Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Review: Farmer in the Sky, Robert Heinlein

I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas and New Year! I was in Brisbane for Chrissy and it poured with rain just about non-stop. So I went shopping, which I can't complain about at all cos I picked up some beautiful dresses and shoes in the sales. I also raided my dad's bookshelves for some sci-fi reading, particularly books pertaining to colonisation and space travel. I'm researching for a novel in these directions and want to see how the masters do it.

Farmer in the Sky (1950) by Robert Heinlein follows a teenage boy, Bill, and his family on their emigration to Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter. I'd like to tell you all about Bill, but unfortunately he's a rather forgettable character. Bill is little more than the words he speaks and the things he observes. The same can be said for the other characters.

This book reads more like a manual on how to colonise Ganymede than anything else--or rather, it reads as a direct reflection of the colonisation of the New World; the ship that took them to Ganymede was called the Mayflower, for instance. I gave this book a low Goodreads rating because as a book it's rather sparse on plot, tension and characterisation. But that's not to say I didn't enjoy it for other reasons. As far as the science went, it was pretty interesting. Heinlein made most of it sound very plausible. Good research material for budding sci-fi writers.

A short, interesting read if you want some hard science served up with a minimum of emotional interference.


  1. Yeah his stuff is pretty intense. I like it, but have to be in the mood to read and think that hard at the same time.

  2. With Robert Heinlein, I don't think characterisation was terriblyimportant. The "Golden Age" of SF was more about the ideas than characterisation and plot. Heinlein also played out the story of the USA more than just here - try "The Moon is a harsh Mistress" for example.

    Despite this, Heinlein's ideas (and insistence on hard science and believable science at all times) were what got him his readership and position in the 1950s. The 1960's saw hime go a bit strange ("Stranger in a Strange Land" etc) but even then the science and ideas were pretty interesting.

  3. I enjoyed this review, I read this in the '60's as a young teenager and enjoyed it so interesting to hear a 21st century take. I reread it a year ago and while it seemed quaint now it still conveyed a sense of wonder and adventure. In the 40 odd years between my readings I found that different parts of the book appealed, I was much more sympathetic towards the Peggy character this time around and I found the descriptions of the first arrival and the disaster and post disaster episodes very convincing (given the rather audacious premise of teraforming Ganymede in the first place).