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Tunnel in the Sky    by Robert A. Heinlein order for
Tunnel in the Sky
by Robert A. Heinlein
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 1995 (1955)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Marian Powell

'If you carry a gun it makes you feel cocky ... If you don't have one, then you'll know that you are the rabbit. You'll be careful.' The speaker is a soldier who is also the older sister of the main character, Rod Walker. He's a high school student of the future. His ambition is to some day leave earth to settle on one of the newly discovered planets. In preparation he has taken a course in survival. Now it's final exam time. To pass he has to survive for a few days in the wilderness on another planet. As Rod makes plans for what to take, he's disappointed by his sister's advice but he follows it. He plans to spend the few days being careful.

Rod's first day and night in the wilderness is terrifying, and he realizes how sound the advice to think like a hunted and helpless animal was. The moment he relaxes and becomes careless, disaster strikes. He loses all his supplies. Now he has to survive without food or weapons beyond a knife, but he knows that it's only for a few days. But of course there is a new catastrophe. Days pass into weeks and no rescue occurs. Rod has to decide whether to look for his fellow students, and that brings up the problem of how to find them. Then as weeks pass into months, the problems of starting a new society begin. Always in the background is the question of why they weren't rescued and would they ever be?

Robert Heinlein wrote a wonderful series of juveniles and Tunnel in the Sky is, to me, the best. It's a good adventure with a running commentary on survival philosophies and problems of government. I also like the fact that two of the strongest characters are young women. During the 1950s and early 1960s, Heinlein wrote a number of space adventures, Farmer in the Sky, The Star Beast, Between Planets, Red Planet, Podkayne of Mars are a few of the best but all are a lot of fun, short and filled with adventure and ideas.

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