A book from my childhood

Book Hunter

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When I was a child over 40 years ago I read a science fiction book in our school library about humans making a long interstellar journey which I think may have been one way. Only a few memories of the story remain in my head and multiple google searches have not helped me so far.

The story started with a young man on Mars in a human settlement or outpost there, and he and possibly his brother or other family returned to Earth where an ambitious spaceship was being made to take humans far out of the solar system.
The earlier part of the story included the young spaceman working on and being responsible for making a small space shuttle or pod which was tested in a short flight around the moon.
The interstellar spaceship was described once as resembling a squashed orange rather than a tall rocket.
During the lengthy interstellar journey the story also included an engineer who composed electronic music which was performed for the humans on the spaceship at one point.

I know these fragments are few and disjointed, but I would appreciate any help identifying the book and its author. Thank you!
 

Book Hunter

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I seem to remember the initial main character noticing a statue of three monkeys in the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" posture when they arrived at the secret place where the spaceship was being designed and built.
 

Book Hunter

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Thanks - I went through all the Heinlein and Clarke books (author bibliographies in wikipedia) and none seem to be the one I am looking for. But that gives me some ideas of other authors or ways of searching to pursue.
 

Ravensquawk

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There must be at least two ships described as like a squashed orange in science fiction -- I found one of them, and nothing else in that story matches.

It's "Hierarchies" by John T. Phillifent. It was only published in two parts in Analog and as part of one dual-novel book.

Not a match because there is only one mention of someone else's ship, seen at extreme magnification, on page 54 in the Galaxy Magazine:
It was nothing at all to look at, just a massive dark hull, squashed-orange shape....

It's apparently -- I haven't read it -- about transporting or rescuing a rare non-Earth animal. With maybe damsel-in-distress thrown in. Here it is just in case.

Apparently nothing about [recites this to get it right] humans from Mars going back to Earth, building an interstellar ship that resembles a squashed orange, flight-testing a shuttle around the moon, or electronic music.

I'm guessing that since you referred to it as a "book" that it's novel-length, a standalone book? (If so, ruling out stories in future searches.) No monkey statues, or unusual names for people, planets, or star systems? Sleeper suspended animation ship? Generation ship?
 

Book Hunter

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Thank you for looking into that. I read this book when I was quite young - possibly 11 years old, and it was about the same time or shortly before I read Arthur C. Clarke's "Dolphin Island". That sticks in my mind because the Clarke book had an indicative "reading age recommendation" on the cover a couple years older than I was at the time, which stroked my ego then.

So, as an 10 or 11 year old a "novel" stocked in the primary school library may not have been as big as, say, The Fellowship of the Ring, but from my poor memory was similar in size to Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat books.

The reference to a "squashed orange" was made by a spaceship pilot or engineer in the story who said something like "A spaceship should look like a tall rocket, not a squashed orange!" -- these are surely not the exact words but closer than those which you found.

I believe the story was about long-shot discovery rather than escape from disaster, but I may be wrong.

I do not recall suspended animation being part of the story, but the spaceship was large enough to hold a reasonably large community, possibly similar to those seen in the "Battlestar Galactica" story.

The flight test around the moon was a really small part of the start of the story -- I recall that every traveler had to be useful for something and the young man protagonist (defying what we know is real) put together his own shuttle craft and the moon was merely a test destination and otherwise not part of the story. The point of that little section was the young man was told the only way to be sure a craft is safe is to have the designer fly it and trust it himself.

Thanks again! I really appreciate this - I have been looking off and on for a number of years but only just in the last few weeks have tried to make a concerted effort.
 

JunkMonkey

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I thought that initially, but it doesnt quite fit, especially the lack of psychic twins, and the ice cream cone shaped spaceships.

The lack of psi twins man me wonder too but it's never predictable which details people do/not remember (conflate with other things) about stuff they read decades ago.
 

Book Hunter

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The lack of psi twins man me wonder too but it's never predictable which details people do/not remember (conflate with other things) about stuff they read decades ago.
Thanks for the tip - but on checking that book it is not the one. I am sure I am not going soft in the brain, but this book is proving hard to find online. I have checked two libraries in my city so far but few of the older works are there, and if this is from an obscure author then I suspect few libraries would hold it.
 

Book Hunter

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How about Across a Billion Years ? This involves telepathic twins or siblings, one of whom is on a long interstellar voyage. The book is definitely suited to children or teenagers.
Thanks but no, that is not it. I do not believe telepathy was present in the book. I believe I recall there being siblings or other family in the story but that might turn out to be a false memory even though I lean strongly towards it not being false.
 

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