Tunnel in the Sky

Tunnel in the Sky

by Robert A. Heinlein


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A classic novel from the mind of the storyteller who captures the imagination of readers from around the world, and across two generations

The final exam for Dr. Matson's Advanced Survival class was meant to be just that: only a test. But something has gone terribly wrong...and now Rod Walker and his fellow students are stranded somewhere unknown in the universe, beyond contact with Earth, at the other end of a tunnel in the sky. Stripped of all comforts, hoping for apassage home that may never appear, the castaways must band together or perish. For Rod and his fellow survivors, this is one test where failure is not an option....

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780684189161
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Publication date: 03/01/1988
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 1.50(h) x 9.50(d)
Age Range: 12 Years

About the Author

Robert A. Heinlein (1907–1988) is widely recognized as one of the greatest science fiction authors of all time, a status confirmed in 1974 when the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America gave him their first Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement. A four-time Hugo Award winner, Heinlein is best known for works including Starship Troopers, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, and the sensational bestseller Stranger in a Strange Land.

Date of Birth:

July 7, 1907

Date of Death:

May 8, 1988

Place of Birth:

Butler, Missouri

Place of Death:

Carmel, California


Graduate of U.S. Naval Academy, 1929; attended University of California, Los Angeles, 1934, for graduate study in physic

Read an Excerpt

The Marching Hordes

The bulletin board outside lecture hall 1712-A of Patrick Henry High School showed a flashing red light. Rod Walker pushed his way into a knot of students and tried to see what the special notice had to say. He received an elbow in the stomach, accompanied by: “Hey! Quit shoving!”

“Sorry. Take it easy, Jimmy.” Rod locked the elbow in a bone breaker but put no pressure on, craned his neck to look over Jimmy Throxton’s head. “What’s on the board?”

“No class today.”

“Why not?”

A voice near the board answered him. “Because tomorrow it’s ‘Hail, Caesar, we who are about to die—’ ”

“So?” Rod felt his stomach tighten as it always did before an examination. Someone moved aside and he managed to read the notice:


Department of Social Studies

SPECIAL NOTICE to all students Course 410

(elective senior seminar) Advanced Survival,

instr. Dr. Matson, 1712-A MWF  1. There will be no class Friday the 14th.

 2. Twenty-Four Hour Notice is hereby given of final examination in Solo Survival. Students will present themselves for physical check at 0900 Saturday in the dispensary of Templeton Gate and will start passing through the gate at 1000, using three-minute intervals by lot.

 3. TEST CONDITIONS: (a) any planet, any climate, any terrain; (b) no rules, all weapons, any equipment; (c) teaming is permitted but teams will not be allowed to pass through the gate in company; (d) test duration is not less than forty-eight hours, not more than ten days.

 4. Dr. Matson will be available for advice and consultation until 1700 Friday.

 5. Test may be postponed only on recommendation of examining physician, but any student may withdraw from the course without administrative penalty up until 1000 Saturday.

 6. Good luck and long life to you all!

(s) B. P. Matson, Sc.D.


j. r. roerich, for the Board

Rod Walker reread the notice slowly, while trying to quiet the quiver in his nerves. He checked off the test conditions—why, those were not “conditions” but a total lack of conditions, no limits of any sort! They could dump you through the gate and the next instant you might be facing a polar bear at forty below—or wrestling an octopus deep in warm salt water.

Or, he added, faced up to some three-headed horror on a planet you had never heard of.

He heard a soprano voice complaining, “ ‘Twenty-four hour notice!’ Why, it’s less than twenty hours now. That’s not fair.”

Another girl answered, “What’s the difference? I wish we were starting this minute. I won’t get a wink of sleep tonight.”

“If we are supposed to have twenty-four hours to get ready, then we ought to have them. Fair is fair.”

Another student, a tall, husky Zulu girl, chuckled softly. “Go on in. Tell the Deacon that.”

Rod backed out of the press, taking Jimmy Throxton with him. He felt that he knew what “Deacon” Matson would say . . . something about the irrelevancy of fairness to survival. He chewed over the bait in paragraph five; nobody would say boo if he dropped the course. After all, “Advanced Survival” was properly a college course; he would graduate without it.

