‘Moonrise’ by Ben Bova

It took me longer to finish this book than it did Jupiter, but it was time well spent.

Moonrise is an interesting branch inside the science fiction genre, one that focuses on the business aspect of space exploration, colonization and mining. Whether future generations try to mine ore from an asteroid, set up a colony on the moon, harvest hydrogen and ammonia gas from Jupiter or water from Pluto’s moon Charon, it all boils down to one thing: can money be made off of it?
 
So, in Moonrise, veteran astronaut Paul Stavenger is convinced that moon colonization is the future of mankind. The earth is getting far too overpopulated, and being able to colonize the moon and harvest previous elements from the moon are key to our survival. He has to deal with much corporate bureaucracy from the Masterson Aerospace, which, by the gross financial mismanagement of its boss the egotistical Gregory Masterson, is slowly teetering towards bankruptcy. Even with the hot-selling Clippership and even with Paul’s vision of how Moonbase could easily be turned into a profit.
 
Tensions arise as Gregory Masterson II, Greg’s son, uses manipulated nanotechnology to kill Paul months after Greg commits suicide and after Joanna Masterson marries Paul (who had been her lover). Paul, realizing nanobugs are in his suit, chooses not to head to the next station to prevent infecting them with the nanobugs also.
 
Paul’s son, Doug, 18 years down the road tries to continue what’s been going on with Moonbase as Greg II ends up in charge in what is, without question, the worst personnel move in the history of science fiction novels (something we can attribute to Joanna’s overprotective ways as a mother rather than Dr. Bova’s storytelling). Doug is determined to make Moonbase profitable for more than one reason: due to a sabotage attempt by a disgruntled employee, Doug is exposed to radiation and must depend on nanotechnology for the rest of his life. Since the earth has all but banned the research, manufacturing and selling of nanotechnology, Doug must stay on the moon indefinitely.
 
Greg II, who is Doug’s half-brother, finally snaps when he sees his mother favors Doug and when he realizes he will finally be held accountable for an old murder. The climax ensues and the book ends with Doug looking at the moon and realizing it’ll take many generations to do what needs to be done.
 
What I liked about this book: The storyline was very interesting as it wove business with science and exploration. The characters came from all walks of life (such as the short, pudgy, half Italian and half Korean astronomer Bianca Rhee, who’s attracted to Doug). Once you sit down and read and devote time to it, it’s not easy to put down. Again, I liked Jupiter better, but Moonrise was a very good read. It’s a prelude of what’s to come in future generations: whether or not a profit can be made will be a major factor in whether or not to explore space and whether or not to try to harvest products for use on earth.
 
The book also opens up ideas for the future: how about space crafts made out of pure diamond? If diamonds can be found in asteroids or terrestrial planets like Mercury or Mars, perhaps it could work.
 
There were a few love scenes in this book but Bova kept the details to the bare minimum. We are spared from cheesy, Longarm-style metaphors for breasts, legs, and genitalia (such as “fleshy orbs”). Bova tells you just enough to let you know sex took place, whether it was enjoyable, what it accomplished, and leaves it at that. Too much information diverts from the storyline.
 
Also, there is very little profanity in this book, something else that impresses me greatly.
 
We read in this book about New Morality and their attempts to quell nanotechnology. I don’t know what Dr. Bova’s spiritual beliefs are (two websites say he’s an atheist), but I feel he’s pretty fair with his depiction of Christians. To me, he’s the antithesis of Carl Sagan, whose treatment of Christians in Contact could be described as an amateur caricature at best.
 
What I didn’t like about this book:  It didn’t seem as fast-paced as Jupiter. Paul’s death and then Doug’s life seemed like they could’ve been separate books of their own. Other than these, I had no complaints.
 
What’s in store for me now? Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You. Brent Curtis and John Eldredge’s The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God. A few weeks ago, though, I visited a used book store in Lapeer, Michigan and bought two more of Dr. Bova’s books and will no doubt be reading them in the next few months. It’s time I consider very well spent.
 
Richard Zowie’s been a professional writer for 10 years and is working on selling some of his fiction stories and writing others. He spends ample time assuring people that, yes, Zowie is his legal surname (howbeit Americanized from the German surname Zahnweh). Post comments here or e-mail Richard at richardzowie@gmail.com.
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