I'm trying to identify a novel or novella, probably from the 70's or 80's, a typical sci-fi bildungsroman, with teens on a starship training for some survival test of being dropped on a planet. It's NOT Tunnel in the Sky or Rite of Passage, but in a similar vein. In this particular story, part of the preparation for the final survival test involves a section of the spaceship set up as a wilderness testing ground, with a "race" (the order in which people complete the task) determining some benefit in the final on-planet test. The protagonist does well in this "pre-test" by virtue of being the only one (or one of the only team of 2, perhaps) to swim across some body of water rather than going around it.

This pre-test is not the bulk of the story, it's just the part I remember.

For a long time I was convinced that this was a scene from Rite of Passage, but when I reread that, it wasn't there!

  • I am having recollections from the Mode series from Piers Anthoney. But your time line doesn't match as I think the tie ins happen in the final book and that was only release early 2000 the rest was early 90's. I might be mistaken though and they happen in the 3rd book. Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 10:07
  • The theme sounds vaguely like something I must have browsed through recently, though I'm thinking it was in the context of a military land navigation course, where one team swam/floated across water as a shortcut. I don't think it's something I own, though, so I've no idea what it might be, sorry.
    – Joelogon
    Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 3:15

1 Answer 1


Though not water, this sounds similar to the scene in Piers Anthony's Bio of a Space Tyrant Volume II, Mercenary from 1984. In it, starting on page 61 the protagonist, Hope Hubris (sixteen) and another teen (Juana), negotiate over a quicksand/water bog simulation inside a "Challenge Dome" as part of their military training. Because the other trainees avoid the quicksand, Hope and Juana are able to finish the race and win advancement.

As you noted, this is not the main part of the book. But, it is a rather memorable scene which is why I suspect it is also what triggered Dreamwalker's comment from yesterday about Piers Anthony. I think possibly right author, wrong series. Similarly Joelogon is correct in his remembering the military land navigation aspect.

The series description and some thumbnail sketches of the individual book's content can be found at the following link. Perhaps these might trigger some other memories.

Wiki Series Description

Some additional links for various covers:

Avon series covers

Alt Cover 1

Alt Cover 2

Alt Cover 3

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