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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be an astronaut!
I read this book a few months ago and was captivated by the wonderful details and use of language. The descriptions of procedures and technology were so good, I felt I was actually there. Being an avid space junkie, I watch documentaries all the time and I got the feeling that Ian Sales was either an astronaut himself or worked in NASA, his descriptions were so very...
Published 21 months ago by A. Butler

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3.0 out of 5 stars A stretch too far
This is a relatively easy read, and is quite short, not bad to occupy some time without requiring too much thought. There is a fair amount of technical jargon, to the extent that a glossary is included, though that didn't detract from the narrative for me, though I'm one of those geeky people who lived through the Apollo programme as a schoolboy and soaked this all up...
Published 20 days ago by paul crowe


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be an astronaut!, 6 Dec 2012
By 
A. Butler "tanj666" (Coventry, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Adrift on the Sea of Rains (Apollo Quartet Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
I read this book a few months ago and was captivated by the wonderful details and use of language. The descriptions of procedures and technology were so good, I felt I was actually there. Being an avid space junkie, I watch documentaries all the time and I got the feeling that Ian Sales was either an astronaut himself or worked in NASA, his descriptions were so very good.

The whole story revolved around a small lunar base and the people on it and what they did as they watched the Earth die.

I found this story incredibly detailed and believable. The details did not mask the story nor make it too wordy, they added a depth and colour to the story that made it real for me.

I cannot wait for the next books!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars That's one small story for an author, but one giant read for mankind, 15 Oct 2012
By 
'Adrift on the Sea of Rains' is the first in a four-novella series of alternate reality hard science fiction stories by British writer, anthologist and reviewer Ian Sales.

This first volume of the Apollo Quartet tells the story of Colonel Vance Peterson and his crew, condemned to a slow, lingering death on a US Moonbase after nuclear war obliterates all life on Earth. Their one hope is 'The Bell', a piece of Nazi-era technology that is able to throw them into parallel universes. If they can jump to a parallel timeline that precedes the nuclear exchange, perhaps they will be able to look up at an Earth that is a living blue once more? But can they survive the endless tedium and an almost total breakdown in the relationships between the astronauts while they're waiting?

This is definitely a novella for the hard SF fan. It is well researched and stuffed full of Apollo-era terminology - so much so that the book includes a list of acronyms and a glossary, explaining not just what the APS (Ascent Propulsion System) is, for example, but also the launch schedule of the real and imagined Apollo missions that created the Moonbase which Colonel Peterson commands.

Sales is adept at switching between detailed descriptions of the technical equipment that keeps these few remaining humans alive in the hostile environment of the Moon's surface and haunting evocations of the emptiness of their daily routines, carried out in the increasingly vain hope that the mysterious Bell machine will rescue them from despair. You can almost taste the claustrophobia.

Colonel Peterson comes across as a man who is barely holding himself together in the face of their likely fate. Anger seethes just below the surface, and his constant need to get into his spacesuit and go for a walk outside the base highlights how isolated from his crew he has allowed himself to become.

I really enjoyed this novella. Like Sales, I'm a child of the Apollo era. While studying physics at university I got very interested in the technical detail of those missions and I remain in awe of NASA's achievements at that time. I love reading science fiction that ties itself in to the far from mundane realities of astronautics, and Sales has done that in spades. If you've watched some of the Apollo footage, perhaps even read books about the missions, and wondered what it might have been like to have actually been there, this story will put you right there with Colonel Peterson on Mare Imbrium, the Sea of Rains of the title.

My only slight criticism of the book follows from the above. This is an alternate reality story, where the Moon missions did not stop with Apollo 17 but continued for several years, with both civilian and military funding, and led to the building of a lunar base and a space station in Earth orbit. Most of this material is extrapolated from contemporary plans, so is certainly technically feasible. On top of this, however, the plot also involves the use of 'The Bell', a hypothetical Nazi 'torsion field generator', whose existence has been the subject of much speculation by Witkowski and others over the last decade or so. The effects of the device in this story, which are absolutely central to the plot, are however produced through a great deal of handwavium. Yet the glossary at the end of the novella includes all its entries - those that actually happened in our reality, those that might have happened if the Apollo programme had not been cancelled, and the invented properties of the hypothetical 'Bell' device - on an equal footing. Although that makes sense within the story context, I found this a bit confusing, and I think a little more flagging of the nature of the different entries might have been helpful to those not quite so intimately familiar with the history of manned spaceflight as Ian Sales so clearly is. This is, though, a minor quibble.

