REVIEW SUMMARY: A fun read from a master of SF.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Bill and his dad emigrate to Ganymede to join its colonization efforts.
PROS: Excellent sense-of-wonder story loaded with science; quick read.
CONS: One or two slow parts in the middle.
BOTTOM LINE: Excellent novel.
Bill Lermer is a teenager who lives with his dad, George, on an overpopulated Earth. When George decides to move to a space colony on Ganymede, one of Jupiter’s moons, Bill tags along. Bill soon learns that living in a fledgling space colony is not for the faint of heart. After making the dangerous trip out to the moon (my favorite part of the book), he is met with unexpected hardships and tasked with the difficult chore of starting the family farm.
The first thing that impressed me about this book was the clear, concise and straightforward writing style of Robert A. Heinlein. Heinlein manages to create a swiftly moving story (except for on or two spots in the middle when the farm is just getting started) infused with real science and some made-up, but believable, science too. And he manages to do all of this within relatively few pages. No small feat, that. You really get a feel for what living on a space colony might be like through the trials and tribulations experienced by the colonists. (Reading this story, by the way, has (1) Reminded me of how well David Gerrold captured this style in his Dingillian Family series. (2) Paved the way for reading Gregory Benford’s unauthorized prequel,
Project Jupiter Jupiter Project .)
Along the way, there are lots of off-the-cuff sf creations that lend to the world he is creating, like calorie rationing on an over-populated Earth and ‘copter-driving Boy Scouts. And it’s always interesting to me to see a pre-manned space flight perspective (in this case, from 1950) on space travel and outer space.
Farmer in the Sky is targeted at a younger audience (so-called juvenile sf). As such, the young main character, Bill, undergoes a rite of passage into adulthood. Bill must learn to deal with responsibility and gain independence if he is to survive, let alone become an adult. All of the characterizations are well done and the situations the characters face are realistic and dramatic. The worst I could say about any characterizations was that George seemed a bit too much like perfect dad Mike Brady. He never got mad, even when the situation would have made it understandable. But that’s only a minor nit.
This was a fun read. Farmer in the Sky is a fine example of why Heinlein is considered a master.
[NOTE: A Farmer in the Sky glossary can be found at the Heinlein Concordance website.]