The Highest Frontier

[hardback cover] [paperback cover]

College out in space -- invaded by undocumented aliens.

Jennifer Ramos Kennedy, a girl from a rich and politicaly influential family (descended from the famous Kennedy clan) whose twin brother has died in an accident and left her bereft, is about to enter her freshman year at Frontera College.

Frontera is an exciting school built in Earth's orbit with media money -- and a bit from tribal casinos, too -- and is dedicated to educating the best and brightest of this future world. We accompany Jenny as she proceeds through her early days at school, encountering surprises and wonders and some unpleasant problems. Deadly microbes that caused AIDS and anthrax are now being modified to cure disease and grow cables for space elevators. Earth is altered by global warming, and an invasive alien species called ultraphytes threatens the surviving ecosystem. Jenny is being raised for great things, but while she's in school, she just wants to do her homework, go on a few dates, and get by.

The Highest Frontier is Joan Slonczewski's seventh novel. It was published by Tor in hardcover in 2011.


"This hip, smart tip of the hat to Heinlein's young adult novels hits all the right notes. It's got a plausible near future, optimism, and savvy characters who move into action swiftly."
--Gregory Benford

"Vivid and lovingly detailed, with a critical yet creative view of a human future, this is a magnificent science fiction novel."
--George Zebrowski

"Teeming with ideas and unique characters, sprouting sly references to events both science-fictional and real life, The Highest Frontier takes its readers on a roller-coaster, space-elevator ride!"
--Vonda N. McIntyre

"Unique characters, witty scientific and societal extrapolations, and a complex, mind-blowing setting make this a delightfully amusing read."
--Publishers Weekly

"Slonczewski's worldbuilding has always gone deep; she gives the profoundest thought to how biology, culture, social structure, language, politics and economics combine to shape the future. Although the author is solidly on the side of science, she's not blindly so."
--Kirkus Reviews

"The Highest Frontier is a stunning achievement and easily one of the best pure SF novels I've read this year... You'll be hard-pressed to find a science fiction novel with more innovative ideas, fascinating characters and thematic depth in 2011."
--Stefan Raets,

"The story of Jenny Ramos Kennedy, a gifted high school athlete who's lost her genetically engineered twin brother and is trying to make the best of her first year at college. And wouldn't you know it, unlike most of our freshman years, this delightfully brilliant novel has the future of Earth hanging in the balance."
--Alan Cheuse,

"Slonczewski builds her world on two levels, with superb prose and a pessimistic outlook. The Highest Frontier is eminently readable, and every word, every sentence draws the reader into the entertainingly complicated future envisioned by the author."
--Rick Kleffel, The Agony Column (

"Biologist Slonczewski bridges the singularity, that hypothetical future point beyond which we cannot extrapolate from the present; throws in technological/social-networking developments post-Facebook and Second Life; and adds political manipulation and invaders from deep space. Can humanity survive?"
--Elizabeth Anne Hull

"The Highest Frontier is an unnervingly brilliant novel, one that skewers relatively impartially almost every aspect of present human culture in a future coming-of-age story. It has a deep, if cynical, understanding of the future implications of the world we are already beginning to build, but with that cynicism balanced by the realistic idealism of the protagonist."
--L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

Last modified: October 6, 2011

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