Lunar science fiction reviews

“Jason X: Death Moon” by Alex S. Johnson

Published 2005 by BL Publishing. I haven’t finished the book, so can’t comment on the editing, though early on there did seem to be the subsititution of ‘metal’ for ‘mettle’, but there can be some ambiguity in the reading.

Public Service Announcement: Don’t waste your time.

This is a New Moon if I’ve ever read one. The target market is teenagers, and if it in any way reflects current cultural norms then I for one am scared.

Anyone who saw the movie Jason X (set onboard a spacecraft) gets the gist. Serial killer (and apparent folk hero) Jason Voorhees has survived into the 25th Century. He’s been effectively cyborgized and hacks and slashes faster than the eyeball refresh rate. So lots of people die quickly and brutally. Cut to Earth II, where young teenagers are getting into all kinds of trouble. Apparently if a young person drinks beer or smokes pot Jason will kill them. This sets the stage for lots of further scenes of mayhem and death when the young ladies are sent to Moon Camp at Moon Base Americana.

The dialogue’s terrible, the slang’s horrible, the technology wonky, the plot nothing but a propping up of various elements for subsequent hacking down. The F-bomb is liberally sprinkled throughout, and there are depictions of teenage drinking, drug use, group sex, and so forth. Frankly, I was appalled by the amount of bad behavior depicted therein and likely won’t be finishing it, working instead on a real Lunar horror story, ‘Blood Moon’.

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“Blood Moon” by Sharman DiVono

Published in 1999 by DAW Books, weighing in at 441 pages. A few factual errors, like Apollo 7 being the fire that charred three astronauts. also in description of Aitken Basin being ringed by craters Komarov (24.7N, 152.5E), Grissom (47S, 147.4W), White (44.6S, 158.3W) and Chaffee (38.8S, 153.9W), and Peary (88.6N, 33E) and Byrd (85.3N, 9.8E) being just northwest of the base.

This is a spooky, scary horror book set on the Far Side of the Moon. Far Side base is set in the rim of the Aitken Basin and is meant as a scientific base for further study of that unique feature in the Solar system that is so close by, and a future telescope. Everything is going swimmingly in building things up until on the fifth mission the crew fails to re-establish contact with the Lunar-TDRS after a periodic LOS. The sixth crew (FS-6) is quickly hustled up to the base to find out what happened, because the last few videos received from the base did not look good. Something evil is afoot at Far Side, but what exactly is it?

This book speculates on what might be the nature of a Lunar terminator passage over a base, and its effects on people. It explores the ideas of the nature of life, the interplay of physical phenomenae like electricity and magnetism, how conciousness manifests itself on the quantum level, and that sort of thing. It definitely has a reason and science uber alles approach to how the protagonists respond to the horrors inflicted upon them. (“Food for the Moon”)

As with any good mystery, there are numerous red herrings, the biggest being the ongoing allusions to the occult and satanism (oddly enough, when I logged in to post this review the thread had had 666 views. cue Twilight Zone music), and the book does use this device to explore some Christian religious concepts. The robot assistant MILTON bears an uncanny similarity to the robot in the movie ‘Red Planet’.

One thing I did learn was ‘Raging Martians Invade ROY G BIV Using X-Rays and Gamma Rays’ as a mnemonic device for the wider electromagnetic spectrum.

The author does have some interesting insights, though at times the delivery seemed a bit stilted. I’d say this one is somewhere between a half- and three-quarter Moon.

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“Doctor Who and the Cybermen” by Gerry Davis
Adapted from BBC: ‘Doctor Who and the Moonbase’

Published 1975 by Target books, weighing in at 150 pages. Some spelling errors.

The Gallifreyan Timelord Doctor Who travels through time and relative dimensions in space in his TARDIS. On one such flight the TARDIS controls go berserk as a result of passing through a Gravitron beam and has to make a quick landing, but where? By golly on the Moon! (Much to the consternation of the 1750s-era Scots Highlander they recently adopted).

They see a Moonbase nearby and head towards it. They don’t see the small flotilla of Cybermen ships on the other side of the crater rim. For those who didn’t grow up with Doctor Who, the Cybermen are a race of beings who, in their search for immortality began replacing body parts with metal and plastic for greater longevity. Eventually they replaced even their brains and hearts, but at the expense of their emotions, becoming instead cold, calculating beings of reason and logic bent on empire.

The Earth holds resources, and the Cybermen are indifferent to the inferior biological beings which inhabit it. The Moonbase, in the year 2070, is equipped with a Gravitron beam used to control weather on Earth, sparing the lives of millions who would otherwise die in hurricanes, cyclones, tornados, flooding and so forth. It can also be used to prepare the planet for the harvesting of its resources.

