About 10 years ago, or so, I read a sci-fi novel in which a group of children, who had lived all their lives within a space station, were escaping someone or something. It was quite dystopian in that these children were escaping through the ruined parts of their civilization.

My stand-out memory of the book was that at one point they find themselves on the surface of a planet and are fearful of the open sky above them, having grown up all their lives within the enclosed spaces of ships and space stations.

  • Welcome to Science Fiction & Fantasy! You've tagged this both "hard" and "soft" sci-fi -- which is it?
    – Null
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 13:43
  • I'm not sure! I can't quite remember. It felt more 'hard' than 'soft' but my memory of it was that it focused more on the children and their story. From my reading habits, it's probably more 'hard'.
    – theBeam
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 13:45
  • Okay, I've removed those tags for now -- we can add back the appropriate one if the novel is identified.
    – Null
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 13:49
  • 1
    If it was underground rather than a space station, this might match Light on the Sound by Somtow Sucharitkul.
    – Spencer
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 13:57
  • 1
    YA book + children exploring + city in a bottle + finding blue sky = The City of Ember perhaps?
    – DavidW
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 14:38

2 Answers 2


It's set on Earth, not on a space station, but your question immediately makes me think of The City of Ember (2003) by Jeanne DuPrau.

The protagonists are a pair of children, Lina and Doon, who live in the titular city which is a place of itself, completely isolated in the dark with no outside contact.

As the story progresses, the children discover forgotten instructions for leaving, which they follow to reach the outside world.

They see a blue sky for the first time near the end:

They lifted their faces to the astonishing warmth. The sky arched over them, higher than they could have imagined, a pale, clear blue. Lina felt as though a lid that had been on her all her life had been lifted off. Light and air rushed through her, making a song, like the songs of Ember, only it was a song of joy. She looked at Doon and saw that he was smiling and crying at the same time, and she realized that she was too.

There are more details of the novel (and its sequels) on Wikipedia.

  • There's a bit earlier in the novel where Lina buys a blue pencil crayon and, creating a drawing, colours the sky blue for the first time instead of black.
    – DavidW
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 15:04
  • I don't immediately recall having read The City of Ember but it might be the one. I'm going to have to read it now to find out. My feeling is that the story I'm thinking of was not set on Earth, but my memory could be betraying me. Thank you for the quote, in particular.
    – theBeam
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 15:15

Might it be "The Children" by Malcom Hulke from the Galactic Adventures book as per Looking for sci-fi short story anthology with a particular story of an Earth/Mars war children inheriting the surface?

It has an unnamed boy and a girl in the Under, an underground complex on Earth, who've never known a time when Mars was not bombarding the surface of the Earth, who hear tales of the Above from their great-uncle, and decide to explore it. When they get to the surface, they're not afraid of the sky, but they are baffled, and briefly scared by a cloud.

Sudden warmth enveloped them. The boy looked up. "That must be the sun, and all the blue stuff is sky."

A white patch was moving away from the sun. "Is that an atomic explosion?" said the girl, frightened at the sight of the ragged white cloud. "The Martians are always attacking us."

They then decide to play in some water they found, doffing their suits to do so, and finding when they try to put the suits back on that the paper material has been compromised by the water. The robots greet them, saying that they've been waiting for humans to wish to return to the surface, and that they will now shut down and leave the children to inherit the world Above.

Image of the Boy and Girl inheriting the Earth

  • Although, somehow I missed that the "Story" was a "novel"...
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 15:48
  • 1
    I'm pretty sure that illustration would not have flown today ... Commented Aug 23, 2023 at 7:27

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