Review: Farmer in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein

farmer in the sky by robert heinleinFarmer in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein

Series: Heinlein’s Juveniles #4

Genre: Science Fiction

Setting: Ganymede

Source: Audiobook, purchased (6 hours, 34 minutes)

Narrator: Nick Podehl

Publishing Date: 1950

174 pages

Synopsis: Bill Lermer, a resourceful matter-of-fact teenager of the 21st century, tells what happens when his family decide to leave Earth and try scientific farming on Ganymede, one of the moons of Jupiter. 
After a two-month flight through space, including collision with a meteorite, only danger and hardship await the new colonists. But even a hair-raising adventure in the cave of The Other People cannot persuade Bill to return Earthside.

My thoughts

Farmer in the Sky won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1951. I can see why. It’s entertaining and doesn’t read like an antique book! It also reminded me of The Martian by Andy Weir. (I’m sure other people have made that comparison!) I think it’s my favorite so far of the Heinlein Juveniles I’ve read recently. In the last couple of years I’ve read five of the twelve books Heinlein specifically wrote for young people. I also read most of them when I was a teenager, but that was many years ago! I’m really enjoying revisiting them.

Farmer in the Sky

Bill, his dad George and his stepmother and stepsister decide to emigrate to Ganymede because Earth is overcrowded with rationing and limited choices. However, they aren’t quite ready for what they find when they get to Ganymede. It’s a lot more primitive than they thought it would be. Life on Ganymede isn’t always easy, but the family works together to succeed. Bill becomes a farmer and George works in town as an engineer so they can afford to get the farm started. It’s hard work, but they have a goal and are willing to work for it. It’s a rough life and they have their tragedies, but also their triumphs.

I’m fascinated at the details Heinlein added to this book about how the terraforming worked and how the settlers manage to live (or not live) on Ganymede. And I like the other familiar touches the author uses. Bill was an Eagle Scout on Earth and he discovers there are scout troops on Ganymede. He joins a troop and learns all sorts of helpful tips about living and surviving on a planet earthlings didn’t evolve on. He also meets other farmers and learns how to farm . . . what a hard job farming is, but also the satisfaction of hard work. He learns about self-sufficiency, but also how to accept help when he needs it and give help to his neighbors when they need it.

Audiobook

I listened to the audiobook and really like Nick Podehl’s narration. He does a good job with the different voices. He has a strong voice which is especially good with the male voices. And he’s easy to understand–always a plus!

Bottom Line

This is an excellent book for young teens, but also a great book for adults–particularly if you like classic science fiction.

My Rating: B+

Narrator Rating: B+

Awards

Hugo Award for Best Novel (1951)

Have you read any books by this author?

Reading Challenges

Swords and Stars Reading Challenge hosted by MsNoseinaBook — Read a science fiction classic

Review: Starman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein

Starman Jones by Robert A HeinleinStarman Jones by Robert A. Heinlein

Series: None

Genre: Science Fiction (one of Heinlein’s Juveniles)

Source: Audiobook, purchased

Narrated by Paul Michael Garcia

Published by Blackstone Audiobooks, 2008, (original publication date: 1953)

252 pages; 8 hours, 29 minutes

Synopsis: The stars were closed to Max Jones. To get into space you either needed connections, a membership in the Guild, or a whole lot more money than Max, the son of a widowed, poor mother, was every going to have. What Max does have going for him are his uncle’s prized astrogation manuals—book on star navigation that Max literally commits to memory word for word, equation for equation. When Max’s mother decides to remarry a bullying oaf, Max takes to the road, only to discover that his uncle Chet’s manuals, and Max’s near complete memorization of them, is a ticket to the stars. But serving on a spaceship is no easy task. Duty is everything, and a mistake can mean you and all aboard are lost forever. Max loves every minute of his new life, and he steadily grows in the trust of his superior officers, and seems to be on course for a command track position. But then disaster strikes, and it’s going to take every trick Max ever learned from his tough life and his uncle’s manuals to save himself and the ship from a doom beyond extinction itself.

My thoughts

Starman Jones is part of the Heinlein Juveniles series. Heinlein wrote twelve novels between 1947 and 1958 which were published as the juvenile series.  These books are all standalone books. The first book was Rocket Ship Galileo and the last was Have Space Suit — Will Travel. I guess these would be considered young adult books today though in many ways they’re simpler more straightforward stories than many young adult books written today. I read these (and many of Heinlein’s adult novels) as a teenager. I loved the adventure in these books as well as so many of the characters. It’s been years since I read most of these books, but I think the main characters were all boys. That didn’t bother me when I was reading them. I don’t think I thought about it! I still related to the main characters and wanted to have those adventures. Heinlein wrote about characters who were intelligent, hardworking and honest and showed that was the way to get ahead in the world. I took that to heart and still believe that today. However, I am also really happy there are more books written with female main characters and more female authors.

This was a good science fiction adventure story. Max Jones is a teenager who always wanted to be an astrogator and since his uncle was an astrogator and talked of naming Max as his heir Max hopes he did that before he died. Many occupations–including astrogation–are hereditary and managed by guilds and since Max doesn’t come from an important family and doesn’t have any money he won’t have a chance to become an astrogator if he wasn’t named an heir by his uncle.

Max runs away from home after his stepmother remarries soon after Max’s father dies. Max does manage to get himself onto a passenger spaceship (but with forged documents). Even though his job is taking care of the animals on the ship–cleaning their cages–he’s ecstatic that he’s in space. During the course of the book Max manages to come to the attention of the spaceship’s captain and other officers and is given a chance to learn about the running of the ship. However, he not only has the deception that got him onto the ship, but a number of other disasters await him and the ship.

Jones is a smart, but naive young man at the beginning of this story. He learns a lot and grows up a lot by the end of the book. The book didn’t end quite as I thought it would. It’s always nice when a book surprises me. I thought this ending was good and wished that Heinlein had written more books about Max!

I read and reviewed Have Spaceship – Will Travel a couple of years ago, but of the two I like Starman Jones better. I own a number of the other Juvenile Series books so I may try to read them this year.

My Rating: A-

Narrator Rating: A

Have you read any of Robert Heinlein’s books?

Reading Challenges

2018 Swords & Stars Reading Challenge hosted by MsNoseinaBook — Read a book whose cover has stars in it or whose title has any variation of the word star in it.