Several years ago I read a sci-fi novel which I'm now trying to track down again. It focused on one member of a society of people living on a world where metals are extremely rare. All metal tools are controlled by the priesthood, who also insist on what seem ridiculous ideas, such as men being descended from apes, and metals being extracted from the ground. Anyone who dissents is taken away to the priests' inner sanctum and never seen again.

As the book progresses, it is revealed that the inhabitants had to leave Earth a long time ago (I don't remember why), and fled to a planet which is very low in metals. The priesthood are the only people on the planet who understand why things are as they are, and are keeping the people in ignorance until they can set up new metal refining and rebuild what they can't currently make.

The main character is taken for questioning by the priests, and refuses to accept any of the explanations they give him. The climax of the book is him learning all this by living through the recorded experience of one of the first settlers, and experiencing his death.

  • Except for the priests and that climax, I was thinking this was Windhaven again...
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 16:14
  • And BTW, Welcome to SF&F Stack Exchange, Kieran. Please take the tour and read over the FAQ to get a better idea of how this and other Stack Exchange sites work.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 16:14
  • @Kieran - Welcome to the site. In roughly which year did you read this book, and when do you think it might've been published? Also, do you recall any details about the cover? Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 16:15
  • See also this question, this question, this question, this question, and this question.
    – gowenfawr
    Commented Jun 25, 2021 at 21:25

1 Answer 1


This is the Children of the Star trilogy by Sylvia Engdahl, starting with This Star Shall Abide.

Noren knew that his world was not as it should be--it was wrong that only the Scholars, and their representatives the Technicians, could use metal tools and Machines. It was wrong that only they had access to the mysterious City, which he had always longed to enter. Above all, it was wrong for the Scholars to have sole power over the distribution of knowledge. The High Law imposed these restrictions and many others, though the Prophecy promised that someday knowledge and Machines would be available to everyone. Noren was a heretic. He defied the High Law and had no faith in the Prophecy's fulfillment. But the more he learned of the grim truth about his people's deprivations, the less possible it seemed that their world could ever be changed. It would take more drastic steps than anyone imagined to restore their rightful heritage.


Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.