Novel Review - A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke


A Fall of Moondust

by Arthuc C. Clarke, 1960, 224 pages.
TLDR: 3 out of 5 for an engaging tale of technological solutions, now sadly dated.


A Fall of Moondust is hard SF, in the sense that the story is driven by the science, but it has a very different feel than, say, a Kim Stanley Robinson or Vernor Vinge novel. This book reads very much more like a disaster thriller or a movie of the week (think of The Poseidon Adventure, or Stallone's Daylight ).

A Fall of Moondust is set mostly on-board the lunar cruiser, Selene, which is a planet-bound ship designed to take tourists around the Sea of Thirst (a huge sea of dust of unknown depth) on the moon. The Selene skims across the surface, propelled by large fans which act like propellers in the dust, and the dust itself acts like a liquid on the surface of the moon - a behavior not possible on the earth with our atmospheric moisture and much higher gravity.


Early in the book the ship capsizes due to an unanticipated geological event and the ship sinks under the dust, becoming entombed. When they lose the beacon, the Lunar authorities must search for the ship which is lost seemingly without a trace, while inside the 21 passengers and crew must band together to cope with their entrapment. There's a third prong to this story that follows a journalist who is trying to cover the story, but that aspect of the books never really develops to its full potential.

The language and characters in this book really feel like they've stepped right out of the early '60s, and the moon still feels like it's on the edge of our limits of exploration. The technical problems that arise include getting rid of excess CO2 and heat, and how to mobilize a quick rescue on the surface of the moon. The characters themselves are a bit wooden, something I've noticed in many of Arthur C. Clarke's novels. But mostly we read Clarke for his vision, adherence to science, and thoughtful settings, and this book has all three.

Overall, this is a fine, if now dated novel. It has good pacing and dramatic tension (though not better than you would get from authors that specialize in writing thrillers). Recommended for those who want to explore old SF or go on a nostalgia trip. 3 out of 5


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