Farmer in the Sky by Robert Heinlein

The Earth is crowded and food is rationed, but a colony on Ganymede, one of the moons of Jupiter, offers an escape for teenager Bill Lermer and his family. Back on Earth, the move sounded like a grand adventure, but Bill realizes that life on the frontier is dangerous, and in an alien world with no safety nets nature is cruelly unforgiving of even small mistakes.

I have always enjoyed Heinlein’s tales for juveniles more than his other writing. Having been told many times that I should read this book, I jumped at the chance to review the audiobook for SFFaudio. Bill is an Eagle Scout which comes in handy more than once and which reminds listeners of the original audience. In some ways this is like listening to the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder as Bill details homesteading on Ganymede. Heinlein does a good job of transferring standard pioneer problems and opportunities to a hostile environment in outer space. The tale is absorbing and I really enjoyed every detail of it.

It is funny listening to this book so long after it was written. It takes me back, in some ways, because the protagonist and his father are emigrating to Ganymede because population pressures and lack of available food make life pretty miserable. It isn’t quite as extreme as the movie Soylent Green portrays, but definitely is trending in that direction. If someone made Farmer in the Sky into a movie today, they’d be repurposing it to fit current worries over the environment or lowering birth rates in industrialized countries. It is like a time capsule of past worries, via an adventure/emigration tale.

Nick Podehl’s narration is excellent. I’m not sure how he manages to pull off sounding like a teenager without sounding wimpy, but he does. You get everything from awe at the things Bill encounters, panic at extreme danger, or the annoyance of a teenage boy at his father.

I don’t think that Farmer in the Sky is Heinlein’s best work for juveniles. I reserve that praise for my favorite, Citizen of the Galaxy. That said, Farmer in the Sky is a solid book that I can highly recommend.

Note: This review originally appeared at SFFaudio.

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11 Responses to Farmer in the Sky by Robert Heinlein

  1. Nancy Ward says:

    This is an author I will definitely check out to read and gift.

  2. Don Mulcare says:

    Julie,

    Thanks for sharing your time and talents.

    As the garden season approaches, the topic of farming sharpens my interest. If Bill was an Eagle Scout on Earth, I wonder how would he translate that set of skills to Ganymede? Similarly, earthly agriculture would face immense challenges.

    I liked your comment about “sounding like a teenager.” I don’t know how “wimpy” fits as an adjective for teens, unless you mean that the fictional teens are deprived of the conventional expletives and vulgarities that may infiltrate actual “teen talk.”

    Thanks again,

    Don

    • Julie Davis says:

      Hi Don … your questions about Eagle Scouts on Ganymede make me think you would like this book. Bill’s training leads to his ability for quick thinking in emergency situations more than once. I suppose “wimpy” could translate to “complaining” or “whining” as we all know teenagers can do when they believe they can make informed decisions that adults do not yet see them ready for … just to give one example. :-)

  3. Don Mulcare says:

    Julie,

    You’re a convincing salesperson.

    One criticism that haunts my writing is that my words don’t fit in the mouths of my teen characters. So Bill might help, even if Farmer in the Sky was written some time ago. By the way, I like the wind turbines on the cover of the book.

    Thanks again!

    Don

    • Julie Davis says:

      … or get a teenager to read your dialogue out loud. See what they change. :-)

      • Don Mulcare says:

        I’ve asked members of a high school debate team (by way of their coach) to give written comments or edits. My 16 year old grand daughter doesn’t seem to b interested in helping grandpa. I’ll try some of the younger ones.

        Thanks,

        Don

  4. Don Mulcare says:

    Hi Julie,

    I’m reading Farmer in the Sky.

    Thanks for reviewing it and for each of the reviews that you have provided through CWG.

    Robert Heinlein gets high marks on his vision of the future. He may have talked about short-wave rather than microwave ovens, but he certainly came close in many ways. He described a computer as filling most of the control room of the shuttle rocket, so he didn’t call the miniaturization of electronics, but he did his science homework.

    Bill seems far more mature than his modern equivalents.

    I’m amazed at how fast the pages of this book fly by. Thank you for your reviews. I certainly look at them and appreciate them even if I do not comment on every one of them.

    God Bless,

    Don

    • Julie Davis says:

      Hi Don … I’ve really enjoyed your comments. That’s the fun of reviews, you get to meet fellow fans! :-)

      After Farmer in the Sky, do try Citizen of the Galaxy. One of Heinlein’s masterpieces, in my not-so-humble opinion! :-)

  5. Don Mulcare says:

    Thank you Julie,

    Make that your RESPECTED AND VALUABLE OPINION!

    God Bless,

    Don

  6. Julie Davis says:

    Awww, you sweet guy! :-)

  7. Don Mulcare says:

    Hi Julie,

    Just about finished Farmer in the Sky and will order Citizens of the Galaxy today.

    Thanks again,

    Don