I read this story maybe 15-20 years ago. It was about a massive spaceship on a voyage that would take many generations to reach their destination. Somehow the ship breaks down, losing power and gravity, and over years the people on board revert to a primitive society, using fire for light and "flying" down long dark corridors... I remember a boy who (I think) had to flee into the "forbidden" part of the ship... the story ends with him somehow powering up the broken ship, lights and gravity kick in after centuries, all the people fall to the "ground", and the ship begins to head toward it's now mystery-destination.

6 Answers 6


The part about the ship powering up and gravity kicking in doesn't fit (as far as I recall), but the rest of the description sounds a lot like Heinlein's classic "Orphans of the Sky" (originally published in 2 parts "Universe" and "Common Sense.")

  • Orphans of the sky was the first one that came to my mind as well. Great example of a technocracy, where the ones that still held the "key" to the power/control functions were the ruling class of an otherwise degenerated society.
    – JohnP
    Sep 11, 2013 at 14:51

I remember a similar question: Book about an isolated space ship where a new society/religion develops after order collapsed

As you can see, there are several books resembling the described scenario:

  • Orphans of the Sky by Heinlein (protagonist here is a young man)
  • Non-Stop by Brian Aldis (the main character is a mid-aged man)
  • Earthseed by Pamela Sargent (haven't read this)
  • Mayflies by Kevin O'Donnell Jr (haven't read as well, but according to answer the protagonist is a scientist)

There are some other books mentioned as well.


This sounds a lot like Harlan Ellison's ill fated screenplay "The Starlost"
Unfortunately, the producer's strayed from his vision and Ellison divorced himself from the TV show.
The original screenplay was adapted into a novel by Edward Bryant in 1975 called "Phoenix without Ashes".
Here's a link to the novelization.
And here's a link to the Starlost TV show only 16 episodes were made.


It sounds a little bit like Raumschiff der Verdammten (german title) from Kurt Mahr. I don't know the english title.

The Glorious (the ship) breaks down because of Sabotage (pilot and copilot are from different companies and are trying ti kill each other and the copilot sabotages the drive) and in the end it is rescued from ships from earth, because the FTL travel is invented sometime after the start of the Glorious.

A german review can be found here: http://schundliteratur.blogspot.de/2012/05/kurt-mahr-raumschiff-der-verdammten.html


Sounds close to "Journey to Alfahsfere" by Mike Combs. Looks like he published it online in 1996. Only in Alfasfere, there is no gravity loss, and

only the BetaSphere inhabitants go primitive, AlphaSphere retains their technological knowledge and knows of the continuing mission.


Both of these books bear resemblance to the story you are describing:

  1. Ring - Steven Baxter
  2. Mothership - John Brosnon

They both have ships where there are break downs and primitive society forms. In both there are young males who explore parts of the ship that is outside of their 'world'. There is definitely a gravity problem at some point in Ring although I cant remember if there is one in mothership and not sure it is that old.

  • OH NO! I have mixed my plot lines up. Sorry. I read Tau Zero and Ring - by Steven Baxter at some point last year and I have somehow melded the stories together. I Think it is perhaps me that needs to re-read!
    – user16718
    Sep 16, 2013 at 16:53
  • On the plus side, the two story lines together make a fantastic one in my head.
    – user16718
    Sep 16, 2013 at 17:00

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