©1965 Robert Heinlein; (P)2009 Audible, Inc.
Originally published in two parts, Orphans of the Sky is a brilliant treatment of the concept of a multi-generational interstellar voyage (or "generation ship"). Or, at least the first half is.
In the first part, "Universe," we meet a mostly agrarian society living in the lower decks of The Ship. The civilized Crew (led by the elite Scientists and headed by the Captain) live in the lower (outer) decks where gravity is strongest; the upper (inner) decks are where where gravity is light and the Muties (mutant descendants of the original mutineers) rule.
This is a journey gone wrong...a mutiny shortly after take-off disrupted the ship's society, and after many generations, the crew has forgotten they live on a spaceship...they think of the Ship as being the whole of the Universe. A young scientist, Hugh, learns more when he is captured by the Muties.
"Universe" has been hailed as one of the best and most-important sci-fi novellas ever. It is the first instance of a "generation ship" concept, an idea which has been copied many times. I'm not a particular fan of Robert Heinlein, but this one is great.
I have less good things to say about "Common Sense," the second half of the book. Hugh, now armed with the truth and a cohort of brutal Muties tries to convince the Scientists and Crew about the true nature of the ship, and that they should steer it to its destination. "Universe" was a seminal, ground-breaking work. "Common Sense" finished up the story (if it needed finishing), but I find it particularly unsatisfying.
This is the second audiobook narrated by Eric Michael Summerer that I've heard, and he remains a capable and effective narrator.
This is a classic Heinlein science fiction novel about a generation ship transiting the stars, the descendants of whose crew have lost knowledge about their mission or the truth about their world. This is not an original idea but this early book may have been the first to explore it. The protagonist finds out the truth and struggles to convince others, including the power-hungry captain.
The book is fast-paced and easy to listen to. The narration is of good quality. Despite the age of the book there are few scientific or technological faux pas. The end, when it comes, seems sudden and slightly contrived. Still, it was a good and enjoyable read and a great first Heinlein for me!
Heinlein's concept of a group of Earthlings hurtling through space on a giant spaceship but not realizing it is a spaceship has been "borrowed" by many other writers. This is the brilliantly-written original. It was the basis for radio shows on "X Minus One" and "Dimension X." It was the conceptual parent of "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky" on the original Star Trek series and, more recently, "City of Ember." Great narration. I highly recommend this.
Dr. Nils Rasmussen
The premise for this story is so unique and brilliant, it was later adapted into an acted radio drama by the 1950's program "Dimension X" entitled "Universe" (look it up!).
I have never come across a work of fiction (in ANY genre) that compare with the premise of this story. The Pixar film "Wall-E" actually borrowed a few on it's main ideas, but aside from that, you won't find anything else like it out there. Definitely worth the credit.
My ONLY complaint of this audio book would be that the narration was slightly sub par. It was by no means horrible, but there was left room for improvement.
9.3 / 10
Anyone who likes Heinlein's work should enjoy this story. It's not one of my favorites, but it _is_ Heinlein and that is always worth a read/listen.
This tale deals with throwing off the myths and stories of youth and taking healthy skepticism in appropriate directions.
I'm familiar with the reader from his work on The Dice Tower podcast but this was my first encounter with his professional life. I was very pleased with the variety of voices he used. He captured the flavor of Heinlein's work very successfully, making the story flow effortlessly.
This book impressed me. The idea of a massive ship designed to carry generations of humans and the dystopian society that occurs when it's descendants have forgotten the ship's original purpose is a truly original and fantastic setting ahead of it's time. Eric Michael Summerer's reading was superb. He gave personality and tone to each character.
I cut my teeth on Heinlein; he gets a fair bit of the credit for my lifelong deep love of science fiction. I love him and many of his works very much.
This book, however, was a painful listen. The first half wasn't bad in terms of world-building, though the characterizations were shallow and stereotypical to a greater degree than I'm used to even in that era's SF. But even so, I found little to enjoy in it. It was a grim look at a rigid, unpleasant, ignorant, and violent society. I had hopes for the second half, when discoveries were made and changes were clearly to follow. But there were plot holes and glaring inconsistencies everywhere, and the shallowest sort of emotional manipulation.
Worst of all, it wasn't until the very end, almost as an afterthought -- oh, right, gotta have females in order to make more men -- that any women were even mentioned, and even then they were little more than livestock.
The narration was competent, I suppose, but no more than that, coming across as pretty much as cliched as too much of the writing in this book.
I don't know, maybe Heinlein was short of funds or needed to submit something to fulfill a contract, so he pulled this out of a drawer and blew the dust off it. It's certainly a long, long way from his best work. I can't even call it good.
I've deleted the audiobook, since there's no chance I'll be listening to it again. I certainly can't recommend it.
My taste differs from kid books to gory horror books.
This is two short stories put together and they are not of the same quality. The first half was originally call Universe and was published in Astounding Science Fiction Stories in May 1941. It is a very good story about a generation ship. The occupants don't know they are in a ship and believe the ship to be the entire universe. The science, religion and politics of living in a ship that has devolved makes for interesting reading. I would give Universe five stars.
THEY RIDE HORSES, NOT HOUSES
The second story is called Common Sense and Astounding published it in Oct of 1941. It is my feeling that due to the popularity of Universe, Astounding pressured Heinlein to come out with this sequel. The story seems rushed, has very little interesting and is mostly an action story. I would give it two stars.
The two stories were put together in book form in 1963, the first American edition was published in 1964. I don't know where Audible gets 1965? I have the hard cover and it is a better read than a listen, or there are several collections, such as Off The Main Sequence which have the stories individually. That way you could read Universe and skip Common Sense.
NON-STOP AND THE DARK BEYOND THE STARS
I love this whole concept, although Heinlein was not the first, Don Wilcox wrote a generation ship story first according to wiki. My favorites in this category are Non-Stop by Brain Aldiss and The Dark Beyond The Stars By Frank M. Robinson, both available at Audible. Of course Arthur C. Clarke approaches it from a different angle with Rendezvous With Rama, also available at Audible and a great book.
This is an early example of an SF classic, and for that reason alone is worth a listen. The theme is that of a group of people on a Generation Starship, who do not realize that they are in an enclosed metal vessel, nor do they know where they are headed. It is an intriguing concept, although it has been done better by other writers (particularly Brian Aldiss) as this story tends to peter out anti-climactically towards the end.end. The reader did a satisfactory job of narration.
Sometimes the appropriate response to reality is to go insane. Reviewer at BiblioSanctum.
This wasn’t my favorite Heinlein book, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love the premise behind this one. I don’t read enough stories about generational ships. I found everything about this fascinating from the ship-based religion which is much like Christianity fused with various other religions. There were moments when you just wanted to smack the characters and tell them to take a chance. They’re so resistant to what Hugh tries to get them to see, but that can be said of real life as well. So, while I wasn’t over the moon about this story, I did really love the ideas it played with.
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