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Farmer in the Sky Paperback – 1 Jul 1990

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Paperback, 1 Jul 1990
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Product details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Gollancz; New edition edition (1 July 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0575047836
  • ISBN-13: 978-0575047839
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 11 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,123,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Robert A. Heinlein was the greatest science fiction writer who ever lived. His novels have been translated into every literate language on the globe--over 50 million Heinlein books are in print in this country alone. For five decades, young readers of science fiction discovered Heinlein, then gone on to voraciously devour every Heinlein book they can get their hands on. His now-legendary "Stranger in a Strange Land" was the first hardcover bestseller by a science fiction writer. From 1975 on, every new Heinlein novel made the "New York Times" best-seller list and shipped a million copies, including "The Number of the Beast," "Friday," "Job: A Comedy of Justice," "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls," and "To Sail Beyond the Sunset." In a career spanning half a century, he wrote over forty books, and four of his novels won Hugo Awards, an unequalled record for almost four decades. For the last three generations of readers, Heinlein "is" science fiction. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 16 May 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the first science fiction book I liked (before that I had read the time machine and the war of the worlds).

The plot is easy enough: Earth is overcrowded, new colonies are being stablished in Ganimede. The hero decides to go there with his newly married father and his step mother and sister. Once there, they'll have to take part in the post terraforming effort, and become farmers much in the old colonial style. They suffer from earthquake (can you use that word?) and several other penalties, and in the end they become true human beings.

For the modern reader, Heinlein's rethoric, full of outfashioned machismo, matter-of-fact virility, easigoing logic about life and existence seems outdated and even sounds sarcastic. The hero rules his world by his boy scout code, and all the characters shape reality with perjudice rather than mentality or ideas. I rather liked it as a teenager, everything seemed so easy (quote "survivors survive")

However... the book is very well written, action soars, situations are superbly described, one wishes the author had some more ideas about places or adventures for the hero. He does not refuse to write nasty things when he has to: future is not that nice, even in this pack of healthy pioneers you can find some samples of the stupid, the corrupt, the inept who make community life a headache.

So... for me this is Heinlein at his best: full of life, action, enthusiasm about mankind and the possibilities - and limiations - of our race . It should go with "The puppet masters" and even that undercover fascist manifesto "Starship troopers".

Enjoy a shake!
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By John M. Ford TOP 500 REVIEWER on 18 Dec. 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Teenager Bill Lermer travels to Ganymede with his father, and his new step-mother and step-sister. Readers get a Bill's-eye view of a future resource-depleted Earth; life on board an interplanetary colony ship; dirt-level terraforming of Ganymede; and the challenges of adolescence. The latter include adjusting to his blended family, conflicts with others his age, and finding the right distance to maintain from girls.

This novel originally appeared as a serial in Boy's Life magazine. There is a strong Boy Scout influence in the story which blends well with the frontier setting and skills needed to survive in it. This is classic Robert Heinlein science fiction from the 1950s. The science is dated, but charmingly so. The adventure of space colonization nicely parallels the main character's coming of age.

