In the late 1970s I bought a book at a school book fair (likely published by Scholastic) about a young boy who lived on a generational starship. The ship was failing. I remember some bit about an icey cold airlock.

One of the constellations (Cygnus) somehow took on actual fleshy form and manifested as a talking swan, which somehow helped the starships reach their destination.


  • Sounds Patricia McKillip'y. She does a nice swan, but a quick search didn't turn up anything by here concerning generation ships. – Wayfaring Stranger Jan 13 '12 at 0:20
  • Did the boy hurt his knee or cut his leg badly at some point? – arcain Mar 3 '12 at 6:31

Possibly The Watchers of Space?

The description:

The starship Genesis carries the last survivors of Earth on a desperate flight to a new home. But the ship is slowly disintegrating and the oxygen supply is running out -- it's a race against time and space. Out of the far reaches of the universe the Watchers of Space gather: Orion, the giant golden man; Starnight, the sword of power and magic; and Cygnus, the beautiful swan. Together they will help save the doomed ship. But no one on the Genesis will believe twelve-year-old William when he tells them of the Watchers' plan. For they no longer believe in anything -- not till they see William go spinning off into space...

The description seems to fit, but I think it was published in '85, so a bit later than you specified :(

  • Yes, I believe that's it! Amazon lists the publication date as 85, but that couldn't be right - I read this in elementary school. The author's complete bibliography, though, etchemendy.com/pubs.htm#complete shows that it was 1980. That fits much better into my memory. Still a bit late - I would have been in 4th grade by then and this would have been a bit immature. I suspect that it was first published in a Scholastic edition around 1978 or so. Anyway, good identification, thanks! – TJIC Oct 14 '12 at 11:58

Could it be the Hooded Swan series?


When the girl is later kidnapped by her own kind and taken to the Anacaona's home world, the Hooded Swan is sent to retrieve her. They fly to Chao Phrya, a world settled by a human generation ship, the Zodiac, whose descendants now believe it is their promised land, despite the presence of the Anacaona.

The kidnappers manage to land illegally in the jungle before Charlot can get permission from the uncooperative locals, who eventually agree to let the Hooded Swan land. Charlot chooses Grainger and Eve to join the local search party, which consists of two humans, Max and Linda, and three Anacaona, Danel, Michael, and Merce. As they travel, Grainger discovers that the Anacaona have minds adaptable to an almost absurd degree, and create completely human personalities simply to interact with humans.

It lacks a talking swan, but the idea of Cygnus the Swan and generational ships are present. As well as a child who is in peril.

  • Nope, sounds like an entirely different book. Thank you, though! – TJIC Aug 18 '11 at 22:07

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