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ORPHANS OF THE SKY Mass Market Paperback – Dec 1 2001

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Baen Books (Dec 1 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671318454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671318451
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 1.5 x 17.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 109 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #59,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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.

Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

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
Originally published as two short stories, ("Universe" and "Common Sense"), this short novel showcases Heinlein's penchant for cynical social commentary. "Common Sense" is the sequel to "Universe" so the two stories fit together well to tell a single intriguing tale, based on an unusual, but not-too-unbelievable situation. An enormous, self-sufficient colonial expedition has been sent out towards a distant star. But human weakness interferes with the designers' well-laid plans when a mutiny leads to the death of every officer capable of piloting the ship. Generations later, when the story opens, the ship is still wandering aimlessly through space, the indefatigable engineering systems still running flawlessly; but the "crew" has lost virtually all knowledge of what their mission was, and no longer even realize they are in a moving vessel. The ship is their entire Universe, and when one man discovers otherwise, events unfold that rock their society to its foundations. "Universe" is very entertaining in a cerebral way, as we see how the ship's rules and traditions and history have become distorted into legends, myths, and of course, religion. Heinlein's practical knowledge of ship's organization serves him well here, too, as he paints a portrait of the working (if not exactly ideal) society that developed during the generations following the mutiny. And as usual, he pairs a good-hearted but naïve young protagonist (Hugh Hoyland) with a cynical, world-wise man-who-knows. The fact that Heinlein chose a two-headed mutant (Joe-Jim) for this role seems a bit over the top, but Joe-Jim is certainly an outsider, and the presence of large numbers of physically mutated persons seems reasonable enough under the circumstances.Read more ›
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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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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Orphans of the sky - Robert Heinlein
This has got to be one of Heinlein's best books; a real find if you can get it! The story is set on a giant spaceship, five miles long, one and a half wide, a colony ship on it's way to Alpha Centaurii. The ship is a spinning cylinder with hundreds of decks like the rings in a tree trunk - centrifugal force gives the impression of gravity on outer decks, while the inner ones, near the axis, are weightless, and it is in the axis that command was situated.
Shortly after it set off, centuries ago from the story's perspective, there was a mutiny and the Captain and much of the original crew was lost. Those left of the crew abandoned the central command axis, and settled permanently in the outer decks. What was left of the mutineers, injured, irradiated and mutating, retreated to the axis. And thus it stayed for hundreds of years, the ship drifting on with no-one in control.
Society has degenerated into a kind of medieval feudal structure, with strict class hierarchies, and even a priest caste. The "Captain" is like an emperor, his "scientists" tend the holy machines. Special poets recite the manuals and the rotas as though they were scripture. No-one really knows what all the machines are anymore, or how they work, or even what the manuals mean. All the books have become holy, the ship's routines have become religious acts, and the ship is now considered to be the entire universe. In the beginning, there was the ship.....
Our hero is a teenager, who lives in one of the "villages" along the outer decks. He and some of his friends explore the forbidden upper decks, which are dark and cold, and grow steadily more weightless as they near the axis. Up a hundred decks they go, until they finally meet the "muties".
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