths and weaknesses are on full display in Orphans of the Sky. Heinlein presents us with a relatively likable protagonist in Hugh Hoyland, whose "tribe" selects him to be a "Scientist." We quickly piece together that the tribe is living on a spaceship. And that they are living on a spaceship, but have no concept that there is anything outside the tube. I especially like how Heinlein took the concept of isolation, and how that caused the humans to create a religion to explain life. And how that very religious system came to limit personal freedom. In fact, I think he conveys the ideas much better here than he does in his other anti-religious polemic, Revolt in 2100. And it also seems more natural, and less forced. Another great thing about Heinlein is his openness to the strange. His characters do not judge books by their covers. And he makes it clear that the human's treatment of the Muties, most of whom who are mutants and look different, is wrong. As was their treatment of people who thought differently. Like Hugh during his trial for blasphemy -- saying that the ship moved. But, alas, Heinlein's weaknesses are flaunted here as well. And Orphans of the Sky displays a few. Like the story's lack of female characters. in fact, the women here all have a subservient role. As if their only function were as baby carriers. Now, granted, this may have been an artifact of the culture. But even the open-minded Hugh never questioned that. All in all, a decent book that I read because I found it for pennies at a used book store, and it was the only volume I have never read of Heinlein's Future History. Now that I am done, I will leave Heinlein to rest. Appreciating him at his best: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress still ranks among my all-time science fiction favorites. To his worst -- the creepy, often cringe-worthy erotic solipsism of Time Enough For Love and Friday. Leo's Blog:

  • John
    2019-03-24 10:44

    1977 grade A1995 grade A-2016 grade B+/A-Failed generation ships were a pretty common theme in early hard SciFi. In fact, some publishers would give an idea to multiple authors and ask for each to write their own interpretation. No two that I read ever came out the same. The following description is not really a spoiler, but lightly describes the set up similar to that on a book jacket. After this review there are two other book themes mentioned. If anyone knows the names of those stories, please let me know in the comments. I read them long before I started keeping records and would like to read them again.In this story, the crew structure has failed for some reason and, after many many generations, degenerated into a basically feudal society while the unfailing mega-ship drifts on. The officers have become basically a religious group who misinterpret the scientific texts and continue their governing power as the Scientists. The regular crew are now the farming/hunting Peasants. These humans live on the outer decks with gravity. The central low gravity decks are where the waring mutants live and the ship's controls are located. The story is about one human who manages to find the controls and figure out the truth.The book is short, and took less than a day to read. It is also a fast and fun read despite the descending grades and the implausibility of the end. It is told in two sections that were initially published as separate stories. I will read the novel again eventually.The first forgotten novel also had two areas as I recall. One was a plant area that had become a jungle in the intervening years. It is found again and I think the ship is just returning to earth after aborting the trip because of problems. The story is a bit more abstract than Orphans of the Sky.The second forgotten title might be a short story. It has a long ship with the engines not running. To keep the ship moving, the people use a machine to activate a space anchor at the bow end of the ship. They then proceed to move the anchor to the back of the ship thus moving the ship along. They have been repeating the process for a long, long time. As I recall the ship is discovered by a faster than light ship generations later.

  • Rebecca Schwarz
    2019-02-24 07:42

    I read this because it was one of the earlier examples of a story that takes place on a generation ship and I'm preparing to write a novel set on a generation ship. This is early Heinlein and I wished he hadn't mentioned women at all, sexism by omission would have seemed so much less sexist than the few sentences he included that reference women. In the first novella, the only mention of a woman is Hugh's (the main character) aunt, who looks up when he returns home but says nothing "as is fitting a woman." Her only action in the story is to bring him and his uncle dinner. In the second novella the women haven't even achieved the level of chattel. They are closer to cattle. Little more than beasts that are presumably only necessary to make more men. The main character, after improving his station in life post uprising chooses two wives. The first a widow, the uprising having freed up many excellent widows. She's uncomplaining - according to him, in any case she has no lines. He generously allows her to keep her name "Chloe." The second, a young girl who even though she bites him when he "inspects" her, he marries her anyway. He never christens her with any kind of name. The only other woman is the mustachioed hag who smiths knives and swards for the characters. Ugh. If this was some winking angle of how a uber-patriarchal society might play out, it wasn't developed enough to come off that way. As far as the boy story. It was just okay, there was a little too much Dues Ex Machina in the way certain characters saw the light and changed sides, or not, etc. as the plot moved forward. The world building on the generation ship was okay, so I guess I got what I needed as far as historical/cannon research.

