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Moonfall
Jack McDevitt
HarperPrism Books, 464 pages

Moonfall
Jack McDevitt
Jack McDevitt won the Philip K. Dick Award for his first novel, The Hercules Text, and the first UPC prize for his novella, "Ships in the Night." He has been nominated for the Nebula and Hugo. McDevitt has been a taxi driver, a naval officer, an English teacher, a customs officer, and a motivational trainer. Currently, he lives with his wife and three children in Brunswick, GA.

Jack McDevitt Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Deepsix
SF Site Reading List: Jack McDevitt
SF Site Review: Infinity Beach
SF Site Review: Infinity Beach
SF Site Review: Moonfall
SF Site Review: Eternity Road
Jack McDevitt Reviews
Engines of God Review
Ancient Shores Review

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

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Moonfall begins as Vice President Charlie Haskell arrives on the moon to preside over a terrific photo op -- the official ribbon-cutting of an ambitious new moonbase, which promises to make the space program not just feasible, but economically profitable. Unfortunately for Haskell, astronomers have just discovered a large interstellar wanderer (comet) heading for a collision with Earth's moon. In five days moon and moonbase will be smashed into a cloud of rubble.

Certain that everyone can be evacuated from the moon in time, Haskell rashly announces that he will "personally lock the door and turn off the lights," only to discover that these may be famous last words. Six people won't make it, and the world is watching to see whether he will really volunteer to stay behind.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Henry Kolladner is struggling with a critical decision. Does he mobilize the government to attempt the impossible task of evacuating all coastal U.S. cities (triggering widespread panic and looting) or should he hope that predicted tsunamis will not materialize and tell everyone to stay home and keep calm?

This cast-of-billions disaster novel (which reminded me a great deal of Charles Sheffield's Aftermath) has the usual fast-paced movie-style story line and sprinkling of realistic technical detail. And nary an American cliché was missed, including the inevitable emergence of fascist militia nuts from their backwoods bases. However, this is a tight, well written book and it kept me turning pages with rapt attention through the first half.

McDevitt's plot line is good, his pace never lags, and his feel for the news media is excellent, giving an air of verisimilitude to on-air interviews and newsnet headlines. He also manages the difficult balancing act of reproducing the excitement and fascination of global disaster that keeps viewers glued to CNN, while not reducing dying people to Hollywood extras running about screaming.

It's hard to say much more. This is a straight action-adventure SF novel, well written and researched, with a pro-space exploration message that will go down well with fans. Towards the end, I found my interest lagging as events went on too long and Haskell's involvement became too far-fetched. The final wrap-up also lacked punch -- it's pretty hard to top the moon exploding, particularly with a cast of characters who lack serious emotional depth. Still, it was a good read.

Copyright © 2002 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at http://www.donna-mcmahon.com/.


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