Higher Education (novel)

Higher Education (novel)

Infobox Book |
name = Higher Education
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption =
author = Charles Sheffield and Jerry Pournelle
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Science fiction
publisher = Tor Books
release_date = 1995
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Paperback & Hardback)
pages =
isbn = 0312861745
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"Higher Education" is a 1995 science fiction novel by Charles Sheffield and Jerry Pournelle. It is the first in a series, published by Tor Books in their Jupiter line.

Plot introduction

The novel starts in a future dystopian earth where the United States has become a woefully inefficient bureaucratized nation. The public school system is primarily interested in promoting self-esteem rather than learning. For example, the vast majority of public high school graduates are illiterate, and end up in "the pool"; an endless crowd of unemployable youths depending on government assistance or crime for survival. The book is told from the perspective of the main character, a high school student named Rick who quickly finds himself expelled after a practical joke goes wrong.

Plot summary

Since expulsion means that Rick's family will no longer be able to claim their welfare bonus, Rick begins looking for a job. One of his former teachers encourages him to get a job for the Vanguard Mining corporation, whose primary financial interest is in space mining of asteroids in the asteroid belt. The book follows his progress through an initial grueling examination period on Earth, initial training on an asteroid in a high orbit of earth, and through an apprenticeship on another training facility in the asteroid belt. After proving himself, Rick is recruited tojoin a secret program to infiltrate and subvert Earth's education systems away from its current initiative-deadening pandering to the lowest common denominator.


Rick is the primary protagonist of the novel. He is a high-school student who is forced to take a job mining asteroids after being expelled from school.

Turkey Gossage is Rick's instructor on the asteroid in Earth orbit. He is tough, unforgiving and unyielding.

Authors Message

Much of the book is a thinly veiled criticism against current public policy concepts like centralization, socialism, federally managed education, and cultural attitudes about individual responsibility, particularly concerning children and young adults. The novel has a distinctly libertarian tone, which is typical of both Sheffield and Pournelle's work, and certainly a common theme throughout speculative sci-fi in general.


The engines used by Vangaurd Mining's spacecraft are Diabelli Omnivores. This particular brand of engine is used repeatedly throughout Sheffield's books, across many different fictional settings.


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