  • Rhett Bruno
    2019-03-24 09:14

    I downloaded this book because I have a huge interest in "Generational Ships" in my own work and was curious to see how one of the masters handled it. Overall I love the premise. No need to summarize it in detail as this is a well known enough novel, but the idea of creating a world that has become lost in time and space is almost like a writers playground. Anything is possible, and Heinlein fills his ship with a myriad of intriguing ideas.Heinlein has this way of putting forth interesting bits of technology, but then letting it fade into the background. There is no wasted time describing how everything works and to me that's his greatest strength. You just accept the worlds he places you in, even if they might not be technologically possible. It helps his work stand up even today, his inability to avoid blatant sexism excluded. While "Orphans of the Sky" is not without its fault, such as an all to abrupt ending, I found myself unable to put this down. I suspect people in the 40's must have been even more spellbound by the story.

  • Elizabeth S. Q. Goodman
    2019-03-13 08:20

    I read it, and it was a quick Heinlein read and rather fun. However, the two appearances of women in the plot were so irrelevant and so misogynist (from the author more than the characters) that an editor might as well cut them out and change the genders of various main characters. I assure you, it would make no difference to the book, except that I wouldn't want to go back and punch Heinlein in the nose.Seriously. This one dude gets picked out at the beginning of the story for being exceptionally intelligent, so they raise his rank rather than have him threaten the establishment. The idea that some women might do the same is apparently not a figment of Heinlein's imagination, and neither is putting any women in the outcast population, or making the women other than "useless". Having read "Have Space Suit, Will Travel" some years ago, I'd thought he was better than that.

  • Merciful
    2019-03-23 07:29

    This book - like many of Heinlein's books - really blew my mind as a kid. Very trippy concept - a spaceship bound on a lightyears journey to colonize another world ran into trouble with its nuclear reactor and (at the time the novel begins) has been adrift in space now for centuries with countless generations come and gone and all knowledge of the outside world forgotten... Check it out, especially if you're a kid. It's a really cool idea.

  • Stephanie
    2019-03-09 06:27

    This is the most memorable sci-fi title of my youth. I loved the idea that people born on a deep space ship might not know that it WAS a ship, that it was the extent of the universe to them, and that the concept of "outside" would be horribly frightening. To anyone interested, this is a short one! Short & sweet. :o)======================June 2013 - finished another re-read. Still love it.

  • Quentin
    2019-02-23 04:26

    This was one of the most important books of my childhood. The questioning of authority, existential inquiry and transcendence are just some of the themes that are explored.

