FFB: Islands in the Sky

this is the 79th in my series of Friday Forgotten Books

Islands in the Sky by Arthur C. Clarke, 1952, Signet Books edition (this book) March, 1960 Signet S1769 127 page paperback, science fiction

I bought this copy when it came out in 1960, I was a sophomore in high school. The grade I gave it at the time was a B+.

Roy Malcolm is a contestant in a television quiz show on aviation, sponsored by World Airways, Inc. He is one of the dozen national finalists, the first prize being a free trip to any part of Earth World Airways flies. Roy wins the contest and then, in front of the national audience, drops a bombshell. When asked where he wants to go, he answers “I want to go to the Inner Station.”

The Inner Station is a space station circling Earth in a fairly tight orbit, the stopping place for travelers and goods going to and from Earth and Venus and Mars, both of which have been colonized. Note: the book follows the timeline for colonization which puts it directly after The Sands of Mars (my review of that book is here). After a small battle of words and definitions, during which Roy clarifies that “In 2054, the United States, like all other members of the Atlantic Federation, signed the Tycho Convention, which decided how far into space any planet’s kegal rights extended. Under that convention, the Inner Station is part of Earth because it is inside the thousand kilometer limit.” Smart kid, eh?

So he gets to go, mostly because World is afraid of a lot of really bad publicity if they change the rules on him (the TV show was very popular). The rest of the book is about his departure, trip to and arrival at the station, described, as we saw in the previous book, in enough detail to make it believable. What’s amazing to me is how accurately Clarke predicts much of what came about a decade or two later, and since then.

Roy gets to stay for about three weeks, and even has a chance to take a trip to the Outer Station , which is the arrival terminus for passengers from Mars, who must wait to adjust to the heavier gravity of Earth. On the return trip, a malfunction causes the small shuttle to rocket off into space, beyond Earth’s gravity pull. They will need to be rescued or run out of air in a week.

Eventually all turns out okay (I’ll let you read how) and finally Roy returns to Earth after his extended stay in space, most of it in zero gee. Gravity is difficult to handle at first, but he manages. The book ends with his determination to one day become not just a space station worker, but an emigrant to Mars Colony.

I liked this one more than Sands of Mars, though both were good, if not great SF books. Both would be considered YA level today, a distinction that wasn’t of much importance when this was written. Both Clarke and Heinlein wrote books that would be enjoyed by younger readers and adults, and they remain very popular, though Clarke less so, which is too bad.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

links to all of this weeks Forgotten Book posts can be found
on Patti Abbott’s blog, Pattinase

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
This entry was posted in Adventure, Friday Forgotten Book, Review, science fiction and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to FFB: Islands in the Sky

  1. It’s been a few years since I read this one. probably should again, but probably won’t. I have too much I haven’t read and wish to get to, the eternal plight of the reader.

    Interestingly, I just the other day watched a show on the Science Channel, PROPHETS OF SCIENCE FICTION, that concentrated on Clarke and his work, it’s relevance to things going on in today’s world.

  2. Bill Crider says:

    I was a big fan of Clarke’s work back in the olden days, especially the short stories, though I enjoyed the novels, too.

  3. I love that cover on ISLANDS IN THE SKY! I’ll have to check out that Clarke feature on PROPHETS OF SCIENCE FICTION on the Science Channel. I know Clarke predicted satellites back in the 1940s.

  4. I’m a bigger fan of Clarke than of Heinlein, though I like both. I read this one, and sands of mars, but I honestly don’t remember a lot about them at this point. It’s been decades.

  5. Richard says:

    Both this one and Sands of Mars were enjoyable, but not particularly thought-provoking. I’m not sure which, Clarke or Heinlein, I’d say I liked better, but Heinlein wrote more books I’ve re-read.

  6. Carl V. says:

    I’m actually very interested in this one because it sounds like it is more of a YA book, something akin to Heinlein’s juveniles. I’ve seen this cover image before and like it. I’ll keep an eye out for both of these books on my store hunts.

  7. Art Scott says:

    I read a lot of Clarke back in my sf phase, long ago, but I think not this one. The premise of Ordinary Joe winning a tv quiz show and getting a trip into space sounds more like a satirical springboard that Fred Pohl would have riffed on than the hard science that Clarke usually dispensed.

  8. Richard says:

    But once he takes off from Earth, Art, it’s all hard science, and not mush like I’d expect Pohl to do it.

  9. Stan Burns says:

    This was originally a Winston Juvenile, and I read it when I was a teenager oh so long ago . . .

  10. Richard says:

    Thanks, Stan, I didn’t remember that, though I read lots of the Winstons when I was a kid.

  11. Pingback: Reading Forgotten Books: Islands In The Sky « Not The Baseball Pitcher

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