There is a ship traveling through space looking for a new earth type planet.

No one on board realizes it is a space ship, they believe they are living in a subterranean area hundreds of levels below a contaminated surface. No one is allowed to go up to a higher level for fear of releasing further contamination.

The ship has traveled for many generations, books were banned and reading became banned as well.

The main character has been taught to read by his father who has been taught by generations of his family. There is a secret hoard of reading book of all types to which the hero has access to read secretly.

Eventually the hero access the upper level of the ship, which turns out to be the control deck of the ship. All the information required to control the ship are written there for anyone to read and therefore complete their mission.

I saw it on television sometime during the 1960-1970 period.

Can anyone please identify the book title and the writer for me?

  • It was a television show? Why do you think it was based on a book?
    – user14111
    Commented Nov 15, 2014 at 11:33
  • 1
    There are too many major differences to be 'Orphans of the Sky', but there were quite a few stories and episodes of shows based upon it... The Starlost, for example, and the ST:TOS episode "For the World Is Hollow and I have Touched the Sky"...
    – K-H-W
    Commented Nov 15, 2014 at 11:57
  • I agree with Vicpylon, that does sound like "The Starlost," a short-lived 1973 Canadian TV series starring Kier Dullea as Devon, who leads two friends in a search for the crippled Ark's bridge (and then its backup bridge). Harlan Ellison's screenplay and script were novelized into "Phoenix Without Ashes" by Edward Bryant in 1975.
    – glaborde
    Commented Jan 10, 2015 at 3:44

1 Answer 1


That sounds like Starlost.

Harlan Ellison wrote the original story about a generation ship that isolated different communities and most had forgotten they were in a spaceship. The time frame mentioned is right for this series, as is the quest for the control deck.

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