To Crush the Moon Mass Market Paperback – May 31 2005
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Radmer has returned to Lune with the tool to end the war against the Glimmer King's robots in the person of Bruno de Towaji. The two have made it to the city of Timoch but have a long way to go. Way back before the moon was "squeezed," Conrad and Xmary returned from Barnard's Star with a cargo of that world's cryogenically frozen human children. What to do with all these mortals? The queendom is already overrun with billions of its own, immorbid children, and the violent Fatalists, a group of mortality advocates, tend to further destabilize matters. Bruno hires Conrad to crush the moon in a desperate attempt to find space for the masses of humanity. Refugees from other colonies straggle back to Sol, Queen Tamra struggles to equitably resolve associated problems, and events spiral toward destruction as well as a final battle when Conrad and Bruno confront the Glimmer King and his metal armies. A gripping and surprisingly tidy conclusion to the saga of the queendom of Sol. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
About the Author
Wil McCarthy, after ten years of rocket science with Lockheed Martin, traded the hectic limelight of the space program for the peace and quiet (ha!) of commercial robotics at Omnitech, where he works as a research and development hack.
He writes a monthly column for the SciFi Channel's news magazine (www.scifi.com/sfw), and his less truthful writings have appeared in Aboriginal SF, Analog, Interzone, Asimov's Science Fiction, Science Fiction Age, and various anthologies. His novel, Bloom, was selected as a New York Times Notable Book. Further biographical and bibliographic information at: www.sff.net/people/wmccarth
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In TCTM, McCarthy rounds out the story arc begun with the Children's Revolt. Conrad Mursk and a few of his fellow conspirators return from exile on Barnard as the refugees of a dying civilization only to discover that the scarcity and overpopulation that brought their world to the brink also threatens the Queendom of Sol. Mursk, a grown man of several hundred years now, is soon thrust into an ambitious project by none other than King Bruno de Towaji himself. In order to provide a home to the billions of refugees from failing solar and extra solar settlements, the moon is to be squozen into a super-planette rechristened Lune. Just in time, the project is completed, and then...all hell breaks loose, and the world comes to an end.
Fast foward a thousand years in the future, and the immorbid Conrad, aided by the last of the Queendom's children, sets out on a quest to save the retrograde civilization of Lune from total destruction by a maniacal king who commands an army of robots. To accomplish this, Conrad must retrieve King Bruno for one last swashbuckling adventure to save mankind's children from extinction.
While I'm hesitant to derive social commentary from sci-fi adventure novels, this final tome is more than just a light-hearted adventure or an abstract exploration of social strife arising from the use of technology. It is in fact (deliberately or not), a pointed reminder that mankind can in fact engineer its own demise. Whether through the nuclear genie of radiological and atomic weapons, the pandoras box of nanotechnology (and nano-pollution), or the threat to liberty of the expanding capacity of supercomputers to catalog information about individuals, if we as a race aren't careful with the use of technology, we move to abuse, and then destruction.
The subsequent three novels are more closely linked, and quite a bit darker in tone. By the end of The Collapsium, Bruno had married the Queen of Sol. In The Wellstone (2003) his son, Bascal, was the ringleader of a group of young people frustrated by their lack of opportunity in a world of immortals. The main character is Bascal's friend Conrad Mursk. The two of them and a large group of rebellious youngsters are exiled to Barnard's Star at the end of the book, and Lost in Transmission (2004) tells of the establishment and ultimate failure of the Barnard's Star colony. Conrad chooses to return to Sol, and To Crush the Moon is the story of what happens after his return.
The Wellstone and Lost in Transmission both had sections set thousands of years in the future, with Conrad (now called Radmer) retrieving Bruno de Towaji from self-imposed exile and returning with him to an altered Moon (now called Lune), where the last significant remnants of humanity are fighting a war with emancipated robots. Earth and the other major planets have been "Murdered". To Crush the Moon tells first of the crisis in Solar System politics that led both to the alteration and terraforming of Luna into Lune, and then to the tragic missteps resulting in the "Murder" of Earth. Conrad and Bruno are central to these events, and so are their wives, Queen Tamra and Xiomary Li Weng (Xmary). Much of this section is savvy portrayal of what seems like inevitable political problems - particularly problems dealing with fanatics who wish to restore death to society, and with the impatient returnees from various failed star colonies. Then the conclusion continues the story of the far future war on Lune, with Radmer leading Bruno de Towaji on a desperate mission to, quite literally, save humanity.
