Visions of Paradise

Saturday, September 05, 2009

A Fall of Moondust

Last summer when I inventoried my collection, one of the first things I noticed was how few books I had by Arthur C. Clarke. I immediately researched his output and added 9 of his books to my wish list. Last month I was browsing through a used book store while on vacation, and I saw a copy of A Fall of Moondust, one of Clarke’s most acclaimed novels. I am pleased that I bought it, since it was a very good book.

Normally I am not a fan of problem-solving stories, especially one whose premise is basically a novelette expanded to novel-length, but this novel hooked me totally. The plot was simple: a tourist bus taking 20 people across the surface of the Moon happens to be crossing a dust-filled crater when a minor moonquake takes place and traps the bus beneath the surface. Although the loss of transmission between the bus and its station reveals that the bus is in trouble, nobody knows precisely where it was lost.

This is not a very long novel, 215 pages in paperback, so it does not drag on unnecessarily. There are three main foci to it: the interaction between the stranded tourists as their emotions run the gamut from despair to hopefulness and back again several times; the attempts to first locate them and then to rescue them; the emotional states of the various people involved in the rescue or on the periphery of it. Clarke’s writing is very lowkey, reminiscent of Kim Stanley Robinson in a later generation, so while the novel is basically a thriller, it did not raise my emotions to a manipulated feverish pitch as most thrillers attempt to do, but rather kept me interested in reading on, anxious to see how the tourists would eventually be rescued.

While A Fall of Moondust was not a classic, it was very enjoyable reading and encouraged me to read more vintage Arthur C. Clarke science fiction.


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