One disappointed observation--the story could have gone on longer or easily supported a sequel. It's odd that a prolific writer like Heinlein did not follow up with one. Perhaps some detail of the licensing arrangement with Boy's Life explains this.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 20 May 2003
Format: Paperback
how would a son feel if a parent decided to emigate, upset, disappointed, abandoned? when bill lermer gets the news that his dad is emigrating he feels all of these but he finds out his dad is going to JUPITER!!! bill decides he wants to go and they have an adventure on the way, but how will the two men get on in the new land??
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By mark hughes on 17 Dec. 2014
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Very good
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 75 reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Vintage vision of the future 20 Dec. 2000
By L. Ager - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
A short hop into the future, on an Earth almost as real as the corner store, teenager Bill Lermer lives with his widower father in the Diego Borough of the sprawling City of Southern California. His is a fast new world in which grammar school geography classes take field trips to Antarctica and study their regular lessons from versatile "studying machines."
But while Bill can pilot a helicopter and follow the news from the developing offworld colonies, his world is not perfect: he seldom gets enough to eat. He and his father must limit their diets according to a strict caloric ration book, and although a new yeast plant has just begun production in Montana, the caloric ration has been reduced yet another time. Rather than tighten their belts, the Lermers decide to emigrate to Ganymede, where terraforming is underway and good food abounds. Written in 1950, Farmer in the Sky is one of Heinlein's first boys' books, and also one of the most muscular and optimistic. It deals with nothing less than the future of mankind; what, after all, must humans do to survive, civilization intact, when Earth becomes too crowded, famished and bellicose? Emigration to other colonized worlds is one solution, and that is what Heinlein illustrates so well in Farmer. He presents his readers with a Ganymede already partially modified to support life from Earth, and makes it all seem plausible--even commonplace (at least within the bounds of late 1940's scientific theory). A reader can see Jupiter hanging up there in the greenish sky, and hear the tremendous din of rock-crushing machinery. Against this vivid backdrop, a variety of characters win or lose as they try to wrest a living from Ganymede's newly created soil. Red-bearded Papa Schultz and his large family are seasoned colonists and adept at surviving the caprices of nature. Mr. Saunders, on the other hand, is shiftless and soon goes back to Earth. Perhaps one of the most memorable characters in the book is Hank, who at first seems like candidate for reform school but later proves to be just the right sort of rascal who makes a good pioneer.
Memorable, too, are the young scientists and engineers of the book, courageous and intent on opening up new frontiers for humankind. In light of that (and many other examples in other books) it is no wonder at all that a goodly number of today's scientists and engineers cite Robert Heinlein and his books for young adults as one of their first inspirations. ~~Beth Ager
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
How does he keep doing it? 23 July 2001
By Michael Battaglia - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
How does this man turn what has to be one of the sillier titles I've ever seen (and probably wouldn't even sell at all today) and an almost absurdly basic concept and turn it into one of his most entertaining books? It must have been depressing try to match him in the fifties, he pulls off everything there here effortlessly, working comfortably within his own style without coming across as formulaic. Here we've got yet another vision of a future earth, where there's too many people and food is scarce . . . people are going to a colony on one of the moons orbiting Jupiter and Bill and his father decide that it's the place for them. Heinlein captures the pioneering spirit and drive brilliantly, subjecting his characters to all sorts of hardships, to the point where you can very easily relate to them even though they're somewhere way out in space and Jupiter keeps hanging in the sky (some of the most beautiful scenes in the novel have to do with that image, I wonder if it really looks like that) . . . even better, whenever one of the characters notes how hard it is to survive there, someone else always points out that most of the early colonies on earth were wiped out to a man. Bill remains a fairly consistent character in the Heinlein mode, always willing to learn, resourceful in the right moments, rarely giving up, he has his own appeal but it's not limited to just him, his father (if you can get past he and his father calling each other by their first names) is cut from the same mold, his friend Hank remains the biggest surprise, and while some of the characters are needlessly whiny only to contrast how hard working the rest of the cast is, those are only minor complaints. The book flies, he manages to make the farmer life but interesting and exciting and if you concentrate on the sights that Heinlein is weaving, it's darn good. It gets a little strange toward the end when he starts pulling out plot twists from nowhere (he kills off someone in a way that you'll find yourself working very hard to care) but the ride is swift and totally fun, the way a good old SF novel should be. If you dismiss this because you think, "Oh it's for kids" or "Oh, it's fifty years old" then you have no idea what you're missing. And you'd be making a terrible mistake.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
It's a Scout's Life on the New Frontier 24 Oct. 2002
By Dave Deubler - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Worried that life on Earth isn't going to make it? Ready to leave the rat race behind and head off to a virgin territory where a man can be a man and live off the land in peace? Science fiction grandmaster Robert Heinlein points to the new frontier and invites those of us who've really got the guts to leave our comfortable planet, to become Farmers in the Sky.
Amoung the best of Heinlein's juveniles, this fascinating novel tells the story of young Bill Lermer, whose family chooses to leave an increasingly overcrowded earth for the ostensibly greener pastures of a growing colony on Ganymede, the largest moon of Jupiter. Through Bill's eyes, readers get to see the selection process, the thoughtful preparations, the wearying journey, the chaotic arrival, and finally settlement in a new home on a new world. And then things really get exciting...
This book was originally serialized in "Boy's Life", the Boy Scouts of America magazine, which is why scouting finds its way into each chapter, but Heinlein makes excellent use of the concept, not only in terms of character building (which is an essential feature of this coming-of-age novel), but also as an important part of a practical education. While Bill studies for his merit badges, the reader gets to look over his shoulder and learn everything a greenhorn needs to know to survive on this untamed world, from physics to ecology. Best of all, Heinlein makes his explanations seem so reasonable that one almost wonders why we aren't out there building colonies right this minute.
But despite his gung ho pioneer spirit, Heinlein isn't a Pollyanna - he isn't trying to hide the more unpleasant facts of colonial life. During the selection process and the long voyage out, Bill has ample time to observe the uglier side of human nature. At the new colony, danger is part of everyday life, and there are deaths aplenty before the story is over. The adventure with the survey expedition is a little over the top, but the philosophic discussion about the future of the human race more than makes up for it. And the characters are superb - Hank, the risk-taker, Captain Hattie, the gruff pilot, the unflappable Schultzes, Bill's father, but most of all Bill himself, whose honesty, determination, and naiveté combine to make him one of the most believable (but still lovable) characters in all of Heinlein.
This book has everything a kid could want in a science fiction novel - carefully thought-out science, a thoroughly believable space journey, a revealing look at everyday life in a developing but managed ecology, settling a brave new world, mysterious alien artifacts, and one of the most engaging and personable characters ever to appear in science fiction. Adults should enjoy this book as well, although there's no hint of sex and women get pretty short shrift here. But all scouts (and would-be pioneers) are guaranteed to love it.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A fun novel that's less exciting than some other Heinlein juveniles 4 Jan. 2011
By TChris - Published on
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Farmer in the Sky revolves around the colonization of Ganymede, which is being terraformed to accommodate human life. Most of the first colonists are homestead farmers who are offered land in exchange for their efforts to make the land productive. Young Bill Lerner is the key player in Heinlein's story; through his eyes the reader learns about his father's decision to take a new wife and to become a colonist. The colony struggles with hardship and Bill often wonders whether he'll be able to continue his farming life or whether he'll have to return to Earth.