The story follows the battle of wits between the crew of the Moonbase and the seemingly overwhelming Cyberman attack force. Biological warfare is employed, as well as mind-control, sonic weapons, unique uses for solvents and fire extinguishers, and lots of ingenuity.

It’s a brisk read, with illustrations, making it youth friendly. It may help to have a little bit of background on Doctor Who to really appreciate the story. I’ll give it a Half Moon.

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“Moon Zero Two”, adapted from the screenplay by John Burke

Published 1969 by Signet Science Fiction it weighs in at 126 pages. Professionally edited with no recognizable errors.

Bill Kemp is an explorer left behind by the end of exploration. Some fifty years after the Moon landing humanity has also visited Mars and Venus, and the corporations have decided to settle into a comfortable tourist trade. Bill and his engineer Dmitry survive by running odd errands, collecting space debris, and running emergency errands in his POS spacecraft Moon-02.

Like a plot device in a Traveller adventure, Bill ends up promising to help a young lady fresh arrived from Earth in search of her brother, a prospector on the far side of the Moon (A miner, 99er, and his sister Clementine).

He’s also retained by Hundred-Percent Hubbard, your typical slimy profiteer up to no good. Seems Mr. Hubbard has espied an asteroid of particular interest, and a completely illegal scheme to gain access to it.

Having read the story I’m particularly interested in seeing the film (if only to see a young Catherine Von Schell, a name that those of us who grew up with Space: 1999 may remember from Season 2). The plot keeps up a brisk pace, it takes pains to be scientifically accurate, and it’s a nice ‘Good Guy wins against The Man in the end’ story.

I’m happy to give this one a waxing Half Moon.

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“Lunar Encounter” by Harold W.G. Allen

Published 2000 by Perspective Books it weighs in at 217 pages plus a short addendum. Some spelling errors, but nothing significant.

This is a rather unusual story. Two geologists from the Lunar Base, an international venture in the northwest corner of Mare Imbrium, set out to explore the Teneriffe Mountains. They discover an intriguing mesa…

Twelve hours later mission control realizes something is wrong, and the search begins. What follows is an adventure of benevolent alien contact, tactical nukes, shady government dealings, paramilitary thugs, a ‘Day the Earth Stood Still’-type moment, a call for greater international cooperation, greater access to birth control, a revisit of religious and cosmological dogma, and more.

The author expounds a slightly different view of cosmology than most people learn in school. I lack the real depth of knowledge in astrophysics necessary to really judge its plausibility. Also, when friendly benevolent superior aliens come a visitin’ and promise cures for cancer and weaponization-proof fusion and other blessed miracles I’m going to start perusing their bookshelf for a copy of “Eating Humans”. The depth of characterization is lacking, with most exposition concerned with moving to the next step in the plot.

I find myself a bit ambivalent about it. Had I read it back in my salad days in college it might have had a greater effect on my world view. My belief system has evolved to a happy medium of ‘There are some things our current knowledge base cannot answer, which is okay as long as we keep searching to expand our knowledge base…That forces and effects exist in nature which we do not yet fully understand (i.e. gravity) but will continue to seek to understand so that at some point in humanity’s future we may yet come to understand.’ (I have this wacky concept that what we perceive as gravity is merely a 3rd dimensional manifestation of a 4th physical dimensional phenomenon which we lack the instrumentation to perceive properly in its own dimensional context, and why I think we’re off on a wild goose chase with ‘dark matter’)

I’m not particularly comfortable with a lot of the current dimensional theories and strings and even after advanced lectures on Quantum Mechanics at the NASA Academy I still can’t wrap my brain around that freaky spooky stuff. Clearly the book evokes questions about our perceptions of the universe and how it functions, so in that context it may be useful. I think its purpose is more though to impart a particular universe-view to the reader, though not quite so subtly as say an L. Ron Hubbard.

I would caution that readers not accept anything promulgated in the book at face value. If you’re curious about certain aspects of the proposed cosmology I would strongly suggest doing some homework before accepting any of the postulations. Religions are treated dismissively and certain cultures are stereotyped. If that’s something that you the reader would be uncomfortable with then prepare to be offended if you read the book.

As I said, I’m a bit ambivalent about this one, and can only give it a quarter Moon.

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“Back to the Moon” by Homer Hickham

Published in 1999 by Island Books, it weighs in at an above average 494 pages. Professionally edited with no noticeable errors.

This was a fun read. It’s written in a very modern style that goes for quick exposition, crisp dialogue and rapid plot development. It’s definitely a Heroquest story.

