I read this about 15 years ago.

I recall part of it set on a kind of prison planet where prisoners are just dumped and abandoned. The protagonist /possibly/ was an investigator or plant or framed rather than a true prisoner.

If you know any books that feature prison planets, please list them?

It's not Chthon, Borders of Infinity, Stainless Steel Rat is Born, Prison Planet by Dietz, Last Starship from Earth, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Fool's Run.

The next bits I describe may be from different books that I'm confusing, so don't base your suggestions only on fulfilling all these memories.

I recall a scene on a different planet set in something like an amphitheatre, possibly gladiatorial, where protagonist is in the audience.

I recall a possible later (final) part of the book where the protagonist interacts with a giant floating computer or space ship or space station.

  • 4
    Perhaps look in TVTROPES WARNING tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PenalColony just in case it's there.
    – b_jonas
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 12:44
  • Possibly the novella "A Planet Named Shayol" by Cordwainer Smith. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Planet_Named_Shayol Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 12:50
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    Prison planets are a bit of a SF cliche so anything you can do to narrow it down would also be helpful (for example, you say you read it about 15 years ago... do you believe it was new, or was it an older book then? Were the prison-keepers other humans and it's a political prison ,or is say aliens running it for humans) Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 12:57
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    I have partially read 5 different stories that match most of what you remember, sadly they were written don the past 5 years. Prison planets + space roman empire (gladiators) are extremely common, a little more details would be nice
    – Pliny
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 16:37
  • 2
    Years ago, I asked a very similar question about an old "prison planet" SF novel I wanted to track down. It still hasn't been answered correctly. (Heck, for all I know, you could be thinking of the same one, although I'm fairly certain mine didn't have amphitheaters or floating computers.) I also listed several old "prison planet" stories that were not the one I had in mind. You might want to take a look. scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/214680/…
    – Lorendiac
    Commented Nov 6, 2020 at 19:04

9 Answers 9


Is it possible you're remembering The Status Civilization (1960) by Robert Sheckley?

The protagonist was somehow framed/brainwashed into believing himself a murderer, so turned himself in to the authorities and was sent to Omega, a prison planet.

Omega is run by the exiled prisoners, and is extremely violent; the life expectancy of new prisoners is only 3 years. The yearly Games might fit your recollection of a gladiatorial Arena, though in this case Barrent is forced to compete.

After winning the Games, Barrent is gathered by an underground group who help him sneak onto the next prisoner transport, which may be the spaceship you recall. He finds himself alone in the crew part, the ship being completely automatic, evades the check patrols on the way to Earth, and then walks off to try to figure out what happened to him, and carry out the mission of the underground group.

You can read the entire story on Project Gutenberg.


You may be remembering Jack L. Chalker's Four Lords of the Diamond series. The protagonist(s) are four prisoners whose minds were wiped and overwritten by the mind of an agent sent to investigate each of the four inhabitable planets of the Warden system, a system where people were just dumped because once they were there they couldn't leave without dying.

The end of the series featured the agent in question meeting with his four mental clones on the ship from where he's been monitoring them in the system.

  • This is a 4-book series, He's in a space station at the start of all 4, but only the last has a chunk of the action there. In the first he "leads" (but just watches) an army of giant bugs against another to get a castle (that's sort of like watching galdiators). But all 4 strongly feature magic. There's also an alien invasion theme. If the OP doesn't remember that, this may not be the book. Commented Nov 7, 2020 at 1:46
  • It's a four book series, but each book is a standalone in the sense that it's told from the point of view of each of the individual mental clones of the agent, none of whom know what's happened in the other books until the very end. You could pick up the last book and read it without knowing what happened in the previous three until the very end. Commented Nov 8, 2020 at 19:39
  • Sure, but from Lilith one would remember "physic powers, castles, a witch army, giant bugs" Cerebus would be "body switching, robots and water planet". Charon is "magic and shape-changing dino-people". Medusa is "kid, arctic journey, police state, spaceship battle". No one book seems to fit. Commented Nov 8, 2020 at 20:54

Another possibility is a series rather than a single novel - the family d'Alembert series by E.E. "Doc" Smith. The protagonists work for SOTE - the Service Of The Empire. Male protagonist Jules with his wife get themselves arrested and sent to a prison planet to investigate a conspiracy.

They are in the auditorium for the crowning of the Crown Princess Edna.

In the last novel, they have to destroy a computer complex based in an asteroid.


Could you be thinking of Anne McCaffrey's "Freedom Series?" It is also known as the "Catteni Series." Multiple races are kidnapped from different planets, and dropped off on a planet to either survive or die. One human befriends the only Catteni, which is odd as the Catteni people are the ones that drop people off on these planets.


I don't know if this is the one your thinking of, but I have read Chistopher Stasheff's 1983 book Escape Velocity, the prequel to the Warlock of Gramarye series.

It has a prison planet where a more 'primitive' tribe lives, and the prisoners (who are, indeed, dumped there) fight scheduled non-lethal 'wars' with (the protagonist and a visitor spectated one of them). I do believe the protagonist was a fall guy for some other person's scheme, and they eventually ended up leaving the planet with a girl, and dismantling the corrupt government.


I'm not sure if this is what you're looking for, but it's what I remember that is similar. Hope it helps.


If you are looking for a German book (don't know if it ever has been translated),

  • Darlton, Clark (pseudonym of Ernsting, Walter):

    Hades – (Die) Welt der Verbannten, Moewig 1967, Terra #127

does fit your description, including that "interaction with space station" bit.


Very long shot, Night's Dawn Trilogy (1999)

It features prison planets, though none of the action takes place in them. A secondary character is dumped into one of them at the end of the trilogy.

Main antagonist is a forced labor exile in a backwater primitive world after been framed by his gang boss. Similar to a prison planet, except it involves forced slavery to help initiate a colony. He is a true and veritable criminal of the worst kind, no positive feature redeeming him.

Trilogy finishes with main protagonist interacting with an AI hosted in an artificial naked singularity in deep space.


I believe the book is The City and the Stars by Arthur Clarke. The main character is Alvin and the people of his city are afraid to leave the city Diaspar. The people are trapped by their own fear of open spaces which also includes fear of space travel.

The computer is not a computer but actually a pure mentality named Vanamode created by the Galactic empire which mankind was part of.

The ampitheater was during the last part of the book where the memories of the pure mentality were examined for the purpose of finding out the true history of the galactic empire and what happened to the empire.


Garbage World or Hawksbill station. The latter still haunts me. I read it in 1967 when I was ten.

Rubbish Dump Of The Galaxy

Life on the small asteroid Kopra, the dumping ground whose sole function was to receive specially packaged waste material from surrounding pleasure worlds, was harsh and dirty. Carefully avoided by Off-Worlders for centureies, Kopra and its rough and ready, filth encrusted inhabitants suddenly became the object of extrodinary interest to officals of the United Asteroid Belt Pleasure World Federation. What happens when the two opposing cultures meet; the super-sanitary citizens of the Pleasure World and the filthy, underfed villages makes an adventure as exciting as it is bizarre.

  • 1
    Welcome to Science Fiction & Fantasy! Please add some details to your answer to explain why you think it is one of these two.
    – Null
    Commented Nov 10, 2020 at 20:20

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