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Moon Shots
edited by Peter Crowther
DAW Books, 312 pages

Moon Shots
Peter Crowther
Peter Crowther was born in 1949 in Leeds, England, where he attended Leeds Metropolitan University. He is the editor of the World Fantasy Award-nominated Narrow Houses anthology series. He lives in Harrogate, England, with his wife and two sons, and works as communications manager for one of the UK's biggest financial organizations.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by A.L. Sirois

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I've always been fascinated by the Moon. Some of my favourite SF is Moon-oriented: First Men in the Moon, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, A Fall of Moondust, etc. 2001 is one of my favourite movies, in part for the delightfully eerie moonbus excursion across the lunar surface that brings Dr Floyd to the buried monolith. Not even the scene's banal dialogue can ruin the beauty of the scenery outside the bus.

So here we are, 30 years after Neil Armstrong set foot on our satellite. I think it's a damn shame we haven't got a base or a commercial presence on the Moon, but that's another story. DAW has released this anthology of Moon stories to commemorate the occasion. As with most anthologies, it's a mixed bag.

I couldn't really follow the point of the book's opening story, a piece by Brian Aldiss titled "An Apollo Asteroid." I'm very fond of Aldiss's work but this story had nothing to offer me, I'm sorry to say. Gene Wolfe weighs in with a splendidly-characterized story titled "Has Anyone Seen Junie Moon?"  It has some interesting scientific speculations about the nature of anti-matter to go with the nifty characterizations, but in the end it, like the Aldiss story, doesn't resolve as much as it stops at a convenient point.

Things started to pick up with Brian Stableford's introspective "Ashes and Tombstones," about an old-time astronaut's reaction to a New Age space program.

"The Way to Norwich" by Colin Greenland isn't really SF per se; it details the relationship between a little boy who lives across the street from a pub called The Man in the Moon and the teacher he grows up to be. It hinges on the rather unlikely device that a lost Tarot card - XVIII, THE MOON, of course -- both was not noticed as missing by its owner after she gave the protagonist a reading and has managed to remain undiscovered in the same room for 30 years. Otherwise a nice little story.

"Steps Along the Way" by Eric Brown involves the revival of a long-dead adventurer by a declining future civilization. It's a little far-fetched, but it has a nice mythic quality missing from most of the other tales.

In many ways "The Moon Tree" by Jerry Oltion is the best story in the book. It's not just escapist science fiction; it's a clever and contemporary look at why we seem to have lost our taste for manned exploratory space travel and what we might be able to do about it. It's the sort of story that makes you wish it could be true.

"The Last Man on the Moon" by Scott Edelman is about a VR simulation of the first lunar landing that takes on a strange life of its own due to the machinations of an elderly astronaut. It has an adroit last line that will bring a wry grin to the face of more than one reader.

James Lovegrove's "Carry the Moon in My Pocket" tells the story of how a space-crazy young boy allows himself to be bamboozled over an alleged moon rock by an unscrupulous classmate. But there is a very satisfying twist to this story. I liked it very much.

"Moon Hunters" by Kathleen M. Massie-Ferch is about asteroid prospectors. It starts well enough, and is, unlike most of the stories in this compilation, a hard science piece. But it sputters out at the end, and seems as if it wants to be much longer in order to more fully explore the characters.

Alan Dean Foster weighs in with a tale of theft and delicious irony, titled "The Little Bits That Count." It's short and sweet, and although it may telegraph its punch just a few moments too soon, it's surpassingly clever.

One of the best and certainly the most haunting tale in this book is Stephen Baxter's sweet and sad "People Came From Earth," about a future war-torn Moon that is terraformed but nevertheless dying slowly. This tale should end up on the Nebula short list this year. It's outstanding.

"Visions of the Green Moon" is from Robert Sheckley, and lacks some of the author's trademark satirical edge but is still good. Here Sheckley takes a step off into Bradburyesque territory with a story of a man literally pursuing a dream.

"How We Lost the Moon, A True Story" by Frank W. Allen was really written by Paul J. McAuley. In the form of a page on Allen's website, it's a pleasing and humorous hard-science tale about how the Moon was accidentally destroyed by a nuclear accident. It has a whiff of Douglas Adams about it. Entertaining and funny.

I always look forward to reading material from Paul Di Filippo. He reminds me a bit of Richard Lupoff, because his work swoops and veers off in directions you never expected. Here he crafts a Gilliamesque story of how a dumb ex-jock seduces a girl who turns out to be the Moon goddess, with surprising results. I don't know if anyone other than Di Filippo could pull off a story like "The Man Who Stole the Moon," with its backhand at Heinlein and Lewis Carroll. Nice work.

This Python-like tale is immediately followed by the grimmest story in the book, "Elegy" by Michelle West. I can't say that reading this description of a hopelessly polluted and overcrowded near future was pleasant, but it was certainly a vivid experience. West sucked me right in before I knew what she was doing. I don't want to say much about the story, other than to say that her use of VR as an inducement to suicide is very disturbing. I hope that the future is not like this, but West makes it seem all too possible. Shudder-inducing.

As if to make up for this, the book ends with a tour-de-force from Ian McDonald, another guy from whom only the unexpected can be expected. In "Breakfast on the Moon, With Georges" he has taken special-effects pioneer Georges Melies and given us an alternate world in which Melies is an actual space explorer aboard a space-faring rocket train. It's a remarkable and delightful bit of work, the more impressive because of the research McDonald must have conducted.

So there we have it. Moon Shots is an anthology well worth your time and money, in which almost every story is memorable. Science fiction has changed a lot in the 30 years since we landed on the moon. On the anniversary of the landing, I stood watering my front yard, looking up at the half moon swimming in the warm summer night above me. Earlier in the evening I took my little daughter to see Muppets From Space, an appropriate film for the day. I told her about the anniversary, that 30 years ago that night we had set foot on Luna for the first time. She wanted to know if there were any people up there now. I had to say no. "But," I went on, "Maybe you'll go when you're older. By then maybe there will be cities up there."

We can but hope.

Copyright © 1999 by A.L. Sirois

A.L. Sirois walks the walk, too. He's a longtime member of SFWA and currently serves the organization as webmaster for the SFWA BULLETIN. His personal site is at http://www.w3pg.com/jazzpolice.


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