But he knew down deep that if he lost his nerve now, he would never take the course later.

Jimmy said nervously, “What d’you think of it, Rod?”

“All right, I guess. But I’d like to know whether or not to wear my long-handled underwear. Do you suppose the Deacon would give us a hint?”

“Him? Not him! He thinks a broken leg is the height of humor. That man would eat his own grandmother—without salt.”

“Oh, come now! He’d use salt. Say, Jim? You saw what it said about teaming.”

“Yeah . . . what about it?” Jimmy’s eyes shifted away.

Rod felt a moment’s irritation. He was making a suggestion as delicate as a proposal of marriage, an offer to put his own life in the same basket with Jimmy’s. The greatest risk in a solo test was that a fellow just had to sleep sometime . . . but a team could split it up and stand watch over each other.

Jimmy must know that Rod was better than he was, with any weapon or bare hands; the proposition was to his advantage. Yet here he was hesitating as if he thought Rod might handicap him. “What’s the matter, Jim?” Rod said bleakly. “Figure you’re safer going it alone?”

“Uh, no, not exactly.”

“You mean you’d rather not team with me?”

“No, no, I didn’t mean that!”

“Then what did you mean?”

“I meant—Look, Rod, I surely do thank you. I won’t forget it. But that notice said something else, too.”


“It said we could dump this durned course and still graduate. And I just happened to remember that I don’t need it for the retail clothing business.”

“Huh? I thought you had ambitions to become a wide-angled lawyer?”

“So exotic jurisprudence loses its brightest jewel . . . so what do I care? It will make my old man very happy to learn that I’ve decided to stick with the family business.”

“You mean you’re scared.”

“Well, that’s one way of putting it. Aren’t you?”

Rod took a deep breath. “Yes. I’m scared.”

“Good! Now let’s both give a classic demonstration of how to survive and stay alive by marching down to the Registrar’s office and bravely signing our names to withdrawal slips.”

“Uh, no. You go ahead.”

“You mean you’re sticking?”

“I guess so.”

“Look, Rod, have you looked over the statistics on last year’s classes?”

“No. And I don’t want to. So long.” Rod turned sharply and headed for the classroom door, leaving Jimmy to stare after him with a troubled look.

The lecture room was occupied by a dozen or so of the seminar’s students. Doctor Matson, the “Deacon,” was squatting tailor-fashion on one corner of his desk and holding forth informally. He was a small man and spare, with a leathery face, a patch over one eye, and most of three fingers missing from his left hand. On his chest were miniature ribbons, marking service in three famous first expeditions; one carried a tiny diamond cluster that showed him to be the last living member of that group.

Rod slipped into the second row. The Deacon’s eye flicked at him as he went on talking. “I don’t understand the complaints,” he said jovially. “The test conditions say ‘all weapons’ so you can protect yourself any way you like . . . from a slingshot to a cobalt bomb. I think final examination should be bare hands, not so much as a nail file. But the Board of Education doesn’t agree, so we do it this sissy way instead.” He shrugged and grinned.

“Uh, Doctor, I take it then that the Board knows that we are going to run into dangerous animals?”

“Eh? You surely will! The most dangerous animal known.”

“Doctor, if you mean that literally—”

“Oh, I do, I do!”

“Then I take it that we are either being sent to Mithra and will have to watch out for snow apes, or we are going to stay on Terra and be dumped where we can expect leopards. Am I right?”

The Deacon shook his head despairingly. “My boy, you had better cancel and take this course over. Those dumb brutes aren’t dangerous.”

“But Jasper says, in Predators and Prey, that the two trickiest, most dangerous—”

“Jasper’s maiden aunt! I’m talking about the real King of the Beasts, the only animal that is always dangerous, even when not hungry. The two-legged brute. Take a look around you!”

