The story line: a young boy raised in a farming community finds a door in a wall that he thought was the physical limit of his world. His community puts food on a conveyor belt that goes thorough the wall, to where they do not know, and do not question. The door leads him to another world, where he meets a young girl who joins him on adventure. In brief, the two discover there are four or five worlds/communities all in a huge hollowed-out asteroid...which they discover was sent from earth thousands of years before to start the colonisation of a new world..but no one in any of the separate worlds on the asteroid remembered this. They figure it out, and make the scientist/navigator/pilot world aware of it and thus save the asteroid 'world" of people.

Does anyone know the title and/or author of this story? It was spectacular for me at a very young age.

Edited to add:

As my memory further serves, there were 4 or 5 worlds within this hollowed-out asteroid. The boy's farming community sent food on a conveyor belt through a wall, and they received manufactured goods similarly. One of the worlds was a manufacturing world, and another was responsible for the piloting of the asteroid...but the knowledge that that was their task was long ago forgotten. I believe that eventually everyone learns, thanks to the boy and girl, that the asteroid is going to crash into a star if they don't take control and complete the original mission of colonizing a planet that orbits that star.

There is no religious persecution story, and no sex story, as one of the respondents had suggested in the book/story they recall.

I most definitely read it in the late 1950's, so it isn't Orphans of the Sky which I'm advised was written in the 70's, though it's entirely possible Heinlein borrowed the themes from someone else's earlier story.

I hope this additional information helps, as I am eager to learn the title of this book/story and the author.

  • 1
    Welcome to the site! Great start. Take a look at this guide to help jog your memory and edit any more details.
    – amflare
    Jul 20, 2017 at 18:16
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    Possibly Phoenix Without Ashes.
    – Valorum
    Jul 20, 2017 at 18:22
  • @Valorum That other question gives a 1975 pub date for that novel.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jul 20, 2017 at 19:41
  • @ZeissIkon - Anyone who was reading scifi in the 1950s was almost certainly reading it in the 1970s as well
    – Valorum
    Jul 20, 2017 at 20:08
  • t's a minor edit to bump it back up because someone destroyed the front page :) This will help it get more attention :)
    – Edlothiad
    Jul 20, 2017 at 22:14

3 Answers 3


I believe the story is The Star Seekers, by Milton Lesser. I read it approximately 60 years ago. Great story. I have forgotten some of the details, but whenever I see dinner trays with dirty dishes on a conveyor belt at a cafeteria, I think about the dinner trays on the conveyor in the story.

Having worked in a few mega-corporation environments, I have often thought of some of my co-workers who worked as drones, never really knowing what was in the huge corporate environment around them, and never really knowing who used their output or who provided their inputs -- oblivious to what was really happening in the greater environment.


Are you sure about the date? Other than that, it sounds like Phoenix Without Ashes by Harlan Ellison and Edward Bryant, the basis for the ill-fated TV show The Starlost. But it was published in 1975.

They had banished Devon from the world of Cypress Corners because he dared to challenge the Elders. And when he defied them again, they hunted him like an animal. Then Devon stumbled on a secret passage in the hills. His whole life changed in that moment. For Devon had accidentally discovered the giant ark that was ferrying not only Cypress Corners but all other Earth cultures to another planet. What Devon did not know was that there had been a terrible accident aboard the spaceship. The gear hat been damaged, the crew dead. And the ark and all its worlds were now headed straight for destruction.

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    This was my first thought. +1 Aug 2, 2017 at 12:23

This plot has some similarities to Robert A. Heinlein's Orphans of the Sky -- set in a generation ship that suffered a mutiny and, as a result, lost its collective memory of mission and destination. The book originally appeared in two parts beginning in 1941, though it wasn't published in a single volume until 1963.

I don't recall a boy-girl love interest, but the unquestioning, ritualistic service of the "Ship", without any actual knowledge of what any of their service means, is there, along with the eventual (partial) rescue of mission and (part of) the population by launching a lifeboat into a system the ship is passing.

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    It's not Orphan's of the Sky. That story had no girl, no conveyor belt, and was not set on a converted asteroid. Jul 21, 2017 at 18:23

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