This was a sci-fi book, where roughly all I remember of it is the ending. The POV character is a human who awakens on a generational spaceship. They go about meeting the other inhabitants, learning about their customs, the nature and history of their voyage, etc. They feel increasingly like they do not fit in and are more and more alarmed by the conduct of the other characters.

Finally, it turns out that they were deliberately awoken to be something like an "original" human, with sensibilities familiar to the reader. The spaceship's inhabitants periodically revive people who haven't experienced the generations of cultural drift that they have, so they can get a sense of how dissimilar they've become from the society they departed from.

This would've been a book I read some time in the late 1990s or early 2000s, but it could have been written considerably earlier than that. I don't remember any character names. The generation ship aspect and the focus on the ship's cultural shifts over very long periods of time remind me of some of Stephen Baxter's works (Ring, Mayflower II), but I'm pretty confident it's not by him.


2 Answers 2


Aha! Found it from looking at some lists of books featuring generation ships. It's The Dark Beyond the Stars, by Frank Robinson.

Things change when Sparrow slowly discovers that he is also immortal like the Captain, and that he has lived previous "lives" on the ship as the same man but with different names and his memories of every previous identity are erased every generation by orders of the Captain. He learns that he originally volunteered for the role to be the mirror for every crew to "remember what its like to be human"; since they've been isolated from the rest of humanity over the centuries the crew has formed their own collective-mind culture that's overly benign and incapable of harm since they regard life as the most precious thing in existence (also makes them reluctant to mutiny).

I forgot that they kept re-reviving the same person, but this is definitely what I was thinking of.


Not sure this is an exact match for your description, but some of the details are similar to Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F! Can you explain how this matches the question, other than a generation ship, especially the part where an original human is revived periodically?
    – DavidW
    Commented Feb 10 at 14:36
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    This seems unlikely to be it. Reading the Wikipedia summary, the description of the different factions don't ring a bell. My recollection is that most of the non-POV characters had a more or less accurate understanding of what was going on, and it was only really the POV character who was learning a bunch of things for the first time. Obviously I could be mistaking some things, but I don't think it was this. Commented Feb 10 at 17:51

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