Book Review: Tunnel in the Sky by Robert Heinlein

Tunnel in the Sky
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  • Tunnel in the Sky
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  • Last modified: December 24, 2013

Review Summary:

Heinlein’s story came decades before The Hunger Games, but the epic story of survival against both the elements and other players shares many lessons including the value of teamwork and salvaging one’s humanity under inhumane circumstances. Rather than entertainment for an oppressive regime, it is the graduation requirement for the students of the Advanced Survival course at Patrick Henry High School. Surviving means the opportunity for advancement into highly specialized fields. Failure means you don’t come home at all.

This is an engaging story of survival that is young adult appropriate by the master of science fiction, Robert Heinlein.  The graduation exercise for the high school’s Advanced Survival class requires students to be sent through a star gate to an unknown environment.  They must survive for the duration of the exercise until recovered approximately a week later.  When the gate malfunctions and the students are randomly sent to an unexplored world it becomes an interstellar Hunger Games.

Survival considerations and leadership authority are explored as the reader lives the exercise with the survival students.  As the story develops, we witness the shift from waiting to be rescued to building a functioning society with all the human pitfalls of such endeavors.

The core theme is self-reliance and teamwork.  My favorite parts of the story are the moments leading up to entering the gate and the days shortly thereafter.  Reading how different students fare based on their gear and survival mentality was brutally honest and often unforgiving.


-Enjoyable for all ages (Young adult) -Comprehensive discussion of survival issues -Engaging story


-The ending felt rushed -Some characters deserved a little more development

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