Monday, June 10, 2013

eBook Review: Tunnel in the Sky

Robert Heinlein, Tunnel in the Sky

Product Details

  • File Size: 256 KB
  • File Size: 398 KB
  • Print Length: 227 pages
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004IK9478
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars (131 customer reviews) 
  • Price: $7.99
1. Short review:  (Amazon rating: 4 out of 5 stars -- I like it.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: The line-level writing and the story.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? Both.
Easily worth the money. Hardback editions fetch $100.00+.

2.2. What I did not like: The cover above.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Everybody.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Oh, yeah, definitely. Should be on every teen's summer reading list.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? Yes.

2.6. The plot in a nutshell.

     Rod Walker goes off-world through a stargate for his final test in survival. If he survives, he passes. This is the only way he can join the throngs seeking to leave Earth. On Earth, rationing is in effect. Too many mouths, not enough food.
     Recall to Earth will be in 10 days, he is told. He has to cover 20km to get to the recall point.
     On the planet, he finds many of his classmates already dead. He survives the night. And then the next day. And then another. And another.
     He partners with a survivor from a different class who is called Jackie. Jackie points out a bright star that was not there when they arrived.
     The tenth day comes. And goes. No recall.
     More survivors join Rod and Jackie. Once they have about three dozen in their group, they form a community with laws and offices and set up for the long haul. The community gets swarmed by the indigenous wildlife during migration season. The 'dopey Joes' kill several in the community, including the town mayor. Rod succeeds to the mayoralty.
     Years pass. One day a gate opens from Earth. The bright star was a supernova. Its radiation wave prevented the boys on Earth from establishing a gate for recall. Now that they have established a gate, everybody goes back to Earth. Emotional ups and downs. Rod was THE big fish in Cowpertown. Now he is nobody. He earns his outworld certificate and leads a train of homesteaders off-world.

 2.7. Other:
     Tunnel in the Sky had a big impact on me when I read it as a kid. An example:
     When I flew in the Air Force, one morning we were at the briefing and I got picked for the stand-up. That means I stood up and answered a hypothetical situation put to me by the squadron Safety Officer.
     I no longer recall the details of the setup, but at the end I had to punch out over hostile territory (hypothetically).
     I said, "My 'chute deploys. I look up to check that I have a good 'chute and all risers are intact."
     Safety officer nodded. "They are. All panels are good." Meaning my 'chute was good.
     "I unplug my mask and discard it."
     Another nod.
     "I unsnap my holster, pull out my pistol, and throw it away."
     The safety officer looked confused. "Why?"
     "Sir, I am going down in hostile territory with six rounds in a thirty-eight. Either way my pistol does not sound like an ay-kay forty-seven. The bad guys are looking for me on the ground. They have ay-kays. Suppose I get lucky and get close enough to pop one of 'em with my thirty-eight. All his buddies just heard that shot, and they're gonna come running. How willing will they be to take my surrender when they see I've killed one of their friends?"
     The safety officer pursed his lips and nodded. "Okay. So what do you use?"
     "I got a knife and a K-bar. They don't make noise. If I have to kill, I kill with them at very close range. But I hope I just stay scared and run. My knives will keep me alive. A gun will give me just enough courage to get killed."
     A man with a knife knows he is the hunted. A man with a gun can get confused about that.

     There has been a great deal of controversy over whether Rod Walker was black. Follow the link at Heinlein's name below for all of it.
      The Cliff Notes version: Rod Walker was black. Virginia Heinlein, Robert Heinlein's wife, said so.

     When Heinlein wrote Tunnel in the Sky, the world was headed for a Malthusian catastrophe, and he wrote it that way. You have Norman Borlaug and Henry Beachell to thank for avoiding that catastrophe.


2.8. Links: Robert Heinlein

2.9. Buy the book: Tunnel in the Sky

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