The instructor leaned forward. “I’ve said this nineteen dozen times but you still don’t believe it. Man is the one animal that can’t be tamed. He goes along for years as peaceful as a cow, when it suits him. Then when it suits him not to be, he makes a leopard look like a tabby cat. Which goes double for the female of the species. Take another look around you. All friends. We’ve been on group-survival field tests together; we can depend on each other. So? Read about the Donner Party, or the First Venus Expedition. Anyhow, the test area will have several other classes in it, all strangers to you.” Doctor Matson fixed his eye on Rod. “I hate to see some of you take this test, I really do. Some of you are city dwellers by nature; I’m afraid I have not managed to get it through your heads that there are no policemen where you are going. Nor will I be around to give you a hand if you make some silly mistake.”

His eye moved on; Rod wondered if the Deacon meant him. Sometimes he felt that the Deacon took delight in rawhiding him. But Rod knew that it was serious; the course was required for all the Outlands professions for the good reason that the Outlands were places where you were smart—or you were dead. Rod had chosen to take this course before entering college because he hoped that it would help him to get a scholarship—but that did not mean that he thought it was just a formality.

He looked around, wondering who would be willing to team with him now that Jimmy had dropped out. There was a couple in front of him, Bob Baxter and Carmen Garcia. He checked them off, as they undoubtedly would team together; they planned to become medical missionaries and intended to marry as soon as they could.

How about Johann Braun? He would make a real partner, all right—strong, fast on his feet, and smart. But Rod did not trust him, nor did he think that Braun would want him. He began to see that he might have made a mistake in not cultivating other friends in the class besides Jimmy.

That big Zulu girl, Caroline something-unpronounceable. Strong as an ox and absolutely fearless. But it would not do to team with a girl; girls were likely to mistake a cold business deal for a romantic gambit. His eyes moved on until at last he was forced to conclude that there was no one there to whom he wished to suggest partnership.