  • Nathaniel
    2019-03-22 02:37

    First, I love the title. "Orphans of the Sky," is one of those titles that makes me love sci-fi. Second, this is one of those books that originated--or at least was an early adopter--of ideas that have come to be central to sci-fi. In this case, the concept is a generation ship. Generation ships are slow-moving space ships that would take so long to get from point A to point B that entire generations would live and die in the ship during the journey (hence the name). According to Wikipedia, the initial versions of the story (originally published in 1941) were "one of the earliest fictional depictions of a generation ship."It's especially interesting that right along with an early depiction of a generation ship you get the early depiction of one particular way they can go wrong: nobody on the ship remembers that they're even on a ship. This is one of the oldest and most productive ideas in sci-fi, and it's still being used in stories today. Hugh Howey's Wool, for example, has basically the identical concept: a bunch of people living in a sealed environment for so long that they have forgotten why they came to be there or the nature of the world outside. Along the way, they've developed their own culture and beliefs. Of course, in Wool the people are actually in underground silos on Earth instead of on a spaceship, but it's still essentially the same idea: an enclosed community lasting multiple generations.I guess I shouldn't be surprised, though. The first time I heard of generation ships--back when I was in middle school--practically my very first story idea was identical to this one: a kid growing up in a space ship traveling between the stars where no one actually knows that they're inside a space ship. (Someone even told me the idea had been done before when I talked about it with adults I knew, but I didn't get around to reading the book they mentioned--Orphans of the Sky--for another 20 years.)There's another major theme that this book tackles: science vs. religion. Once you've got a bunch of people living on a spaceship where gravity is created by spinning the ship in a circle, it's easy to create scientists who come up with rational explanations for things that make absolutely no sense compared to our understanding of physics. So Robert Heinlein dedicates quite a lot of space to depicting "scientists" (as they're known on the ship) as basically the exact copy of your stereotypical scholastic religious zealot. They have some physics textbooks, but the physics described in them--especially gravity--makes no sense to people who know that your weight increases or decreases as you climb up or down levels in the ship. As a result, they refuse to interpret the physics textbooks literally and instead treat them as mystical or metaphorical. It's funny, because the points that Heinlein is making--which are primarily about the way that being open- or close-minded is independent of being theist or atheist--seems equally applicable in 2016 as it did when the stories were first published in 1941.These are the reasons I think the book is worth reading: it's an absolutely vital component of our early sci-fi canon.But--other than as an interesting view into sci-fi history--I can't really recommend it. It's light and fluffy enough--written with Heinlein's distinctive "Let me explain how the world works, young person" tone--but the story doesn't really make a lot of sense (especially the ending) and the characters are all drawn in crayon. It's a simplistic book, and I think that makes sense, because when sci-fi was still fresh and new coming up with the idea of a generation ship (or a story to put one in) at all was the accomplishment. There's no reason to be too harsh, I think, as long as you approach the book as a 1940s-era YA novel (which I think is what it was, although I'm not sure about the demographics of Astounding Science Fiction back then.)Lastly, I have to say a word about the women in this book: I have never read such a casually misogynistic book in my life. I think--although this is my guess based on reading a fairly large volume of Heinlein over the years--that the point he was trying to make is that in less-developed societies women were mistreated because the society placed such a premium on physical prowess. The idea being that in a technologically sophisticated society, there was room for greater appreciation of the finer things in life, which includes femininity. So, when the protagonist casually beats his second wife (at the same time, polygamy is a thing) to force her into doing whatever he says, the point is not that Heinlein approves, I think, but rather that that kind of barbarism comes hand-in-hand with a regression in science. The idea is that morality and technology are intertwined, which sort of shifts the emphasis away from sexism and towards anti-multi-culturalism. This kind of thing is why Heinlein is such a lightning rod even today, by the way. He's one of those divisive figures long after his death. If you declare that you're still an unqualified Heinlein fan, that marks you out as being a libertarian, conservative, or at least iconoclast. If you're going to be a socially conscious sci-fi fan, then you have to at least temper your admiration of him, treating him as kind of like a racist elderly relative. And that's the best case scenario.Me?I have a mixed opinion of Heinlein too, but for different reasons. His stories often don't make a lot of sense on closer inspection, but they are told with such utter, unself-conscious conviction that--if you let them--they will take you along for a fun ride. I have to admit I'm also a little jealous, because I feel like writing sci-fi was a lot easier in 1940 when all these ideas were fresh and new and nobody had done them before. But, politically, I think Heinlein deserves a lot of slack. As I said in my review of Farnham's Freehold, Heinlein's intentions were clearly towards equality. He was contemptuous of multi-culturalism, and I'm pretty sure he would have stood by my characterization that any society that wasn't technological and literate was barbaric and inferior. However, he was also clearly dedicated to the idea that all individuals are equal. If you are born and raised in an illiterate society, you're going to be barbaric, but (1) that's true of anyone of any race and (2) even barbaric societies have bravery and cleverness, but these characteristics have to be defined contextually. When it came to gender, I think he had very definite ideas that men and women are intrinsically different and so--again--he's going to violate 21st century social norms pretty brutally. But it's worth pointing out that he often depicted very smart, very independent women (frequently with a lot more talent than the men around them) and even directly confronted the insidious effects of chauvinism and discrimination on those women (I'm thinking of The Rolling Stones for this one). In other words: I think Heinlein probably got a lot of stuff wrong, but I think he deserves credit for earnestly holding to ideals of equality and fairness as he saw them. The commitment to those principles matters more, I think, than necessarily having the perfect explanation of how they should be implemented in society.Anyways, that's a bit of a digression, but hopefully an interesting one.The short version: this is vintage Heinlein and well worth reading as a window into early sci-fi. Thematically, it's as fresh today as it was when it was written. But in terms of actual enjoyment, you'd do better with a more recent take. This book is primarily of historical interest.

