Lunar science fiction reviews

“Honor Bound, Honor Born” by S.D. Howe

Published in 1996 by Lunatech, it weighs in at 206 pages plus a nice epilogue. A couple of minor errors, otherwise very well edited for an independent press book.

Hawk is a busy man. Alone on the Moon, he has more than enough work keeping him busy, from the microwave-sintering of certain areas around the base, to assembling a telescope array, to helping students with space projects. One of these projects is a sulfur-based rocket to take advantage of the excess sulfur separated from the regolith during the oxygen extraction process. His employer, Selena Corp., could only afford to send one person and supplies to the Moon, and that’s on foreign launchers, so Hawk has his hands full.

Since it’s a non-NASA mission to the Moon, the U.S. government is understandably less than happy, especially when the company starts soliciting bids for the Old Glory at Tranquility Base. This makes relieving Hawk with a new crew somewhat difficult. The company must maintain a presence to enforce its claims, but as the weeks stretch Hawk finds himself increasingly weary. That is, until he goes out hunting for that student rocket and stumbles across something wonderful, then something else even more so.

This book is grim, reminding me a good bit of “The Moon is Hell” by John Campbell, in the sense that it dwells on the drudgery of the work, and the increasing hopelessness of Hawk’s situation. For lack of a better word I’ll call it Reallunatik (after Realpolitik [Realmond?]), in that the story doesn’t mess around with a lot of silly frillery, but has a basic message and sticks with it: “Going to the Moon is important to the future of humanity and we must never retreat again”. If you aren’t touched by the ending then you have a cold heart indeed, as even -my- eyes teared up, something that hasn’t happened since “Magnificent Desolation”

The book covers a lot of the technological and scientific theory that is still current today ten years after the book was written. While “Moonwake” weaves much of that into the story, “Honor Bound…” touches on it and fleshes out the references in the epilogue.

I’m starting to find it very intriguing how many of the more interesting Moon colonization stories are done through independent presses, such as this one, Moonwake, Project Avalon, Moongate, Mines of Luna, and others.

I’ll rate this one a three-quarter Moon.

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“Luna Marine” by Ian Douglas
(Book Two of ‘The Heritage Trilogy’)

Published in 1999 by Avon Books, it weighs in at a hefty 402 pages. A few minor editorial and spelling errors.

Ooh-rah! Sir! When the future of humanity threatens to fall into the hands of UN ne’er-do-wells who are you going to call? Sir!

The United Stated Marine Corps, of course. Wiser for their experiences on Mars (in “Semper Mars”, Book One of ‘The Heritage Trilogy’), the USMC Space Assault Group is called into action to investigate recent UNdie activity at Fra Mauro base and Picard crater. Turns out that the alien remains found at Cydonia on Mars are only one piece of the puzzle that has thrown the world into a frenzy of ‘Ancient Astronaut’ hysteria and global war. The UNdies may have lost control of the Mars site to the good guys, but there are interesting treasures to be found closer to home.

Set in the near-future of 2040, this is a rousing and patriotic (to U.S. Americans) military techno-thriller. The pacing is quick, for the most part, and the battle scenes are well described. The basic premise is that the rise of civilizations in our galaxy is cyclical, and that the last round of self-consuming triumph happened more or less at the dawn of our pre-history. This provides for some interesting musings in cosmology and the Fermi Paradox. The technology is sufficiently near-future that it doesn’t feel out of place.

I enjoyed this one, so I’ll give it a waxing three-quarter Moon.

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“Blood on the Moon” by Barney Cohen

Published in 1984 by Tor Books, weighing in at 254 pages. A few minor errors.

Asher ‘Bock’ Bockhorn is a corporate detective on the Moon, living in Crisium City (pop. 20,000) in the southwestern quadrant of Mare Crisium. The year is 2084, and one of Bock’s company’s employees just got waxed in the first mass murder on the Moon. Ten seemingly unconnected individuals wiped out in a heartbeat of explosive projectile gore. Lots of cops on the Moon are working on this case, and everyone wants to make the bust.

But Bock is on the case, and years of experience and a detective’s intuition, coupled with the manic mind of his partner ‘Fosky’ Foskollio, so you know the bad guys are going to get caught, but there are many red herrings and seeming dead ends.

This one is a brisk pulp detective fiction set on the Moon. He’s got a virgin .44 magnum that gets deflowered in the climactic scene. It’s a pulp noir set a hundred years in the future (at the time it was written). One clue: Betamax. It’s hard not to enjoy this one in this day and age of CSI and other TV detective dramas.

This one is somewhere around a waxing half Moon/waning three-quarters Moon.

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“Moon Shots”, edited by Peter Crowther.

Published in 1999 by Daw Books, weighing in at 304 pages. Professionally edited with no noticeable errors.

This collection of 16 short stories was compiled sort of as a tribute to the 30th anniversary of the first Apollo Moon landing. Reading through them again I get much more of a sense of melancholy underlying many of the tales.

‘An Apollo Asteroids’ visits the unusual results of an Earth-crossing asteroid’s impact in Aristarchus. ‘Has Anybody Seen Junie Moon’ is an odd piece about carnival workers and advanced physics. ‘Ashes and Tombstones’ takes Space Services Inc. concept into the distant future. ‘The Way to Norwich’ is a diverting bit of fantasy. ‘Steps Along the Way’ is a historical trip 30,000 years in the future. ‘The Moon Tree’ notes the unique aura of the Moon, and the effect it can have on plants, lovers and politicians. ‘The Last Man on the Moon’ visits a VR recreation with an interesting twist. ‘Carry the Moon in my Pocket’ is a cautionary tale of Lunar obsession.

