by Robert A. Heinlein

Robert Heinlein was the most celebrated science fiction writer of his time and, while I am not addicted to science fiction, I am drawn to writers who create imaginative mental imagery, uncluttered characters and plots, and crunchy diologue. More than a novelist, Heinlein was a true storyteller. He could say as much in two sentences as most of us who call ourselves writers can in three paragraphs, and his contact with the reader is nearly perfect. All of this holds true in his novel, TUNNEL IN THE SKY, published in 1955.

Released as one of Heinlein's juvenile novels, TUNNEL IN THE SKY, as with many of his books, can be viewed on more than one level. Our hero, Rod Walker, is one of a group of students in an advanced survival class who is transported to a distant planet for a few days to test his skill in dealing with an alien environment. As with the others, Rod is allowed to take a minimum of equipment of his choice and deposited alone, in unfamiliar terrain, reasonably close a location where he will be picked up.

The pickup doesn't happen.

Stranded, the young men and women gradually begin to locate one another and settle in for the long haul, attempting to organize divergent personalities and priorities into a cohesive social and communal group. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Heinlein's wit and understanding of the human animal comes to the forefront in their continunity and clashes, highlighting the best and worst in all of us.

This book is easy to read and rapidly absorbed. It is fun and frightening and gives the reader a glance in the mirror. So many of today's sci-fi writers owe their growth to the seeds sowed by Robert Heinlein. Go back to his roots with TUNNEL IN THE SKY.

By the way, as in the book, watch out for Stobor.

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