Spoiler-Free Review: Orphans of the Sky

Book Cover
‘Two bodies attract each other directly as the product of their masses and inversely as the square of their distance.’ It sounds like a rule for simple physical facts, does it not? Yet it is nothing of the sort; it was the poetical way the old ones had of expressing the rule of propinquity which governs the emotion of love.”

Author: Robert A. Heinlein

Can you have an abusive relationship with an author who died before you were born?

Podkayne of Mars, Stranger in a Strange Land, now Orphans of the Sky. I just can’t seem to leave you Robert. You hurt me, and hurt me, and still I come back.

This book is without question the best scifi story of all the Heinlein novel’s I’ve read: A generational spaceship that has forgotten it’s on a generational voyage. If that’s not enough, there was a war at some point. This resulted in a chunk of the crew exiled into the part of the ship with limited radiation shielding, leading to horrible mutations.

Where’s Captain Kirk when you need him?

I mostly liked this book. I liked how the characters are smart, but often fall into thinking only about their own immediate wants and desires instead of putting their issues aside and helping humanity. It’s very human.

I wish there was more thought put into the mutants as a culture. I just didn’t understand the structure of the gangs or how they live. Admittedly, I don’t want to know what they eat so far from the hydroponics area!

I really liked the first half where the characters were figuring out the truth about their situation. I was even okay when every random guess our hero’s made was luckily the right one. What got me about this book… was the treatment of women. They are literally an afterthought in the story. If I wanted a great Sci-Fi story that treated women like furniture, I’d read Isaac Asimov thank you.

I am by no means some kind of male-hating feminist. This is not some #herstory #girlpower rant. About the middle of the book the protagonist does something good and gets his pick of the women. He picks one, and when she shows open hostility toward him, he shrugs and says she will learn to like him. This is the protagonist. He’s not putting on a show of being evil for plot reasons. He’s not pretending to be mean to spare her true cruelty in some sort of meet-cute. No. That’s just how the protagonist views women.

Treatment of women aside, it is truly great scifi. If you can get over the issues I mentioned… No! I am not going to let myself think about what the mutants MUST have been eating… I highly recommend this book to fans of scifi. It’s not a new concept, but usually when you see the generational spaceship that forgot their history, there’s some sort of elaborate solar/eco-system that can easily trick people into thinking they are on a planet. This is the first time I have seen this plot where it’s obvious to the audience that they are on a spaceship, but bulkheads and decks are all the characters know, the very idea of a planet is mythical to them. It’s really well done.

Side note: I now want to read a story about a successful generational ship. I want to see group of humans who have never lived on a planet before have to deal with something as mundane as weather!

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