I found this novel in English at my local library in the mid-1990's, but the book itself looked like it was from the 1950's or 60's. If I remember correctly, it had a picture of an astronaut in a space suit on the cover.

In the story, an American astronaut travels to an already-established Lunar colony and gets involved there in investigations into unexplained phenomena. The phenomena turn out to be aliens, and the protagonist is abducted while on an away mission and whisked away to an alien zoo. There, he discovers that the aliens have time travel and have been abducting humans from many different time periods to fill their zoo. He ends up working together with an ancient Roman soldier to escape.

Some particular specifics of the story that I remember:

The author goes into detail on space suit mechanics and configuration. Early in the story, the protagonist has a pharmacist install a narcotics dispensing system into his helmet, and this is portrayed as a normal practice and not at all shady or illicit.

The scene in which the protagonist meets the Roman soldier takes care to explore the language barrier. The protagonist's attempts to speak English to the soldier are rebuffed as barbarian talk. The protagonist then remembers that he speaks Spanish, which is a descendant of Latin, so he tries greeting the soldier in Spanish. This turns out to be close enough to the soldier's dialect for mutual intelligibility (and for the soldier to recognize the astronaut as a civilized person), and they are then able to make a plan to escape the alien zoo.

At some point in the story, the protagonist receives a major upgrade to his space suit (or perhaps a brand-new suit) that has improved visibility and flexibility.

2 Answers 2


This is Have Space Suit, Will Travel, a young adult novel by Robert A. Heinlein. Some of your memories are not precise.

The "astronaut" is a young man, Clifford "Kip" Russell, who wins a surplus space suit, initially not in working condition, in a contest. He could trade it in and receive a money prize instead, but chooses to repair it into working condition. He has been working the soda counter at a pharmacy, and persuades his physician to write prescriptions for the drugs to install in the standard medical dispenser inside the helmet. While testing the suit in his back yard, he and two other beings are abducted by human agents of aliens and taken to the Moon. He and the other prisoners try to escape, but are recaptured and taken to Pluto by the actual aliens (which Kip nicknames "wormfaces") where there is a secret advance base from which the aliens intend to take over the Earth. They are not in a zoo; they are imprisoned so they can't alert Earth governments to the invasion. While signaling for help, Kip gets severe frostbite. However, benevolent aliens from a planet around Vega take the escapees to their world; this is where Kip's suit gets the upgrade.

The galactic government decides to investigate the wormfaces and incidentally the humans. The government reaches into Earth's past and brings in a Neandertal and a Roman soldier as samples to judge how quickly humans are evolving. You remember the language scene very well; the Roman soldier claims that he will fight their captors, but before any attempt can be made, they are taken to the inquest.

P.S. I wanted to add the dust jacket you probably saw according to your description.

enter image description here

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    Surprisingly, this does not appear to be a duplicate question. There are other questions about aspects of the book but I didn't find an accepted id question. Nice job on answering about one of the books that had the biggest influence on me as a kid! Commented Nov 25, 2021 at 5:49
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    OP may be mixing Have Spacesuit will Travel with Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut. In that story the protagonist does indeed end up in an alien zoo, in the same cage as a pornstar called Montana Wildhack because the aliens are hoping they will mate. They do.
    – Peter Wone
    Commented Nov 25, 2021 at 10:25
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    My memory is that the Neanderthal and Roman are not brought in as samples of how quickly humans are evolving, but merely as samples of current humans. One of the points made by Kip in the trial is that they shouldn't presume to judge humans when they can't even get a representative sample of humans.
    – Graham
    Commented Nov 25, 2021 at 13:59
  • I love the idea of soda counters at pharmacies still existing at the same time as citizen ownership of drug-dispensing space suits... Commented Nov 27, 2021 at 22:15
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    Read this in the third grade. I credit it with getting me into MIT, just like the hero, Kip, is admitted after he finishes saving the Earth from the aliens. I never had to battle aliens, though. Commented Jun 25, 2022 at 16:02

There are enough elements here to make me think of R.A. Heinlein's "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel".


  • About the right timeframe (1950s, 1960s)
  • Protagonist works at a pharmacy, and the pharmacist fills the "pills and supplements" section of the suit (including getting a doctor to prescribe things which need it) - not shady or a problem
  • Travels to the moon (meets another young person there, which you didn't mention)
  • Abducted by aliens (but not for a zoo, but for a trial of Humanity) - Further memory here: abducted by aliens, then rescued by other aliens so that Humanity could be put on trial
  • Roman soldier also present, protagonist speaks Spanish, Italian, and English, and there is enough overlap for the (decidedly non-classical) Latin speech of the soldier

There is also significantly more happening, including aliens who believe Earth is uninhabited by anything intelligent, and can therefore be cleansed before being occupied, and another race who act as "guardians" of less developed species.

That's about all I can recall at this time, though.

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