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January Books 14) Farmer in the Sky

I realised that I have already written up two of the three winners of the retro-Hugos for Best Novel (here and here); this completes the set, having won in 2001 against Asimov's Pebble in the Sky, C.S. Lewis's The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, E.E. 'Doc' Smith's First Lensman and Jack Vance's The Dying Earth, in that order. I've read them all except, oddly, the Asimov, and would certainly have voted for the Vance (incidentally the only author still living either today or in 2001 when the award was made). But my tastes are peculiar.

Farmer in the Sky is what would now be called a YA novel a juvenile (thanks, fjm), with our narrator, his father, his stepmother and her daughter leaving Earth to build a new colony on Ganymede. There is a significant amount of product placement for the scouting movement, which is not surprising as it was originally serialised in a scouts magazine. We encounter nice guys and nasty guys, and even a few women, though they don't get to speak much. There is a major natural disaster which wipes out two thirds of the colony, but our hero and most of his family survive. At the end of the book, our hero discovers some alien technology which incidentally saves his life.

A lot of this was already pretty standard sfnal fare even in 1950, but Heinlein fuses it all together into a coherent and literate package, which has a colossal amount of sensawunda, sufficient to keep the book going at full pace to thend and to keep its reputation alive among fans for decades. (He even manages the pro-scouting propaganda fairly discreetly, though of course this also helps underpin the gender and racial constraints of the narrative.)

Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
surliminal
Jan. 24th, 2009 01:55 am (UTC)
God I loved Farmer in the Sky. I still covertly re read it when I'm ill :-)
yea_mon
Jan. 24th, 2009 02:38 am (UTC)
It's been a long time since I read Farmer in the Sky, but from what I can recall it was a competent juvenile novel.

As for the retro Hugos, I'm in full agreement with you Nicholas - Vance's Dying Earth should have got it.
fjm
Jan. 24th, 2009 07:48 am (UTC)
Please don't call Farmer in the Sky a YA. YAs start in the 1970s and are all about romance, teen angst and "problems">

It's a juvenile: all about growing up and getting a job.

Sorry to be pedantic, have just spent four years writing about this change.
nwhyte
Jan. 24th, 2009 07:55 am (UTC)
Will (obviously) defer to you. My excuse is late night writing and lack of clarity in thinking.
fjm
Jan. 24th, 2009 08:01 am (UTC)
Nah! it's a standard conflation, but I think we should not make it because bif we call it YA, we have to judge it as a YA and then it becomes "a book that has no relevance to teenagers" and has "been superceded by more relevant books"
which completely ignores the fact that in 1955, a fourteen year old was only one or two years away from the world of work, rather than, as now, often an entire decade.
cairmen
Jan. 24th, 2009 11:27 am (UTC)
Wow - I've read it a bunch of times, but I never realised that the inclusion of the Scouts was deliberate product placement. Interesting.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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