  • Ericka Clouther
    2019-03-03 09:39

    Fun idea for science fiction and interesting religious metaphor. People aboard a generational ship forget everything about Earth, science, and technology, and as the areas with windows to the outside are shut off, they forget even that they are on a ship, but begin to think the ship is all of existence. It's a brilliant concept and I would have loved to see how StarTrek (STNG) would have handled it. Unfortunately, Heinlein's version is not very deeply thoughtful. The characters are not developed very deeply, the society is very primitive and extremely stubborn, and most disappointingly, the women never get revenge for all the sexism inflicted on them. The mutated humans are a fun twist, especially Siamese twins Joe and Jim. While Joe-Jim is not treated with a lot of dignity by other members of the crew, they are accorded a fair amount of respect by Heinlein, at least relative to the other characters.

  • Andi
    2019-03-19 04:18

    review coming... was good up until the hero took two women and beat them up when they didn't do as they were told or when he was displeased by them. :/So, god damn it, Sci-Fi was most certainly not for girls back in the 50's and 60's. I liked the idea of a ship that kept building layers and layers ontop of itself and that the original 'explorers' and their 'mission' became lost over time. But, where the hell are all the women? Not a single woman was involved in this story. If they were involved, they were involved in passing and as sexual insturments for the males. And, as I mentioned, the main character - Hugh - apparently during a crucial moment in the story (off page, mind you) cracked his partner in the face because she wasn't co-operating. Then in the final act of the story, he kicked her in the face because she wasn't co-operating (again). What is with that? This was a problem I had with reading all three Logans Run books and Planet of the Apes. The women in those stories were horribly treated by their parents or were non-existent to the narrative. He's an interesting writer, that Heinlein, I'm just warry about reading other pieces by him.

  • Joseph
    2019-03-14 10:43

    I don't know if this was actually the first generation starship story, but it was almost certainly the most influential. Hugh Hoyston was born (as were his to-the-nth-generation ancestors) on the Ship, but to him it's just the world -- it's only natural that the Decks curve and that your weight decreases as you ascend. Then he gets captured by the Muties (Mutineers/Mutants -- take your pick) and their two-headed leader Joe-Jim, and discovers that there's actually an outside to the world ...This is relatively early Heinlein (1941) and short (two linked ... novelettes, maybe?); but one thing it demonstrates beyond question is that Heinlein could write. The prose is economical but evocative and goes down smoothly. The characters are, for the most part, engaging, although the less said about the women (about whom, in point of fact, he wrote almost nothing in this story) the better.

  • Jaan
    2019-03-01 02:40

    Heade ideedega raamat generatsioonidelaevast ja sellest, kuidas vana teadus on aja jooksul muteerunud religiooniks, kuid lõpu viimases veerandis hakkas iga keeratava leheküljega tunduma, et asi saab natuke liiga järsu finaali, kuigi materjali oleks veel teist nii pika loo kirjutamiseks. Nii ta ka läks. Sujuv lugemine, kui soov midagi ette võtta, mis ühe või kahe õhtuga läbi saab. Samuti soovitan võrdluseks ka neile, kellele meeldis Kantileen Leibowitzile, kuna mõlemas on mandunud tsivilisatsiooni järeltulijate jaoks kunagised teadmised kaduma läinud ja moondunud usuks.

  • AndrewP
    2019-03-07 03:43

    The story of a group of forward thinking people who begin to realize that their 'world' is actually the inside of an ark like starship. Over many generations and various mutinies, all knowledge of their actual situation has been lost and replaced with weird superstition and religion. A pretty good story and nice to read an older classic from one of the masters. By today's standards, this may seem a little short, but back in the day authors didn't need 600 pages to tell a story.

  • Mike (the Paladin)
    2019-02-22 09:44

    One of my long ago Heinlein reads and one of the (I'm sad to say) less satisfying "colony starship with a crew who have forgotten they are on a ship and think it's the whole universe", stories.I'm pretty sure that short of a longer synopsis and a few spoilers that about says it. A mutiny on a colonization starship ends in most everybody in charge getting killed. the survivors farm the hydroponic gardens and time passes, until that rare breed of individual is born.... a protagonist.

  • Сибин Майналовски
    2019-03-14 03:26

    Едно от първите неща на Хайнлайн, които съм чел през живота си - във великолепен превод на руски в култовото списание „Техника — молодежи“. Сега си го припомних и в български превод. За всички фенове на космическата опера (каквато за жалост все по-рядко се среща, още по-малко пък качествена) — горещо препоръчвам! :)