Stephen Baxter, the much-lauded author of Voyage
, has been praised as a sci-fi writer who gets the science right. This rigor and research are clearly evident in Moonseed
, a tale with high-energy physics and space-travel technology in starring roles. It's Baxter's boyish enthusiasm for science--especially space travel--that makes Moonseed
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
From Kirkus Reviews
Another massive near-future, near-space yarn from the author of Voyage (1997). As NASA space jockey Geena Bourne acrimoniously splits from her geologist husband, Henry Meacher, Venus explodes into nova-like brilliance. The explanation, scientists think, involves superstrings: the planet's wreckage produces massless black holes. Geena returns to work, while Henry travels to Edinburgh to investigate a large Moon rock gathered by the last Apollo mission 30 years ago and left untouched since. Silvery ``Moonseed'' dust escapes from the lab, however, and ``infects'' the ancient volcanic rocks underlying the city, converting them into novel crystalline forms using superstring energies. Within days, Edinburgh is engulfed by volcanic eruptions. Moonseed spreads rapidly around the globe, chewing up the planet's crust, and producing more terrestrial turbulence. Henry, who's developing a theory (is Moonseed some sort of hive organism? or alien nanotechnology that converts planets into spaceships?) must get to the Moon to gather crucial evidence. Geena's the best pilot available, though rundown NASA will need lots of Russian hardware and technical help. Henry confirms that the Moon, too, is infected with Moonseed, but something massive is inhibiting its full development. With Earth doomed to meltdown, the Moons clearly the only safe haven for what's left of humanity. But can it be made habitable in time to receive millions of refugees? Baxter revels in the gritty, practical details of space flight and moon-walking; his alien threat is an intriguing and original one, though unconvincingly developed. But the padding (too many minor characters and unnecessary scenes) slows the pace to a crawl. (Movie rights to The Bridge Production Company) -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.