(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The so-called generation ship novels are a subgenre of the space opera. Whereas the scope of the space opera is concerned with the vastness of the universe, galactic empires, and interstellar wars, the generation ship novels have their main focus on the social structures and human interaction in the limited confines of the ship. The vastness of space is contradicted by the relatively limited space on board the ship, which, for its inhabitants, represents the universe because they usually have forgotten earlier technical knowledge and are on a voyage between planets. They are unaware of any reality outside the ship.

This type of book offers an interesting perspective on the human condition and possible circumstances for devolution. The spaceship can be viewed as an allegory of the spaceship Earth, which could have a similar fate. Aldiss uses all the typical characteristics of a generation ship novel: The inhabitants of his ship have only partial knowledge about where they are and have been subject to significant devolution. The interesting twists in this book are the fact that the so-called Outsiders seem to control everything and that these people are actually humans from Earth. Another imaginative plot twist is revealed at the very end, when the savages find out that their expedition actually reached its destination of Earth three generations ago.

The first archetypical generation ship story was Don Wilcox’s “The Voyage that lasted 600...

(The entire section is 441 words.)