Thursday, August 25, 2016

"A Fall of Moondust" by Arthur C. Clarke

Sci-Fi Summer Reading Challenge Pick

This book pre-dates Apollo 11, but it speculates as to what problems humans might encounter if we colonized the moon and made it into a semi-attractive tourist destination (imagine that). I think the most interesting aspects of the book are the hypotheses as to what the surface of the moon would be like. In this book's case, Mr. Clarke makes the surface covered with moondust, a mercury like substance that causes many, many issues for the people on board the tourist cruiser Selene.

The basic plot is that this tourist cruiser encounters an issue while touring a scenic area, resulting in them being buried in moondust. Because the cruiser can't communicate (it's covered in dust), and there is no way to exit the cruiser without the bus being flooded with moondust, the people inside are pretty helpless. Their only chance at survival is finding a way to communicate with the outside world, or have someone stumble upon them (which is fairly hard to imagine, given the moondust leveled out above them). Their captain conspires to keep everyone calm by spewing niceties like, "Help is on the way," (not a direct quote, but the general sentiment) when he really would rather have a mental breakdown without everyone else freaking out as well.

The Plot (As Seen on Goodreads):
'Time is running out for the passengers and crew of the tourist cruiser Selene, incarcerated in a sea of choking lunar dust. On the surface, her rescuers find their resources stretched to the limit by the mercilessly unpredictable conditions of a totally alien environment.'

If I cared much for the characters, this book might've been a more interesting read for me. As it is, though I read this book fairly recently, I can't recall any of the character's names. I was upset at some of the portrayals of characters (like a troublesome unwed spinster, and a doctor who was basically the token person of color for the book), because they were fairly flat and hadn't aged well. I think Mr. Clarke meant well by adding an Aboriginal Australian doctor and going off on a tangent midway through the book about how poorly they had been treated by the white settlers, but honestly, it felt forced, not like it was meant to be part of the book.

Lastly, I have something good to report- the author's writing is beautiful. There were many times I was tempted to highlight an entire page of my Kindle (3+ paragraphs) because Mr. Clarke simply has a gift with words, and his musings about space and life in general just jump out of the page, and fit in well with the book.

            My favorite quote:
Ever and again one seemed to glimpse strange shapes moving at the edge of vision, beyond the narrow range of the lights. It was pure imagination, of course; nothing moved in all this land except the shadows of the sun and earth. There could be no ghosts upon a world that had never known life.
           ~A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke, somewhere in Chapter 3 Kindle edition.

A Fall of Moondust is a space disaster fiction that reminds you of the plight of the Titanic, but on a smaller scale. The writing was eloquent, but in contrast, the characters failed to rise to the occasion. If I had cared a mite about what happened to the characters, this book would've been absolutely gripping, but I ended up reading this more as a puzzle-solving venture, as I was uninterested in the plight of the characters. I recommend A Fall of Moondust to those who love technical elements of sci-fi, even if the characters don't necessarily interest them.

Rating: 3 of 5 Stars for a solid vintage sci-fi with characters that simply were.

Age Advisory: Ages 14+ for mild swearing and horror-esque themes, in addition to out of date stereotypes (there were robo-secretaries that were always female, among other eyeroll worthy moments).

Page Count: 224 pages


  1. I went to the author's bibliography on Wikipedia thinking I must have read two or three of his works over the years, but after a quick glance I think I have only read 2001: A Space Odyssey. I haven't read the sequels, either. I will have to remedy this situation. Ha ha. Was this book a quick read? I might try it because I like problem solving. Thanks for sharing a review.

    1. I thought I had read another of his books too, but it turns out this is my first! I think I'll be reading his more recent works next time I pick up one of his books, because it's likely the things that bothered me about this book might not appear in those.
      This was a very quick read for me- it's kind of a space "thriller" type book so there isn't too much worldbuilding to trudge through.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, La La!
      ~Litha Nelle


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