“Orphans of the Sky” is a classic piece of science fiction written in 1951 by author Robert A. Heinlein. Text taken from Amazon about the author is says: “He was a four-time winner of the Hugo Award for his novels Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), Starship Troopers (1959), Double Star (1956), and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966). “. A few of his other works have been made into movies. The audiobook is expertly narrated by Eric Summerer.
The story was originally released as two separate novellas published in Universe magazine in 1941 and both were later published as a single book in 1963. I picked up this book initially because of Eric’s narration of “Way Station” and wanted to listen to something else by this narrator. I was not dissatisfied with the adventure, fun, and emotional journey the book took me on. The two stories take up 228 pages and the audiobook was just shy of five hours in length. Even if you are not a fan of classical science fiction, this work is a piece of literary art compared to so much that exists today in the science fiction genre. I found it interesting that the book only contained two long chapters, which appear to be where the first novella ended and the second began. It should also be noted that the US Audible edition, at the time of this review, is unavailable for purchase due to what appears a changing of content rights ownership.
Because the author is deceased, let me use this paragraph of the review to speak about the audiobook’s narration which is often reserved for one of the last paragraphs of my reviews. As stated above, I picked up this book solely because it was narrated by Eric Summerer and that Science Fiction is one of my favorite genres. I had no other details about what to expect. I have mainly been focused on more contemporary Sci-Fi, but Eric has helped educate me on the importance and beauty found in the classical Sci-Fi works. Eric is able to bring a story to life by narrating the many different characters with their own unique voices. The audio was well produced and of high quality. There was no issue with any background noises or volume inconstancies often plaguing other audio narrations in the genre. I will continue to pick up works by this narrator as I have never been disappointed by his narration or the works he has narrated. As stated in a previous review, if you are a fan of board gaming, Eric is also a co-host of The Dice Tower podcast.
What do you get when you have a humongous ship drifting through space for generations and the inhabitants go on with their lives believing that the confines of the ship are their entire world or universe? Additionally, what if you have a ship large enough to have multiple tribal clans including peasants, farmers, and an established governmental hierarchy; including religion? This alone is a wonderful story, but add to it an early faction called the munies which are mutants living in the higher deck levels which the lower deck members are always skirmishing with. What happens when someone discovers the truth out there and tries to educate the others? You get the well-crafted and told story that is “Orphans of the Sky”. One quickly learns that no matter the situation people never change. Often it is about those who hold the power and those who struggle just to survive. I enjoyed their standard salutation of “Good Eating” as this was a very important aspect of their existence.
Even with some of the language being dated, the book is really a timeless piece of fiction. Do not let the publication date scare you away from reading or listening to it. The book is also safe for younger readers as it did not contain any vulgar, sexual or graphic language. There is some violence which can be expected in a book of this type. I’m really surprised this story has not be made into a movie or television series as it could go in so many different directions. I can best describe it as “Battlestar Galactica” however the ship’s inhabitants do not know there is any existence outside of the ship itself.
I think the story would be well received as it contains friendship, fighting, intrigue, outcasts, and discovery. It is surprising how much can be told in so few pages or minutes of audio. Some of the best parts of the book are when the author slowly reveals all that is really happening both inside and outside the ship. I liked the premise and how the story unfolds. There are a few aspects where religion or religious people are not seen in the best of light, however the book is not anti-religious. One lesson the book teaches is that even if someone believes something out of tradition, the truth can be much harder to accept even when it is proven without a doubt. The author also includes some unique creatures with a semi blending of science fiction and fantasy; it works very well. I will say I felt the ending was a bit rushed and I wanted more. I could not locate any sequel to this book; but it really to cry out for one.
In summary, if you like science fiction works or just like the sound of Eric Summerer, pick up this book. As you hopefully got from my review is that it is a wonderfully written and told story that no one should miss.