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Tunnel in the Sky [Mass Market Paperback]

Robert A. Heinlein
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Oct. 12 1987
It was just a test . . .
But something had gone wrong. Terribly wrong. What was to have been a standard ten-day survival test had suddenly become an indefinite life-or-death nightmare.
Now they were stranded somewhere in the universe, beyond contact with Earth . . . at the other end of a tunnel in the sky. This small group of young men and women, divested of all civilized luxuries and laws, were being forced to forge a future of their own . . . a strange future in a strange land where sometimes not even the fittest could survive!
". . . fascinating . . . ingenious . . . this a book in the grand tradition of high literature!"
-- The New York Times

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From the Publisher

Like many people, I go way, way back with Heinlein. My very favorite book (and one that stands out in my mind--and with much affection--to this day) is Tunnel in the Sky. I really, really wanted to go off to explore new worlds with a covered wagon and horses, like the hero does at the very end of the book. But one of the nice things about Robert Heinlein is that he's got something for everyone. One of my best friends has a different favorite: Podkayne of Mars. Go figure.
                        --Shelly Shapiro, Executive Editor

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Away From Home Dec 16 2013
By John M. Ford TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
This is one of Robert Heinlein’s science fiction books for young people, although it can be enjoyed by adults as well. Unlike many of the author’s older books, the future portrayed in this one has not “aged” quite so much. The society and technology still create a believable background for the story to play out.

The Story: Rod Walker is preparing to take the final examination in his survival course. He and his classmates will be dropped, one-by-one, onto a hostile planet where they must survive for several days using their wits and whatever small cache of supplies each has decided to bring. Whether they cooperate, compete, or just avoid the others is up to each individual. After some discussion with his sister and “wise old man” teacher, Rod assembles his supplies and sets out.

What follows is almost a retelling of [lord of the flies]. At the end of the testing period, the survivors are not picked up. They must continue surviving and face the possibility that they will *never* be picked up. As they work out how to do this, there is much discussion about group dynamics, the proper role of government, and strategies for long-term survival. Rod has frequent flashback to lessons from his teacher.

Heinlein makes his oft-repeated points about self-reliance, responsibility, and good citizenship. He does a good job getting all of this across as part of an engaging and suspenseful adventure story. Readers who enjoy this style should also read the author’s Starship Troopers. (Read the book; don’t see the very stupid movie based on it.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Survivalist Hi-jinks with a Libertarian Viewpoint June 18 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Although I am not a rabid fan of Mr. Heinlein, considered by many to be the grandmaster of science fiction, I do believe that Tunnel in the Sky is one of his better efforts.
The book, which apparently was originally slated for the juvenile market, tells the story of Rod Walker, a bright young man on the verge of graduating from a futuristic high school. In the book's future, the Earth is a vastly overcrowded planet, and teleportation has supplanted the internal combustion engine and its (hell)spawn as a form of mass transportation, especially over great distances. In the book, teleportation also presents a solution to Earth's bloated population: all the excess people were 'teleported' to new worlds surrounding distant stars, and as such they became de facto colonists.
It turns out that the young Mr. Walker aspires to be an explorer of these new worlds, or at least involved in some way with their governance and/or exploration. As one of these 'Space-Age' pioneers, he could participate in establishing a beach-head for humanity in some far-flung area of the universe, scout the terrain to get the lay of the land, and give the all-clear for human habitation and colonization. Under this system, he could even a group of colonists to a new world.
However, in order to do this, Rod must first pass a survivalist's exam. Before embarking on his challenge, to which his parents vehemently object, he gets more than a little helpful advice and a few useful life skills from his older sister, a futuristic sort of Amazonian warrior, and a schoolteacher named the 'Deacon' (an apt title for he preaches quite a lot) who thinks fondly of Rod, calling him 'a hopeless romantic born into an age of practical men'.
I think Heinlein wrote this yarn as an extended lesson on good citizenship for minors.
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A good read, if you like SF, even the third time. The story is aimed at the juvenile reader and I know that my taste and interest has changed over the years. When I first read this, back in my youth, I identified with Rod and his friends for the adventure and practical survival side of the drama. Decades later, I find equal interest in elements of the story - the (very straightforward) use of politics to gain control of people - that went right over my head the first time. The envisioned star-gate technology is still far beyond our capabilities. This is one of the Master's books that has aged really well.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I've read this many times, it's always great. Aug. 1 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is an excellent adventure by the main charachter. I always enjoy the libertarian viewpoints countered with the mostly socialist/communist settings he portrays. Heinlein has this theme in many of his books, of moving from bondage in an overly controled society(and includes well thought out reasons to how society progressed to that state), to freedom and anarchary, then finding equilibriam between the two in a free, but structured society(this is also a strong theme in 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress'). This book couples that theme with coming of age, and survival. When I first read this book when I was 13 it prompted me to learn about survival and gardening, and when I just re-read it a few weeks ago(I'm 24 now) I reflected on the state of government and our place within. A thought-provoking, funny at times, tragic at times, and in all excellent as Heinlein always is. I highly reccomend this book.
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Format:Mass Market Paperback
One of the best fiction books I ever read. When I first read it as an 8th grader, I couldn't stop thinking of what I would do if I were stranded on a strange planet. How would I survive? How would I protect myself from alien creatures? How could I anticipate unknown dangers? How could I find directions? And a host of other survival-related questions.
These are still the questions that need to be answered as we think of exploring space.
When I was a Boy Scout, whenever I learned another constellation, or learned how to use a compass, I occasionally remembered this book and how important these skills could be to me in a survival-type situation.
Definitely a great book to get any young adult thinking about serious issues.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The book that started it all for me
What an awsome read this book was for me. This is the book that got me reading sci fi in the first place. Read more
Published on June 24 2002 by yitzchok
5.0 out of 5 stars An Awesome Book!!!
"Tunnel in the Sky" is one of Robert A. Heinlein's juvenile science fiction novels, which he wrote to target the young adult audience. Read more
Published on June 15 2002 by rzaster
5.0 out of 5 stars Heinlein at his best
Tunnel in the sky was the first Heinlein book I read. I haven't stopped. "Red Planet", "Have a Space suit will travel", his all famous "Stranger in a strange land", "Citizen of the... Read more
Published on May 26 2002 by Zachary T. Tindell
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be a Real School Course
Heinlein felt that anyone who could not do everything from plan an invasion, change a diaper, butcher a hog, write a sonnet, design a building, or program a computer was at least... Read more
Published on April 30 2002 by Patrick Shepherd
5.0 out of 5 stars A book with more than meets the eye
I have read this book several times but not for quite a number of years. At the time of my first read, I had read most of what Heinlein had written up to that point (I think my... Read more
Published on Jan. 15 2002 by John S. Anderson
5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting, adventurous and innovative science fiction book
Heinlein once again demonstrates his great writing skills with this story. This is a great adventure with a lot of action and overall great creative science fiction.. Read more
Published on Jan. 14 2002 by Michael Rosenfeld
4.0 out of 5 stars A lesser-known Heinlein novel that is really superb
Most sci-fi fans know Heinlein for big books like Stranger in a Strange Land. Heinlein wrote a number of shorter novels that really are worth reading
In Tunnel in the Sky,... Read more
Published on Aug. 23 2001 by Joanna Daneman
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite Heinlein book
...(unfortunate acronym!) is the book that introduced me to Robert Heinlein and science fiction many, many years ago. Read more
Published on Aug. 15 2001 by Smallchief
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