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Moonseed [Hardcover]

Stephen Baxter
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 24 1998
The acclaimed author of "The Time Ships" and "Voyage" returns with a breathtaking thriller of a small moon rock threatening Earth. National print features.

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Stephen Baxter, the much-lauded author of Voyage and Titan, 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 so involving.

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid and believable...well, most of it anyway Dec 23 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Moonseed is a SF drama documenting the release on Earth of a planet-devouring nanovirus. The "Moonseed" infection starts in Scotland and induces an extremely ancient volcano to erupt again. Then the Moonseed continues spreading, apparently unstoppable as it heads down through the Earth's crust and towards the mantle where it would wreak complete havoc. So begins the desperate race to save humanity.
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.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Great Science, Uneven Writing Oct. 3 2002
By Vynnie
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I am an avid fan of "hard" science fiction - stories where accurate, highly detailed science is so integral to the plot that the book would not function without it. Moonseed places well in this category. Baxter is very adept at creating a boogeyman out of cutting-edge scientific theory, and his characters use science and modern technology in a complex, intellectual manner to solve the problem. His choice of a geologist as protagonist was interesting, and it worked; this is the first hard-SF novel I have read where an intimate knowledge of geology provided the key to resolving the plot's main conflicts. Baxter's handling of science reminds me of decorated hard-SF veteran Gregory Benford - and that is high praise.
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.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Promising start, big letdown May 10 2001
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This is my fourth foray into Baxterland (previous reads Voyage, Titan, Manifold: Time, in descending order). For the first 120-odd pages, I was extremely hopeful Baxter had conquered his biggest bugaboo-- creating characters we can really CARE about. His main man, geologist Henry Meacher, showed dangerous signs of HUMANITY early on. True to form, however, by mid-book, he had reverted to form as an emotionless scientific wonk viewing the destruction of the world and everything in it with clinical detachment (indeed, with a kind of perverse glee). Other annoying Baxterisms include his tendancy to essentially plaigerize his research materials, lifting long passages of books like "Diary of a Cosmonaut" (yes, I'm one of the eight or so other folks who read the English language version) and "To A Rocky Moon" almost verbatim (as he did in the otherwise excellent "Voyage" with the "Angle of Attack"). Other reviewers have noted his fundamental nihilsim: It becomes evident fairly early on that Baxter hates humanity and thinks it deserves destruction, a theme that also runs strongly through "Titan" and the awful "Manifold: Time." This might be a valid view to hold, but it's certainly not my cup of tea. Another infuriating trademark is his tendency to set up a situation in painstaking detail, then seemingly get bored with the whole idea (or suddenly realize, "cripes--I've wasted 140,000 words on what should be the first third of the book--got to end it NOW!")and launch into "and ten years later... and another ten years..." mode. Finally, for a guy who seems to understand the basic mechanics of spaceflight so well, he takes some incredibly wild leaps into "Abbot And Costello Go To Mars" land. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I have ever read!
Moonseed was a great book. The science is right, the theories are excellent and well written. This was the first Stephen Baxter book I read, and I now own almost all his books. Read more
Published on Sept. 10 2002 by Corey RC Kimura
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book some interesting science info
Found the geology knowledge interesting sicne
I'm not that familiar with geology!
Book a bit long but still got through the book
since was interested in figuring the... Read more
Published on July 21 2002 by Jim Bowden
5.0 out of 5 stars Moonseed
I have currently read two of Baxter's books, Ring and Moonseed. Moonseed is currently rated in my top 10 books ever read and I highly recommend it. Read more
Published on Feb. 19 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent yarn, a bit familiar if you read after manifolds
An excellent yarn and susprisingly good point of view narrative that doesn't jump so much, and sticks to the main chap pretty well. Read more
Published on July 7 2001 by CHRISTOPHER SIMMONS
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting twist on the end of the world
I picked this book up when the local Crown Books was going bankrupt and closing their doors. It took me a little while to get into the book, but once the seed started to grow in... Read more
Published on May 15 2001 by Eric S. Bauman
4.0 out of 5 stars Builds slowly, then accelerates rapidly
By page fifty I was considering putting this book down out of frustration at waiting for something to happen. Read more
Published on May 8 2001
2.0 out of 5 stars Caveat Emptor: a minutely detailed catalog of despair
Forget the high-minded "great science" reviews. The story goes, quite literally, nowhere. This is not the return of "hard science" science fiction... Read more
Published on May 2 2001
1.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't stay awake
I am an avid science fiction reader and I must say that this is one of the most boring books I have ever read. Baxter may know his science, but he has much to learn about fiction. Read more
Published on April 9 2001 by Professor Frink
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book, Great Author
After reading this book i discoverd a new wolrd of enlightenmant. It has many new ideas embeded in its storyline, with a few old ones to boot. Read more
Published on March 22 2001 by Robert Erez
2.0 out of 5 stars Overall, a big letdown
Just to explain, 1 star=poor, 2=fair, 3=good, 4=very good, 5=excellent
I thought this book was fair. Read more
Published on Dec 19 2000 by Davlo
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