The acclaimed author of "The Time Ships" and "Voyage" returns with a breathtaking thriller of a small moon rock threatening Earth. National print features.
A world-class disaster epic worthy of any Saturday matinee, Moonseed opens with the spectacular, explosive death of Venus, an event requiring energy a thousand billion times the world's nuclear arsenal. As the radioactive blast from the late Venus reaches Earth, scientists scramble to attribute a cause, with massless black holes and elementary particles the size of bacteria pointing towards some sort of superstring as the smoking gun. The pace quickens when the substance that may have caused the demise of Venus is accidentally introduced to Earth. This substance, dubbed moonseed, acts as a geological lubricant: processes that normally take millions of years occur in mere months with moonseed in the picture. Once Scotland and the state of Washington get gobbled up by this rock-eating, 10th-dimensional nano-lifeform, all hell breaks loose and the search turns towards finding safe refuge for humanity on the Moon. The book's second half is a seat-of-your-pants, what-if exploration of space travel and terraforming.
An over-the-top doomsday yarn by some measures, Moonseed keeps your feet on the ground with good science, good characters, and a good story. --Paul Hughes
The geology and space travel aspects of this novel are thoroughly grounded in research, allowing Baxter to achieve tenability on top of the entertainment, unlike other sci-fi authors who are merely entertaining. Or even worse, unbelievable AND unentertaining (*cough* The Millennial Project *cough)! It's a hefty novel at over 650 pages, but it seemed much shorter to me due to the quick and continuous plot development. Being an engineer and amateur astronomer, my attention didn't wander during the more technical passages. In fact, I was captivated during Baxter's description of the voyage to the Moon and the sojourn there. If you're not technically inclined, perhaps 5-10% of the book may be heavy going. Fortunately, the other 90-95% is easily understood and enjoyed by the layman.
Thanks to the novel's level of science, I somewhat believe now that we could return to the Moon for under $2 billion if need be. I have a much better grasp now of the power of "Act of God" disasters like volcanoes and earthquakes. Areas that did not seem convincing to me: politics (funding without adequate explanations), speed of infrastructure failure (far too rapid), harenodynamics (wacky alternate method of landing on the Moon), Henry's solution (I won't spoil it here), and a few others. Also the Moonseed itself is not satisfactorily researched during the course of the book, although the ending implies that humanity is on its way to discovering its secrets.
The overall tone of the novel is somewhat pessimistic. I think the gloominess adds to the prose and makes it more believable; previous reviewers have construed it as evidence of Baxter's nihilism. Whether you appreciate the dark mood or not, there certainly are quite a few morbid scenes in the novel that are more for dramatic effect than enriching the plot. Characterization of the main players is decent (I really got to like Henry!) but there seems to be a bit of unnecessary quarreling. Geena seems to be in perpetual PMS. Minor characters are generally flat and underdeveloped.
Overall, recommended for sci-fi buffs and readers with an interest in end-of-the-world scenarios.
An even better point was Baxter's description of Earth-Moon travel. This is a must-read for anyone who has ever daydreamed of a successor to the Apollo program or of going back in time to plant a moon-boot in the regolith next to Neil Armstrong. I would venture to say that this book is really *about* returning to the moon, and that the Moonseed is merely there to provide an excuse to do so. Regardless, it is a fun vicarious journey.
With all the above traits to recommend it, this book should have qualified for five stars. But it didn't. Baxter clearly loves and knows his science, but whenever he strays from it - say, into character development, or the more mundane details of life - his writing suffers. Characters sometimes do things that don't seem consistent with their personalities. Details are dropped or glossed over. For example, a man with badly cracked ribs can barely move in one scene, but only hours later is walking around with little hinderance. Astronauts forget some fairly basic elements of mission planning in a manner that is too obviously a plot device to set up a later scene. And too many characters decide to give up their lives in various suicidal endeavors, with no real development of _why_ the person no longer wishes to live.
I don't advise you to avoid this book, because it has some unique good qualities. But limit your expectations.
Book a bit long but still got through the book
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