In this case, Jack Medaris is an engineer with a job. He’s been retained to return some samples of fire fountain beads from near the Apollo 17 site. Larger forces are at play, forces that are not so happy to see Helium-3 potentially becoming a competitor to their interests. A late night sabotage throws Jack’s plans awry, and desperate measures are called for. Under contract, he retains the services of a space shuttle, and with some creative engineering rigs it to fly to the Moon.

Jack has hopes, but also demons. His eternal love had died in a test stand accident that NASA threw responsibility for right on his shoulders. His love had told him of a love letter that she had written at the age of 10 for her future love and sent to the Moon with the assistanc of Dr. Wernher Von Braun and his Huntsville boys. Jack intends to retrieve that letter, and will risk life and limb to do so.

Now, absconding to the Moon quite unexpectedly in a shuttle is something the U.S. Government does not look favorably upon, and those dark forces mentioned earlier? They’ve got a few surprises up their sleeve, like old SDI hardware and underworld thugs, and they’re also well positioned in government.

So you’ve got a bit of illuminati, some high-tech hijinks, some neat ideas, like a Bigelow Balloon-style Lunar lander and a tether, Paco the space cat, microgravity sciences curing things like cancer and cystic fibrosis, and potentially paralysis, a Heinleinian-headstrong woman protagoniste, the Fountainhead-style clash of titan spirits between the protagonists, a true-blue Mission Control, shady hackers, a hysterical astronette, drunken Russians, spacecraft battles, a bright future illuminated by He-3…need I go on?

It was a fun read, and oddly prescient in some ways. I admire Mr. Hickham’s story and happily give it a Full Moon.

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“The Oxygen Barons” by Gregory Feeley

Published in 1990 by Ace Books, it weighs in at 264 pages. Professionally edited with no noticeable errors. Nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award.

Galvanix, our protagonist, is a citizen of the Lunar Republic. The Moon has been embargoed for years as part of Solar system politics, and technology is retreating a bit to more sustainable levels. Which is to say, quite advanced. The Moon has an atmosphere supplied by soliton tunnels funneling solar wind to the Moon. There’s one last comet incoming that needs to be dealt with, though, and thus begins an adventure.

Galvanix’s journey leads from the botched comet mission into an interplanetary battle for resources that will shape the future of the Solar system. Factions vie for dominance while black missions abound. The liberal use of technology, including microscopic technology, leads to one of the more interesting lines in the book:

“This is nothing. Their most powerful remotes are microscopic, and fly through the air. These will discover our warrens soon enough, although recovering and interpreting their raw data takes time. Ours are hunting them now.
Where?
Everywhere. The real war is in the air, civilian. We’re just skirmishing on the macrolevel.”

Towards the end, I almost got the feeling that I was reading the plot of a video game. The ending had an incomplete feel to it, which the epilogue tried to wrap up but unsatisfyingly so. The planetary engineering is interesting to contemplate, as are the ramifications of factionalism in the space frontier.

I’ll give it a waxing quarter Moon.

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“Lunar Descent” by Allen Steele

Published in 1991 by the Berkley Publishing Group, weighing in a 325 pages. Professionally edited, and I only remember one error.

Sex, drugs and rock & roll on the Moon. This book was fun. It tells the story of Descartes Station, a Lunar mining facility created by SkyCorp from an abandoned NASA facility in the near future. Byrd Crater (85.3N, 9.8E) at the North Pole supplies their water needs, and there’s a telescope facility, the Stephen Hawking Lunar Observatory at Krasovsky Crater (3.9N, 175.5W) on the far side.

There’s regular traffic to GEO where the U.S. has built a solar power sat, and SkyCorp wants to build them for Japan and Korea. The Moon supplies aluminium sheeting and PV cells to the GEO installations, as well as oxygen.

It’s staffed by unionized blue collar workers who’ve gotten to the point of slacking just a biiiit too much, and a purge by management sends half the staff of 110 home. Lester Riddell, an ex-drunk failure who had been Moon base manager in the past, is sent in to clean things up. For corporate reasons, he’s set up to fail, but he’s unaware of that and gets things whipped into shape. That’s when things get really interesting.

This book has it all – pornography to marijuana to Moonshine. It’s frank, with abundant adult language and some sparse mild adult, uh, ‘situations’ (of both major sexual preferences) and it’s VERY blue collar. It’s pieced together with vignettes and descriptives of odd things, like a SkyCorp welcome to the Moon training vid, newspaper clippings, TV interviews, and so forth, as well as narrative exposition. The main characters are diverse and interesting, from a Playboy model who studied selenology, to the Hells Angels of space (the ‘Vacuum Suckers’). There’s larceny, piracy, smuggling, and a litany of other vices. When I envision our near-term future on the Moon, it’s closer to this than any sterile NASA vewgraphs.

Is there any doubt this one’s a Full 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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