When I was in college in 1987, I read a science fiction book that I'd like to reread. But I cannot remember the name or author.

The key features that I recall, are

  • It takes place on a large cylindrical spaceship traveling through space (not orbiting),
  • From inside the ship, the human style society extends around the inside walls, so people can see on the other side the opposite habitats,
  • The ship rotates to form a gravity well,
  • One of the most popular entertainments is to take an elevator up to the center of the cylinder, where you could "rent" a set of wings and fly.

What is the title of this book?

  • It sounds like an L5-style space colony, and the date matches that pretty well.
    – Mark Olson
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 16:38
  • If it were a short story, "For the birds" by Asimov hits a lot of the main points. Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 16:49
  • 7
    One of the Rendezvous with Rama novels?
    – Paulie_D
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 16:55
  • 1
    the wings and flying was also a bit in '3001: The Final Odyssey', also included space elevators. Maybe conflating a couple of Clarke stories it seems?
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 17:26
  • Also, as it turns out, the setting of Patrick Tomlinson's The Ark (2015), book one of the Children of a Death Earth trilogy: goodreads.com/book/show/25848445-the-ark Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 17:38

1 Answer 1


It's not a perfect match, but there are a lot of similarities to the Niven short story "Spirals" (1979). It was collected in his 1985 anthology Limits.

The only major point of difference is that the story takes place in an O'Neill colony in Earth orbit, instead of flying free in space.

We were at the center of rotation. All around, above and below, were fields of dirt, some plowed, some planted with grass and grains.

There were wings attached to hooks at the entrance. McLeve took down a set and began strapping them on. Black bat wings. They made him look like a fallen angel, Milton's style. He handed me another pair. "Like to fly?" he asked.


I was a tiny chick in a vast eggshell. The landscape was wrapped around me: fields and houses, and layout yards of construction gear, and machinery, and vats of algae, and three huge windows opening on blackness. Every direction was down, millions of light years down when a window caught my attention. For a moment that was terrifying.

  • DavidW: The text you clipped reads exactly like what I remember! I will look for "Spirals". Thank you! Commented Oct 14, 2021 at 14:33

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