Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tom Godwin's "The Survivors" aka "Space Prison" (novel, survival, free): Never give up hope

Cover image of the 1958 novel titled The Survivors aka Space Prison by Tom GodwinAt some level, there is a similarity with Harry Harrison's "Deathworld". This, however, is a much better (but still grim) story - particularly the superb first half.

Story summary.

Human colony ship Constellation with 8000 passengers on board is attacked & forced to surrender by (humanoid?) aliens called Gerns, while it is on its way to colonize a world called Athena - only earth-like uninhabited world yet known to humanity. Humans have been at war with Gerns & losing; this colony ship had slipped through aliens' earth cordon, but got unlucky.

Aliens claim Athena for themselves, divide the passengers into those whose skills they can use & the rest ("Rejects") - about 4000 to each groups, with families broken arbitrarily. Former will be enslaved, later dumped to die on an uninhabitable & extremely hostile world with two suns called Ragnarok.

This is an epic story of the survival of the Rejects on Ragnarok through many generations & through enormous losses & sacrifices. 200 odd years & many generations later, they will get their revenge.


Four local animals of Ragnarok - prowlers, unicorns, woods goats, & mockers - play a major role in the story.
  1. Prowlers are carnivores, eventually domesticated in the role equivalent to dogs - but a lot of men will be felled before that.
  2. Unicorns have a role somewhat similar to untamable horses, & will also kill a lot of men.
  3. Woods goats will eventually domesticated as cattle.
  4. Mockers are little creatures that are telepathic among themselves & with humans, & can speak like humans as parrots do; they will serve not only as pets but also as wireless communication links.

Fact sheet.

First published: 1958.
Rating: A.
Download full text from Project Gutenberg, Manybooks, Feedbooks, or Webscription (5 pages beginning here).
Related: Stories of Tom Godwin.


Shirley Marie Bradby said...

Thank you for writing such an excellent review of Tom Godwin's incredible novel "Space Prison" aka "The Survivors"! My opinion?

Let me start with: Wow! (smile)
I just finished reading this inspiring book last night! I literally could not put it down! Great story of survival: where personal and individual strengths, talents, and intelligence are used in an organized and concerted first survive an extremely hostile and lethal environment and then eventually get revenge --- even it it takes 200 years and many generations later!

Moreover,I think that the ending was totally realistic and not too sentimental or mushy! A really good read! Now, I intend to read some of Tom Godwins other books and stories! I am hooked! :))

Anonymous said...

I first read this book 53 years ago and never forgot the title or the story. My older brother was a Mech.Engineering student at Virginia Tech and heavily into SiFi. I got to read his books when he was finished.He never made it into space , but did have a great career at NASA (SKYLAB and The Shuttle Program).Last week I thought of checking online for the book and tonight ordered a copy for my grandsons. All four are prolific readers and love SiFi. The eldest is 17...the same age that I was when I was so impressed by Tom Godwins' book.