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Heinlein, Robert A.
Starman Jones (1953) - In a Guild-dominated society where jobs are at a premium, Max Jones is a hill boy with dreams of going to the stars. His uncle Chet had promised to sponsor him to the Astrogator's Guild, but died before actually doing so. When he approached the Guild, they confiscated his uncle's books, and paid him off. Max doesn't miss them much, since he'd read them - and has a photographic memory. Being turned down by the Guild doesn't stop Max. With the help of Sam Anderson, a wily drifter who'd taken Max under his wing, they sign up as crewmen on the starship Asgard - under false papers. The plan is to jump ship sometime during the trip, and at least Max will have been to space.
The only thing is - he likes his job, and is good at it. Then he gets a chance to try out as Apprentice Astrogator - the job of his dreams! How can he walk away from the life he has always wanted to live? When the ship is lost due to a miscalculation, the lives of all end up depending on Max and his ablities. All of the details of spaceship life are marvelously worked out - especially the control room and piloting procedures, where Max spends his time learning to work in the "Worry Hole." As you might guess from my lavish description - this is one of my favorites by Heinlein, well worth rereading.