Farmer in the Sky

by Robert A. Heinlein
Reviewed date: 2009 Apr 28
Rating: 3
221 pages
cover art

Heinlein's juveniles have a simple elegance. They have the charm and sense of wonder from a bygone era of optimism. What ever happened to the promises of new frontiers? I remember reading science books as a kid, books that promised colonies in space, on the Moon, and on Mars. These were just around the corner, any year now. And yet, even in the 80s, I knew these promises were empty. The books were from a decade before, and their promises had failed to materialize. All I saw was the lousy Space Shuttle. America didn't even have any space station at all. I never got to believe those dreams of a new frontier in space, not really. What do I have to look forward to? Faster computers, smarter cellphones, and bigger televisions. Trinkets! I want my new frontiers.

Farmer in the Sky is a basic story of exploring a new world. Bill Lermer emigrates from an overcrowded Earth with calorie rationing to a barely hospitable Ganymede. He goes with his father, stepmother, and step-sister. They homestead on Ganymede, working to turn dead, lifeless dust into paydirt. Everything is hard--real dirt has to be imported from Earth to get things started. Even earthworms are imported. Heinlein showcases a lot of science in the methods he describes for terraforming Ganymede, so it's sort of educational.

Life on Ganymede is hard, but Heinlein makes things work out a little too conveniently. Bill's stepsister can't adjust to the lower air pressure on Ganymede, so the family decides to call it quits and move back to Earth. Conveniently, just before they're due to move back, she dies. The rest of them stay on Ganymede.

Farmer in the Sky is a fun book and I enjoyed reading it, but it's not compelling or terribly noteworthy.

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