I enjoyed Heinlein's juveniles when I was a teenager, and again upon rereading them in adulthood. Heinlein's juveniles offer an education in science that is too basic to be horribly outdated, always written in language us non-scientists can comprehend: in Farmer in the Sky, the reader learns lessons of physics, agronomy, ecology, even "population bionomics" (although Heinlein's take on the inevitability of population growth outpacing food supplies might not be well grounded in modern experience, at least as applied to human populations). At least equally interesting, I think, are the Heinlein values that shine through in his novels, and this one is no exception: his distrust of government and bureaucratic institutions; his fierce belief in individualism, coupled with a corresponding belief in the need for individuals to work cooperatively as friends and neighbors and families.

The plot of Farmer in the Sky unfolds a bit more slowly than the stories in some of Heinlein's other juveniles. Frequently mentioned is Bill Lerner's joy in being an Eagle Scout and his love of scouting in general. A shorter version of the book was originally serialized in Boy's Life magazine--perhaps Heinlein included the scouting references to enhance his chance of selling the story, but since they continue to appear (often) in the novel, I suspect Heinlein simply placed great value in scouting. The scouting references don't contribute much to the story (unless you're a real scouting fanatic), but they don't detract from it either.

In short, Farmer in the Sky is fun, educational, but a bit less exciting than some of the other Heinlein juveniles. For the Heinlein completist it's an essential read, but readers seeking the furious action of Starship Troopers might be disappointed.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
It ought to seem dated, but somehow it doesn't 4 Oct. 2008
By Esther Schindler - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is among the set of "classic" Heinlein novels written in the 1950s for juvenile readers -- what nowadays we'd call "young adults." By definition, this was written for kids, so a parent can feel comfortable in handing the book to a child (even a bright 8-year-old... certainly I'd have read it at that age).

The book (or a shorter version) was commissioned for Boy's Life, the magazine of the Boy Scouts, so it has a huge thread of "scouting is great, you betcha!"

The protagonist, Bill, gets involved in starting a scout troop on the space flight to become a colonist on Ganymede, the Jupiter moon. The basic story is a modified "Hero's Journey" in which teenager Bill (and his father) emigrate as space colonists and must cope with all the challenges that entails. Although Heinlein later earned a reputation for tedious exposition, in this case it works very well. He goes through all the steps that would be necessary to terraform a moon (given some base assumptions/guesses about the evolution of science), for example, and how astrogation would work on the spaceship.

The result is that the young reader will learn (painlessly) that Science Matters; you might have a discussion with her about what did/didn't turn out to be true (not to mention, "So why *haven't* we colonized space?" -- good question, kid).

There are a few anachronistic giggles; for example, in the first few pages, Bill comes back from a consumer/scout airflight over California and his dad suggests he figure something out with his slide rule. It's likely that the one thing in the book that a child might need a definition for is that slide rule.

Farmer in the Sky isn't among the greatest of Heinlein's juveniles (much less his general fiction), but it's solidly good -- and holds up rather well, to my surprise. Heinlein was a master of just plain good taletelling, and can carry along anyone -- at least me -- with the thread of "And THEN what happened?!" to make me turn pages.
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