April 9, 2020

Review: The Man Who Sold the Moon & Orphans of the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein

On sale now!

This week, we return to “Lessons from Science Fiction 101,” with a look at a master of scifi.

We’re talking, of course, about American science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein. One of the “Big 3” next to Clarke and Asimov when it comes to golden age science fiction, no one was better a weaving in sociological issues into their future mythology.

And Baen Books has been doing a great job at bringing Heinlein’s fiction back to the fore. Heck, we grew up reading Methuselah’s Children, Space Cadet and Farmer in the Sky, and there are fans out there that still rave that Starship Troopers is still due a proper film adaptation.

And fans of this space will recall our recent reviews of Assignment in Eternity and Sixth Column, early Heinlein works also reissued by Baen last year.   Their latest release groups two classic Heinlein novelsThe Man Who Sold the Moon and Orphans of the Sky - as well as several early Heinlein short stories under one cover for the first time.

Heinlein also had a master time line for his future fiction, something that has been rarely seen but is handily included in the preface of this book. Stories such as Life-Line and “Let There Be Light” give us an insight into the mind of early atomic age man and the hopes and fears for the future, while the story The Roads Must Roll can be said to be a sociological science fiction cautionary tale.

In The Man Who Sold the Moon, we meet D.D. Harriman, a billionaire with vision to send man to the stars, or at least to our nearest natural satellite. Having just read Ben Bova’s new book, Mars Inc, it’s interesting to compare and contrast Harriman’s alternate vision for the privatization of space.  This tale also embodies one of the prime reasons we love to read old — some would say dated — science fiction: it shows the hopes and dreams of generations past. Today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s mythology, and we firmly believe it’s what future generations will study to get an idea of what we were really like.

The collection’s coda is one of Heinlein’s finest. Orphans of the Sky tells the tale of an interstellar, multi-generational ark ship whose crew has long since forgotten that the outside universe exists. “The Ship” is all, the sum entirety to its inhabitants who find such notions as “outside” impossible to fathom. But rather than make such an idea into a Twilight Zone twist ending, Heinlein uses it for a pretext which he then wields to guide the reader to an even more startling conclusion. You could even compare Orphans to the more recent interstellar multi-generational ark series Ruby’s Song.

Be sure to check out The Man Who Sold the Moon and Orphans of the Sky: They’re a must read for any fans of Heinlein and classic science fiction!

Next Week: It’s back to the Red Planet and how we’ll get there with Buzz Aldrin’s Mission to Mars. See you then!


  1. [...] the large corporate conglomerates. And be sure to check out our recent reviews of Heinlein’s The Man Who Sold the Moon, Assignment in Eternity and Sixth [...]

  2. [...] Military science fiction has really come of its own over the past decades, as first popularized by Robert Heinlein and his classic Starship [...]

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