‘Moon Hunters’ explores the idea of adding an additional Moon. ‘The Little Bit that Counts’ has a ‘one piece at a time’ gone horribly wrong get-rich-slowly scheme. ‘People Came From Earth’ explores the interesting idea of phytomining on the Moon in the wake of a nanotech attack. ‘Visions of the Green Moon’ is a fantasy of imagination checking out of Earth to go to the Moon in the wake of a sudden ice age. ‘How We Lost the Moon’ is about a black hole created on the Moon in the wake of a high-energy physics experiment. ‘The Man Who Stole the Moon’ concerns an ex-football player addicted to the women of questionable moral values who typically accompany such a profession who finds himself in the clutches of much slyer prey. ‘Elegy’ is a sad look at a future without hope. ‘Breakfast on the Moon, with Georges’ is a fantastical re-visitation of Melies famous 1903 movie.

It’s certainly a diverse collection, and there were some I really liked, and a few I really didn’t. I’ll give it a half Moon.

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Our bonus book tonight is “Darok 9” by H.J. Ralles.
Top Publications, 2002. Targeted to the pre-/early teen crowd.

In the near future, Earth has been ravaged by ecological and military disaster. The few who survived have gone to our Moon, eking out an existince in domed towns called Daroks (Domed AtmospheRic Orbital Kommunities). Our plucky protagonist is a scientist researching ways to reduce the need for water by humans. Little does he know that treachery and betrayal lay all about him. An attack on the remote lab by the Fourth Quadrant sets him running from more than just falling masonry.

Some of the science is a little goofy in this one, but the double-crosses and double-double-crosses should be engaging for a young adult. 178 pages of relatively large type.

Okay, I cheated on this one. It was originally written about two years ago over on the Space Frontier Foundation’s now defunct Space Arena Board (good archives, but lots of noise). It was quoted almost verbatim in a set of reviews of “Darok 9” published in the sequel “Darok 10”, so I’m a bit proud of my first ‘published’ work.

Still, they’re both good half-Moons.

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“In the Wrong Hands” by Edward Gibson

Published in 1992 by Bantam Spectra, weighing in at 362 pages. Only a couple of minor errors.

Joe is a maverick astronaut. In the future society of 2036 there is a race to conformity. Once the best way is found to make something that way is standardized around the world, so that training can be standardized, replacement parts, technicians, etc. There’s no room for individuality, but Joe breaks all the rules and gets things done. Unfortunately, a slip of the tongue by one of Joe’s associates leads to a string of deaths always aimed at Joe Rebello.

The first is at the fictional (not in my Clementine) Karov crater on the Lunar farside, where the PRECISE Corporation is hemming and hawing on completing the UN’s base. Meanwhile, their own activities there continue apace. Dark activities that involve genetic engineering rooted in eugenics, with evil intent.

This is a pretty good thriller, with decent pacing, larger than life characters, and lots of good space and Moon action. It’s written by an ex-Skylab astronaut, so he’s definitely able to convey the space station action. The book is pretty blunt in its disparagement of a culture of conformity that excludes excellence and achievement. It does raise a few interesting questions about the nature and ends of genetic engineering, and the true rights of an individual in a global population.

I’ll give this one a three-quarter Moon.

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4 thoughts on “Lunar science fiction reviews

  1. Nice review of Project Avalon. Thanks for caring .

    You may be interested in what I’m doing now. I’m actually working with a company that’s contributing to opening up space to ordiary people. It’s called the NASTAR Center, or National AeroSpace Training And Research Center, and we evaluate, train, and adapt people for spaceflight. Feel free to check us out: http://www.nastarcenter.com. I’d love to hear what you think.

  2. Pingback: 50 Lunar sci fi reviews and counting… - Out of the Cradle

  3. What moon rating did you give “Earthlight”? No “Moon is a Harsh Mistress”? How about “Rolling Stones”, “The Long Watch”, “Gentlemen, Be Seated”, “Searchlight” and “The Menace from Earth” and many others by Heinlein?

  4. Fred, I’ve still got over a hundred to go! I can’t just go and do all of the best stuff first…I’ve got to space it out so that folks keep coming back to see if their favorite book has been reviewed yet. And your favorites are not necessarily someone else’s…

    And not all of the stories you mention are even in the Lunar Library yet. It has a very limited budget to work with, and the rarer books take priority. “Menace From Earth” should be coming up soon, but I’m plowing through “Peace on Earth” by Stanislaw Lem, “Ice” by Shane Johnson, and “A Handful of Silver” by Shorter (which I haven’t decided on doing a review of yet, it may not qualify).

    Hmmm, Earthlight was the second book that I did. I was still trying to work out the mechanics of the rating system. Which, for the novice, is generally as follows, from lowest to highest:

    New Moon
    Waxing New Moon
    Waning Quarter Moon
    Quarter Moon
    Waxing Quarter Moon
    Waning Half Moon
    Half Moon
    Waxing Half Moon
    Waning 3/4 Moon
    3/4 Moon
    Waxing 3/4 Moon
    Waning Full Moon
    Full Moon

    Giving me 13 degrees of gradation. These can be further qualified as being at Apogee (an abysmal example) or Perigee (an outstanding example).

    I guess Earthlight would get around a waning three-quarter Moon.

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