In my continuing effort to bring you some of my early Science Fiction favorites I’d like to discuss Farmer in the Sky. Heinlein again is ahead of his time as a central theme in the first half of the book is the issue of a blended family. The evolution of the protagonist, teenaged son, William’s feelings toward his step-sister feels real as the story proceeds.
But when you get to the bottom line, Farmer in the Sky is an adventure story for boys. As with several of Heinlein’s early books, it started as a serial; in this case in Boy’s Life, a magazine for Boy Scouts.
The blended family moves to Ganymede, the largest moon of Jupiter. Interestingly, 60 years later the moons of Jupiter have gained scientific interest for potentially housing life and large bodies of water, although frozen beneath the surface.
Using artificial power sources, Ganymede is now habitable, although inhospitable. Using concepts that would certainly find home with Matt Damon in “The Martian” the small colony is eking out an existence, and actually is making progress until disaster strikes.
The story shifts significantly in the final quarter of the book as evidence of an earlier ancient, alien civilization is unearthed by the protagonist. Heinlein repeats himself as the William is involved in the major discovery and aid to the colonists, but he is the heart not the hero of the discovery. In several of Heinlein’s stories he focuses on the heart and soul in the protagonist, but often they have almost a Forrest Gump relationship to the bigger, often cataclysmic events in society.
Keeping in mind that this was written as a serial, and is at times a bit choppy, it is still a great read. As a young teenager I loved the book. As an adult, I find some of the more subtle messages more interested and still smile when I reread the book.