I'm looking for a story (might have been a short story, novella or full novel) about an isolated space colony.

The site for the colony was chosen based on a report from an unmanned probe, but unfortunately the probe had landed on the planet's highest mountain and failed to register that the rest of the planet was not inhabitable. Thus the colony which was planned and equipped for a "frontier settlers" scenario instead has to deal with a severe shortage of land.

I have vague memories that in this universe, space travel is very slow (probably sublight and using some sort of cold sleep) and there is no FTL communication either, so there is no help arriving anytime soon.

Within a few years or decades, the overcrowding leads to an oppressive society, and most of the plot is concerned with people suffering from and fighting against this.

2 Answers 2


Sounds like Larry Niven's A Gift From Earth, part of the Known Space series.

The planet is called Plateau, and the mountain was Mount Lookitthat (Look at that!), a 40 mile high mesa. The rest of the planet is covered by a hot, dense atmosphere (Wikipedia describes it as Venusian). The society was somewhat feudal, divided into Crew (the nobility) and Colonists (the serfs). The colonists were also used as organ farms for the crew, with criminals being sentenced to death so their organs could be transplanted, thereby extending the crew's lives.

The "gift" of the title was the technology...

to grow organs artificially, causing a revolution in the society and ultimately the overthrow of the original regime.

  • 1
    Yes, this rings true, thanks! Commented Jan 20, 2014 at 16:46

This may be A Gift From Earth by Larry Niven.

Niven's book is set in his Known Space time-line early in humanities interstellar adventures when long life is achieved through organ transplantation. The plot revolves around a conspiracy to overthrow the ruling class (decended from the slowboat's crew) and the big risk to the protagonist is being captured and simply taken apart for raw medical material.

Other random bits that may be memorable: the houses of the lower class are grown by genetically modified coral in inflated bags, so they tend to have bulbous walls unless sanded flat.


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