The story is satisfying on multiple levels. The scientific (and politico-economic) speculation remains scintillating. The pure adventure aspects are thrilling. The prose is clever, sardonic, successfully darkly funny even in the shadow of the deaths of billions. Conrad and Bruno are very well realized characters, though most of the remaining characters are a bit flatter. (In particular the leading women, Tamra and Xmary, never really come to life.) Lines like "Bruno was elbow-deep in wormholes. Not literally, of course - he'd lost more than one arm that way already -" are simply delights. The ultimate scope of the story is really impressive, in space, time, and theme. The ending is perhaps a mild disappointment - it's logical enough, and the reader is not cheated, but it seems just a touch off tonally.
I've truly enjoyed this series of novels, and I confess to slight puzzlement that it hasn't received more notice. For my taste, this is what 21st Century SF ought to be. (Of course there are other recent SF stories that are also "what 21st Century SF ought to be", such as Charles Stross's Accelerando stories.) The latter three novels have all been mass market originals - perhaps their failure to appear between hard covers has told against them. If so, that's a shame - I urge readers to seek out these first rate novels.
I hope that the lack of reviews is not indicative of a lack of readers because this is an important book in an important series that touches on cutting edge science (the author is involved in a nanotech company) and the future of humanity. What would it mean if it were possible to pass through a human fax machine and have your body emerge as a healthy man or woman in their mid-twenties? For one, immortality would increase population and that is one of the problems faced here. Secondly it leads to all sorts of weird experiments as groups of people become less and less human.
But this is a story about relationships, the wonders of science (in particular the awesome "Wellstone") and the exploits of King Bruno and once badboy Conrad Mursk. The action is top notch, logical and exciting. The science is mind-blowing but utterly believable. The tale itself is bittersweet but the ending more than makes up for any sadness and a sequeal is suggested. For a literate, entertaining and masterful work of art, it is hard to beat.
This is a sad book, an elegaic book, in some ways a heartbreaking book. McCarthy kicks out all the props from under his magnificent, glittering Queendom of Sol, and it falls like, well, a megaton of brickmail. Not a pretty sight. I suppose the author intends this as a cautionary tale. The series is structured as a classical tragedy: the sad consequences of human hubris.
My problem? Let me quote the perspicacious James Nicoll, over at rec.arts.sf.written: "My specific complaint is that the precise technological limitations introduced in _Lost in Transmission_ felt as though they did not arise from the logic of the technology but because the author had a particular direction he wanted to force the plot in." Ayup. In particular, the inexplicable (but, sadly, not unprecedented) error of not designing the Nescog  to fail safe -- since the alternative was Murdered Earth, and hundreds of billions of deaths. But, in this case, this is a severe WSOD-breaker: the designer had to face (and fix) a very similar disaster in book #1. Good engineers learn from their mistakes.
The ending? I first thought it was going to be the obligatory Hollywood happy-ever-after, but McCarthy likes to play with our expectations. So it's bittersweet and quite effective, if manipulative. There's a hook for a sequel , and a great (nearly) last line: "Live a little. Have some fun."
The "Queendom of Sol" future history is a remarkable literary achievement, one that will repay rereading. The series opened with 2000's universally-praised The Collapsium, a spectacular future technothriller, overplayed (imo) for laughs, but with as dazzling a set of bleeding-edge technogoodies as any hard-sf fan could imagine. The middle two volumes are understated, overlong and weren't as well-received . The third, Lost in Transmission, is something of a downer. Well, so is the windup(?) fourth volume, but it does make you think. I'll be rereading it.
If you've missed the series, by all means start with vol. 1, The Collapsium. From there, you may want to consider jumping to this volume.
 The New Systemwide Collapsar Grid, for rapid transit (etc.)
 --though the author's website does describe this as the final volume.
 McCarthy could have strenghened the series (imo) by judicious editing of vols 2 & 3 into a single volume.
Peter D. Tillman