I want to say this is probably from the 1950s, based on the nuclear family (father, mother, daughter, son) and the fact that the father was the breadwinner, the mother stayed home, etc. The setting (as I recall it) also seems closer to Asimov's The Caves of Steel than later, much more dystopian, overcrowded worlds like Make Room! Make Room! (Harrison) or The World Inside (Silverberg). I didn't read it until the early 1990s though, so it's possible I'm wrong about the timing.

The father is cheerful, optimistic, energetic, and always in trouble. In their society, there are a lot of social rules to enable so many people to live close together as harmoniously as possible. I don't remember specifics, but things like not being loud, not making eye contact or speaking unnecessarily, moving in synchrony with others, etc. The father talks too loud, moves too fast, jostles people and so on, so they either get visits from police/monitors or they get fines (I don't recall which, maybe both). The mother and daughter are well-behaved members of society, but the son is like the father; is too loud, wants to run...

Somehow they either decide or are convinced to join an off-world colony. It's a relatively new, unpopulated colony on a reasonably pastoral world. Suddenly the roles reverse; instead of the mother and daughter fitting in well, it's the father and the son who are better suited for the new life. (For example, when they're on opposite ends of a field, they yell back and forth, shocking the other people who are still adapting.)

1 Answer 1


Sounds a bit like the first part of Decision at Doona, by Anne McCaffrey. A family of humans from a massively overcrowded earth are selected as colonists for the apparently unpopulated world of Doona. The son, Todd was very rowdy and didn't have the temperament to live quietly, elbow to elbow on earth.

Fortuitously his own Aisle was sparsely occupied—Todd had driven away any resident who could wangle a transfer.

Maybe now they rated additional acoustical shielding so that Pat wouldn’t suffer so much ostracism because of Todd's asocial traits.

I don't think he had a sister though. The father, Ken, also felt repressed living on earth.

IT REQUIRED EVERY ounce of self-control Ken Reeve had developed over the frustrating years of his adulthood to keep from shouting, singing, jumping or committing a number of other social solecisms. As it was, he received stern, remanding looks from the other passengers in the express lift for the wide smile he couldn’t repress.

The bit where they discover their voices:

"Todd," Reeve called, realizing as he did that the child couldn't possibly hear that polite summons.

"TODD," he bellowed. Everyone stopped work and turned to look at Reeve.

"YEAH, DAD, WHAT DO YOU WANT?" Todd replied in equal man-sized voice.

There was a second stunned silence until the newcomers realized that such volume was no longer a social sin but an asset.

It has been decades since I read it though, and the only text I can find is from the Amazon book preview.

  • 1
    Some quotes from the novel would turn this from an OK answer to an excellent one
    – Valorum
    Nov 23, 2023 at 9:24
  • The book can be borrowed (for free but registration required) from the Internet Archive: archive.org/details/decisionatdoona0000unse
    – user14111
    Nov 23, 2023 at 11:10
  • Going to have to dig my copy out of storage. Great series.
    – Corey
    Nov 27, 2023 at 0:55
  • I added the quote I particularly recalled. I think I must have been conflating this with another story; I totally failed to connect it to the cats.
    – DavidW
    Dec 15, 2023 at 3:57

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