New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1955. First edition. Hardcover. This is the first edition of the author’s early novel about an overpopulated future Earth where faster-than-light gates to other planets are allowing extra-solar colonization – and requiring a new breed of intrepid and resourceful pioneer. The first edition was bound in tan cloth, illustrated on both the spine and front cover, with decorative endpapers featuring a dark blue and white star scape and an illustrated tan dust jacket printed white, brown, and blue.
We conservatively grade this copy as near fine plus in a near fine dust jacket. The binding is square, clean, and tight with sharp corners. We note only the slightest wear to the lower corners and spine ends. First edition is confirmed by the Scribner’s “A” on the copyright page. The contents remain bright with no spotting and only the slightest age-toning to the otherwise immaculate page edges. We find the same previous owner name inked on both the front pastedown and the final free endpaper recto, as well as a tiny bookseller sticker “Weinstock Lubin & Co.” affixed to the lower rear pastedown. The dust jacket is clean, bright, and complete, with the correct first printing “$2.50” price intact on the front flap. Light wear is almost entirely confined to the spine ends and flap folds. The dust jacket is protected in a removable, archival quality clear cover.
In Tunnel in the Sky, Rod Walker, a student with aspirations of a career in colonization, is taking Advanced Survival. His final exam involves being sent to an unfamiliar planet and surviving for somewhere between two and ten days. But something goes wrong and Rod is left for dead, awaking only after the tenth day has passed, which makes him realize that he's been stranded and this is no longer just a test. So Rod bands together with other students to form a community and survive.
Beginning with his first published book, Rocket Ship Galileo (1947), Heinlein would spend his early career exploiting what we would now call the “young adult” market in science fiction. Heinlein’s so-called “Juveniles” ran to a dozen novels published before 1959, when Heinlein’s Starship Troopers was a literary crossroads for Heinlein, which saw him infuse his subsequent work with more complex and controversial cultural, political, and philosophical perspectives. However, not all of Heinlein’s “Juveniles” were quite so juvenile, and the line of demarcation between Heinlein’s more and less serious works is not as clear. Interestingly, Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky was published one year after Lord of the Flies and shares a thematic underpinning with Golding's work, but both draws and comes to very different conclusions. As such, it could be said to fall on the less juvenile spectrum of Heinlein’s early works, and presage some of the more serious Heinlein themes to follow.
Robert Anson Heinlein (1907-1988) was one of the “Big Three” of American science fiction writers, along with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. A prolific writer with a career spanning half a century, Heinlein published more than 30 novels, along with numerous short stories and collections. When Tunnel in the Sky was published, more than three decades of writing lay ahead of Heinlein, including the bulk of his work, and the accompanying recognition. Heinlein would go on to win the Hugo Award for best novel four times - for Double Star in 1956, Starship Troopers in 1959, Stranger in a Strange Land in 1961, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress in 1966. Heinlein was lauded not just for individual stories, but also for weaving a coherent and often thought-provoking speculative future; Heinlein’s “Future History” series was nominated for a Best All-Time Series Hugo Award in a very strong field in 1966, losing (along with fellow nominee The Lord of the Rings) to Asimov’s Foundation series. Fittingly, Heinlein’s name accompanies his imagination into space; an asteroid and a crater on Mars are named after him. Item #003801