Other People's Favourite Books – Barry Simiana on Robert Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

Hi. I’m Barry, and I run the writing group known as Nitewriters [in Miss LiteraryMinded’s home town Coffs Harbour]. We’ve been around for almost ten years and we aim to get our members published. Personally, I write speculative fiction in the ‘what if…’ vein, but have been known to try horror and action/adventure type stuff. My first major publication is in Next Stop Hollywood, a collection of short stories that are being pushed around Hollywood as fuel for the film and TV industry. I’ve nearly finished a collection of short stories tentatively titled Toss of the Coin which I am in the process of turning into a TV series. Here’s hoping anyway.

What is one of your favourite books?

I have many faves besides my own, but Next Stop Hollywood: Short Stories Bound for the Screen is in the top three. Beyond that, Tunnel in the Sky by Robert Heinlein.

How do you describe this book when you recommend it to other people?

Good for young and old, with a few life lessons thrown in. Good adventure with a non-preachy message and a touch of inspiration for good measure.

How old were you and what was going on in your life when you first read it?

I was at school, having Shakespeare shoved down my throat. The books they gave us were ‘classics’, but I wanted something that was new generation classic.

How many times have you read it?

Probably a dozen or so. I come back to it every couple of years or so.

Who wouldn’t you recommend it to?

Wouldn’t? Someone who was into the Bronte sisters, or Mills and Boon. They’d hate it.

Do you have a crush on one of the characters, or the author? Or do you want to be one of them?

Not a crush, but it was the first book where I admired the characters, and wanted to be them. Even the bad guys were kind of cool.

Have you read other books by the author? If yes, what did you think of them? If no, why not?

Yes. Some I liked, some I didn’t. Heinlein wrote across a variety of styles under a sci-fi banner. Some like Number of the Beast took me years to get. Others like Red Planet I loved straight away.

What do you love most about it?

We have a dissolution of everything we as people hold dear. The characters are thrown into an untamed world and are forced to grow up and recreate some form of society from scratch, only to have it snatched away again at the end. Imagine – fighting for survival as junior adults, surviving and beginning to flourish, only to be forced to become more or less children again.

Think about the feeling it gave, or gives you. What could you most closely relate that to?

It contains most of human history condensed in about 250 pages, on a strange planet far, far away.

Can you share with us a favourite moment, passage, or line in the book?

No one line. The last bit, where (spoiler alert) the Gate is re-established and teenagers who have been living as adults just melt into kids again, all but the one who helped forge their way through. The character accepts he must return, albeit reluctantly, but uses the experience to become what he wanted all along.

Do any other books come close? Name a couple if so.

In terms of feelings generated in me – Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz and the ‘Riftwar’ saga by Raymond E Feist. Dozens more, but that’ll do for now. In many ways, they all inspired me to create my own worlds, and have active believable characters to run around in them.

Miss LiteraryMinded is interested in representing a range of reader voices in this new segment – people from all walks of life and different countries, not just writers. Email me if you’re interested in telling the world about your favourite book! literaryminded [at] gmail [dot] com.

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