Story of people divided by occupation onboard a ship whose subsequent generations have forgotten they are on a ship. Ship is due to arrive at new world and no one is aware.

There are farm people, people who are mechanical, people who are the scientists keeping the ship running. All are unaware of each other. Two farm kids discover a hatch in their "sky" that leads to the mechanical people. They learn they have forgotten the mission and must travel to each section of the ship and convince the people they are on a ship and it will soon arrive at the new planet. I believe there also may be something wrong with the ship but I am not sure.

I read this at least 20 years ago.

  • 6
    Have you checked the responses to this question: [scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/164292/…? The story descriptions are similar enough that one of the wrong answers there might be your story.
    – user61524
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 7:12
  • Have you also checked the site for references to Aldiss' Non-Stop (aka Starship) which is one of the more commonly asked questions around here?
    – moopet
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 8:56
  • Thanks user61524 & moopet. It is not Aldiss' story but the referenced question may have the answer with "Phoenix Without Ashes" by Bryant & Ellison. The synopsis sounds right; although I do not remember a banishment. I will have to find/buy a copy to read. Thanks again
    – Terry
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 14:39
  • No real confidence in this but it does meet the general criteria and the publication time frame fits. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dark_Beyond_the_Stars Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 16:57
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    Well, "Phoenix Without Ashes" is so close as to make me question my memory. I also realize my memory was off as I read this as a teen in the early 70s. The hero is aided by the ship's computer and travels through vastly different "worlds" until he reaches the scientists who can fix the ship and correct their course. However, the Nook version is set up oddly. Says there are 429 pages but I did not read that many in the course of 1.5 hrs. And the nook ver ends with the heroes escape from his "world" with his girlfriend. I need the full book as it is too close to my memory to be something else.
    – Terry
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 19:20

3 Answers 3


Universe, an early novel by Robert Heinlein? Came out in 1941. A generation ship split into two cultures separated by many empty decks; the first culture has regressed to peasantry ruled by superstition masquerading as science, the other is "muties," a feared semi-legend to the peasants. The muties understand the situation, the peasants do not. The muties capture a peasant and enlighten him as to the nature of the ship. He returns to his own group and tries to teach them, but they don't believe him. His rescue by the muties ensues.

Universe was part of a two-story set. The second part, Common Sense, tells the struggle for control of the ship, and the resolution of the plot. The two stories together are available as Orphans Of the Sky.

Imagine a group of human beings to whom the only world they know is a gigantic spaceship - so large and so ingeniously constructed that it has supported thousands of people for centuries. Yet they live subject to all the old emotions - victims of conflict and suspense arising from rebellions and killings in their midst.

Goodreads - Universe

  • Please could you add a little more supporting info about how this fits the description in the question, or at least a link to where the OP can read more about this book? (We also have advice on writing good story-ID answers :-) )
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 16:22
  • There are no mechanical people in "Universe". Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 17:11
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    In "Orphans of the Sky" there are only two groups. "Muties" who are mutants descended from the mutineers who caused the loss of knowledge of the mission, and "crew" who are descended from the crewmen who remained loyal to the captain. Within the crew are different ranks (simple crewmen, engineers, and scientists.) The "scientists" are unfortunately far away from any real science. They have become the keepers of a religion whose traditions keep (some) of the macines running and some discipline.
    – JRE
    Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 18:06

This sounds disturbingly like the third book in Ben Bova's Exiles trilogy, End of Exile, published in 1975.

By the time they get there, the ship has started to decay, they live in technological ignorance and don't even know they're on a journey or there's anything outside. (TVTropes)


You said you read this story 20 years ago. So this is not going to be the book you are looking for since it's a relatively new book. But it has a lot of similarities.

"The Bridge" by Leonard Petracci has a lot of the same plot points. (you can read it online.)

The ship is split in 2 parts. The main character we follow, is on the farming side of the ship. They have no mechanical knowledge of how the ship works, and since the generation ship has been underway for quite some time a lot of knowledge has been lost ever since the ship was split into two parts.

The other side is essentially keeping the ship alive. Because they are the engineers.

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