Find That Book: Spaceship with a forest interior?
January 2, 2014 7:00 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a book I read as a kid, so I only have a few clues which is probably why I haven't been able to turn this one up. Science fiction, read probably in the mid-to-late eighties out of a school library. It might have been an older book - it had the flavor of older science fiction but I could be wrong on that part.

It was set (at least partly) on a space ship. Humans are "set free" in small groups into an area of the ship that mimics Earth - specifically, a wilderness, with weather patterns, soil, animal predators, a created sun, etc. If I remember correctly, this was a training of sorts, by (benevolent?) aliens who were trying to help humans relearn the skills they would need, probably after they were returned to Earth. The main character is a surly guy who resists the training, and is, I think, "abandoned" in the forest at some point because of his own refusal to cooperate. Also, at one point makes his way through the forest to the edge of the space ship, where the illusion of wilderness ends. I believe that there were 'interviews" where he was called into a small cubicle to explain himself multiple times.

I was a voracious reader as a kid so I could easily be cramming together multiple books. Any ideas? I don't read a lot of hard sf these days, so for all I know this is a classic I'm just misremembering.
posted by PussKillian to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
This sounds pretty similar to Earthseed by Pamela Sargent--teens are being trained to repopulate a new planet by the spaceship itself and are eventually released into the interior of the ship, which simulates planet-like conditions, to learn survival skills. The main character is a girl but she clashes with a surly guy who resists the training.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:21 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


You are thinking of the series Lilith's Brood. Specifically from the 1st book - Dawn.
posted by Brent Parker at 7:22 PM on January 2


Oh, and it was originally published in the early 80s, though it's been in print fairly continuously since then (and there are sequels! And they are good!)

You are thinking of the series Lilith's Brood. Specifically from the 1st book - Dawn.

This doesn't sound particularly like Dawn at all, and it's unlikely a kid would encounter Lilith's Brood in a school library.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:23 PM on January 2


PhoBWan, I feel like that should be it, but the intro snippet I'm reading on Amazon doesn't feel like the language of the book I remember. I also remember the book being from the point of view of the guy - it's his stubbornness to the point of being frustrating that I recall. One of those things where you understand why he's like that but you really also just want him to relax and go along to get along because he's fighting against something so clearly bigger than he is, just because of stubbornness. Does that still sound like the book?

I know it isn't Dawn - I own that book and reread it frequently and studied it in college.
posted by PussKillian at 7:35 PM on January 2


Earthseed would be my first guess as well. In case you're conflating several books, though, your description also reminded me of Toolmaker Koan by John McLaughlin: the plot is much more complicated (including 80s nuclear war anxiety projected into the 21st century, space Russians, speculation about the viability of intelligent species, and a generation ship launched by/for sapient dinosaurs sometime before the end of the Cretaceous--sounds bonkers yet hangs together quite well considering) but it focuses on a small group of humans released into an enormous naturalistic habitat ship managed by an AI who communicates with the protagonist, who is a man, iirc. And it's from the 80s.

Seems like the ancient future space dinosaurs would be tough to forget, though, so maybe not.
posted by pullayup at 7:45 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


Tunnel in the Sky by Heinlein is mentioned in the Amazon description of Earthseed--it has a male protagonist, so perhaps that's an option?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:48 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


I'm thinking its a Harry Harrison book. But I don't see it paging through Wikipedia.
posted by tilde at 11:17 PM on January 2


Okay, so I'm not crazy, Harrison did write one, Captive Universe. But the main peoples are Aztecs which I think I would have remembered. The synopsis sounds much like the book I read (only so many ways you can be trapped on an earthlike ship) but it still isn't quite right.

Nope, yeah, I just read the first few pages that are available on Amazon, and it looks as though this is the book. Interesting that I never picked out the details of it featuring North American Natives. I also didn't remember the implication of rape at the start, but reading through it all makes it seem familiar. I wonder if the Watchmen are of the same heritage or more of European descent.

Will have to pick it back up. Science fiction needs more tortillas (though maybe not as the quaint food of a simple people kept down as breeding stock to repopulate the peoples of Earth on the new planet). Of course, I am in an exceptionally grumpy mood at the moment, so that may color my knee-jerk reaction to rereading it right now.