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Tunnel in the Sky 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 66 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is damaged. All the ends of each line are cut off. Entire sentences, paragraphs missing completely. Not sure who Spectrum publishers are, but they don't bother to proof at all. Do not buy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is improperly formatted and cannot be read properly. The entire right margin is cut off on every page resulting in the loss of several words on each line. After I ordered the book and found it to be unreadable, BN tech support did refund my money, however the same screwed up version remains for sale. Avoid this book until BN specifically states that the formatting problems have been corrected!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This digital copy was pretty much a waste of $8 because no one edited it to make sure it was correct. Words have been changed and whole sentences have been rearranged, and it makes it very difficult to read. Love the book - don't love the unedited digital copy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The right margin cuts off the text, sadness i should have bought the kindle version.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book is now readable.
Hugo-Z-Hackenbush More than 1 year ago
Written partially as a rebutle to Lord of the Flies, Tunnel in the Sky is entertaing for a young reader, and not nearly as dark. That being said, Tunnel is not in any way in the league as Goldings masterwork, though the same storyline is present. Taken by itself, Tunnel is enjoyable, and could be looked upon as a primer for Starship Troopers, or The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book its self is slightly confusing but pretty good! I'm reading this for school but not on my nook. Recommended to ages 10 and up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
E version still unreadable. B&N will do nothing to help you if you buy this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The right side of the page is cut off
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After 25 years of teaching Junior High School I still find it a much more realistic and optimistic view of what would happen if a group of adolescents were cut off from civilization than "Lord of the Rings".
mrtall on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Robert Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky is a delight. This story of a group of young people forced to deal with sudden isolation from society is in many ways the photographic negative of William Golding¿s Lord of the Flies. Tunnel in the Sky follows Rod Walker, our young protagonist, as he and a group of his classmates take a field trip through a matter transfer gate into an unknown, primordial planet where they are intended to undergo a survival course something like a high-stakes Outward Bound. As you might expect, there¿s a hitch in their transport, and it turns out this group of students is stranded on a new world, and find that they must survive on their own for far longer than they had expected. Much of the book recounts their efforts to organize, defend and provide for themselves.One particularly interesting aspect of Tunnel in the Sky is how Heinlein is so forward-looking in some ways, and yet so rooted in his own era¿s values in others. For example, several of the key events in the story involve the young students pairing off and marrying. This need to observe a cornerstone of traditional society draws firm boundaries around the new culture the class develops in its lost world, and it also adds shape and meaning to the story. This is in great contrast to similar novels that might be written today in which it would be taken for granted that healthy young people would pair off casually and switch sexual partners with impunity. Although Heinlein intended Tunnel in the Sky to be a young adult novel, I¿d recommended it to all science-fiction fans.
annbury on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another entry from Heinlein's series of juveniles, and less impressive than some of the others. A group of young people are stranded on a distant planet where they must struggle to survive, against the dangers of the planet and against each other. Interesting story, but the characters are less fully developed than in some of the other juveniles, and the premise is limiting.
JessiAdams on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was shocked after reading this book to learn that it was written in 1955. You can generally tell when science fiction was written a very long time ago, but this book is wonderfully written and timeless. The only hint that I got while reading was the strange interactions between men and women. The relationship between men and women in this book is pretty much the same as it would have been in the 1940's and 50's. I'm not sure if that's because the author lacked imagination to change it, or if he was making a statement of some sort. In any case, it didn't bother me as much as some readers. Before realizing when the book was written, I just found it an entertaining part of the setting that men and women would have regressed some in their roles, especially (as one character eludes to) in a world where there are so many more women than men. The basic story of the book is that a group of adolescents and young adults are sent to a distant planet as part of a survival test to graduate from a class they're taking. The test was supposed to last no more than 10 days. Due to some sort of mishap, they end up being there much, much longer. I enjoyed the book as a fun science fiction read. Although I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I'd never heard of Robert Heinlein before, I believe I will be reading more of his books soon.
Clueless on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This tale of a teenage survival course, in space, in the future is riveting. Everywhere you go there is going to be some big scary monster that you're going to have to contend with. Or a small vicious monster.
thomasJamo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is another book written for a younger audience in mind. It's not a bad read. It's just not his best work. Again, worth a trip to the library for a Heinlein fan.
Zare on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rod Walker is one of the many students that wants to see and explore outlands - wild and untamed planets not yet colonized by Terran Federation. But in order to achieve his goal [and become officially certified explorer] he must take and pass survival test, test taking place in unknown surroundings crawling with unexpected dangers.All starts fine (well, let us say there are gradations of fine, ok :)) but soon all test takers find themselves cut off from civilization and forced to group themselves in order to survive.Like all Heinlein's books this one also explores human nature and society, what works and what does not work, role of true leadership etc (readers may not agree with every point author makes but again that is not the goal - goal is to make readers think about "what-if" scenarios). Test-takers are not your average kids, they know a lot and they are ready to use that knowledge to survive but is that all that is required to survive in the unknown surroundings?Very interesting book. Recommended.
Meggo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This early Heinlein book is largely enjoyable, except where he gets all political and "Lord of the Flies" in the middle. And, as with some of the books, the ending feels tacked on. Frankly, I lost interest once the tension was resolved. Still, it's an enjoyable read, about students of a survival skills class who need to unexpectedly survive in the field much longer than originally intended. But am I the only one who thought that "stobor" was going to turn out to be "robots"? I was disappointed when it wasn't.
mfassold on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite book of all time. I read it for the first time when I was 13 and have read it every year since then at least once. I taught the book this year as a culmination of my civilization and government unit. One of my favorite activities was to have my students pick out all the errors on the cover. All my students missed the fact that Rod was black, not a 30 year old white guy.
Cubine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very Well Written story of students stranded on a deserted planet, light years from Earth. Heinlein's Themes on survival, politics and coming of age are nicely presented. The protagonist, Rod Walker, is a rarity for Heinlein's heroes; an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances. No supermen here, just normal teens surviving by learning to live and work together.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could tell from the start and certainly by the end this was some of the best of earlier science fiction writing. Cultural mores of an era passing us by, served the fledgling community well in a strange and challenging world. Quick, entertaining read, centered on the transformation of a boy to a man by experience and exposure, where the life desire becomes the life well lived.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was awsome.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wanted to write this review because I saw all the bad reviews about the Nook version being damaged. I have this book in print, it was the first Heinlein book I read and still one of my favorites! I dont know if the Nook version is damaged, but the book itself is good.