There is also, though it might have been http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orphans_of_the_Sky you are thinking of, one about a ship that's going on and on to repop humans somewhere, but it's obviously a ship gone on too long (similar to WALL-E but with less virtual golf).
posted by tilde at 12:09 AM on January 3


Apparently, this sort of thing (rabbit holing here) is a Generation Ship.
posted by tilde at 12:13 AM on January 3


Maybe Non-Stop/Starship by Brian Aldiss?
posted by maurice at 8:51 AM on January 3


I'm afraid none of these really look right. I'm still thinking about it (which of course means that I could be further muddling up memories) but I feel like it wasn't a generation ship, where the story is centered around the whole concept of one. The most solid memory I have about the book is the man in the "wilderness" of the ship, abandoned or separated from other humans. He makes his way to the edge and thinks something in the general ballpark of, "well, I knew this was all a fake, but it's strange to find proof that this forest isn't really a forest, and this sun isn't really a sun." Almost...Truman Show-esque.
posted by PussKillian at 10:22 AM on January 3


That's why Captive Universe seems both familiar (as in I read it) but off. As if I'd read another one (maybe the one you are looking for), first, and maybe casually then read CU?

I know what you mean by the time period feel of the writing (just reread Planet of No Return, plus The Technicolor Time Machine is an old favorite).

I'll keep thinking on it. But there are a few cheap copies on the 'net, can't hurt to snag it. :) (although weirdly, there was no Kindle version I could see for purchase, only preview. Wha?)

Until I do pick up a copy of CU, though, I remember whichever it isbeing a cylindrical ship so gravity was centrifuge based ...
posted by tilde at 10:43 AM on January 3


Rendezvous With Rama?
posted by CaptainZingo at 2:14 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Okay, found it.

Back blurb:

Behold the fool: Chimal. Everyone knows that the world is a hole in a Universe of stone, but Chimal seeks to defy the priests, leave the Valley, and provoke the wrath of the the Great Designer ... And why? Because he is a fool. Only a fool would believe what these Watchmen say--that the world is a stone universe of Hole!

Commencing reading. The cover on this edition is different from the one I read ... maybe. I'm visiting the person who probably gave me my original read of it and will quiz them. This one is a fourth printing, copyright date is 1969.
posted by tilde at 5:56 AM on January 25


It was set (at least partly) on a space ship. Yes.


Humans are "set free" in small groups into an area of the ship that mimics Earth - specifically, a wilderness, with weather patterns, soil, animal predators, a created sun, etc. Yes.

Two villages, a river, a swamp, mountains, vultures, vengeful gods, fake sun.

If I remember correctly, this was a training of sorts, by (benevolent?) aliens who were trying to help humans relearn the skills they would need, probably after they were returned to Earth. Somewhat.

The Azetc, chosen as "a simple people" with cultural and religious traditions that can be modified to promote a stable controlled society that in someways mimics the randomness of living on a planet, are living their lives in the ship in two villages separated by taboo, using the skills they will need to survive upon landing on their new planet at Proxima Centauri.

The Azetc don't know they are on their way to Proxima Centauri. The machinery of the ship is maintained by a caste of Watchers who live a long time, have mechanical exoskeletons to help them around, and are nearly a separate class of people who speak "English" (dominant language of Aztec but presented as English) and probably Esperanto sprinkled in there.

The main character is a surly guy Yes.

He was born of a semi-consensual (I know but it was 1969, ugh) encounter across taboo village lines. His father died before he was born or right after or whatever. I was kind of skimming.

who resists the training Sorta.

Resists the cultural requirements that have him get married to the one picked by the match maker. By tradition he is 21, she is 16.

, and is, I think, "abandoned" in the forest at some point because of his own refusal to cooperate. Sorta.

He walks out on the wedding preparations/ceremony. Is arrested, to be put to death by the first priest and the other priests. Mother breaks him out of jail (we find out later she is killed in his place). He hides in the swamp and the forest to escape multi-day pursuit.

Also, at one point makes his way through the forest to the edge of the space ship, where the illusion of wilderness ends. Yes.

I believe that there were "interviews" where he was called into a small cubicle to explain himself multiple times. Yes.

After they figure out he's the child of broken taboo, he spends a lot of time explaining things in small rooms to the simpleton watchers about how things are going to be run now that they recognize his holy place over them as the First Arriver.


Or, Wall-E, 1969
posted by tilde at 8:09 PM on January 25


I'm sorry, tilde, but I got a copy of the book and that's definitely not it.
posted by PussKillian at 2:18 PM on February 3


Darn it! Well if you find it, let me know, I'd like to see it!
posted by tilde at 3:24 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


The description reminds me a bit of Gene Wolfe's novella "The Death of Dr Island," but on the other hand there are a couple of aspects of that story which you don't mention, so probably not.
posted by aught at 7:01 AM on March 21


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