For those who like their science fiction hard and precise, 'Adrift on the Sea of Rains' will be a very welcome treat. I loved it, and I can't wait for the next volume in Sales' Apollo Quartet.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A stretch too far, 27 Aug 2014
By 
paul crowe "smoggy paul" (sussex, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Adrift on the Sea of Rains (Apollo Quartet Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
This is a relatively easy read, and is quite short, not bad to occupy some time without requiring too much thought. There is a fair amount of technical jargon, to the extent that a glossary is included, though that didn't detract from the narrative for me, though I'm one of those geeky people who lived through the Apollo programme as a schoolboy and soaked this all up back then - it may be offputting to someone new to this. It's really an Apollo 'fan-fiction' novel of an alternative future timeline when the programme wasn't cancelled, when there was a 3rd World War, and there was some incredible Nazi technology to give the few remaining survivors hope. Personally I think the stretch is too big to accept when it comes to 'secret Nazi technology', and jarred with the otherwise meticulous attention to technical detail. If Dr Who had come strolling across the moon with sonic screwdriver in hand I wouldn't have been surprised.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Science Fiction We Should Have Had, 5 Aug 2013
By 
This review is from: Adrift on the Sea of Rains (Apollo Quartet Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
An excellent read from cover to cover. And reading Adrift on the Seas of Rains in its entirety is necessary, if one wishes to experience the full richness of the novella. Sparse prose, rich imagination, and a story that is contained as much in the clever appendixes as in the titular story - taken as a whole this is a breath of fresh oxygen pumped into a fatally stale environment.

With only a handful of fiction commercially available, Ian Sales is proving to be a unique voice in science fiction, whose work harkens back to a science fiction we were promised, but never delivered.

By this I don't mean a bloated space opera or the cumbersome work of some of the seminal authors, for both good and bad, that established science fiction as a genre separate from the wider fantasies of pulp fiction. Rather, this is lean hard-science fiction that ties our greatest current achievements in space exploration, to a guardedly hopeful, future.

Not one to be missed and a writer not to be overlooked.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best SF books of the year. Just need to know where to get it from., 23 Oct 2012
By 
I bought this book because of a review in Interzone magazine, the problem I found is getting hold of it. Eventually I found the best way is via the Whippleshield Books website (easily found via a quick internet search). 5.99 buys you a hardback signed copy, you can't ask for better value than that and it is a fantastic read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A poignant and powerful story, 24 Sep 2012
Adrift on the Sea of Rains is a poignant and quietly powerful tale of an Apollo space program that never quite was the one that we, who lived through it, remember.

In this alternate history, the Cold War is much hotter and a militarised Apollo program has established a small moonbase that houses a secret technology project aimed at changing history. As the story opens, nuclear war has destroyed Earth and a handful of astronauts are stranded on the Moon with limited supplies and no chance of resupply. Most have drifted into an almost catatonic existence of ritual behaviours and tedium apart from the base commander and the scientist operating the secret project, who is trying to find an alternate history in which Earth is not destroyed. His success galvanises the group into action, to cobble together an Apollo return module to bring one man home safely to a space station they can see in Earth orbit, to mount a rescue for the others.

Sales has painted an exquisitely detailed picture of the Apollo era technology and blended our Cold War history into an all too believable version of what might otherwise have happened. Reading this story, the first of a quartet, in the days following the death of Neil Armstrong, shook me to the core and took me back to my schooldays and the thrills of the real Apollo program as it happened. It haunts me still - I can't stop thinking about it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful read. Looking forward to more from this author, 20 Aug 2012
By 
Orin Thomas - See all my reviews
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Adrift on the Sea of Rains is the first of a quartet of alternate histories dealing with the Apollo program. This first story deals with a group of astronauts from an alternate reality where the Americans manage to build a permanent settlement on the moon, but in this alternate reality the cold war went hot and the astronauts have become castaways from an Earth destroyed by nuclear war.

Sales descriptions feel authentic. I get the impression from reading that the author has spent a crazy amount of time studying every dial and switch on the command and lunar modules. He presents this information in a way that drives the story, never getting bogged down in the detail. I've read SF books from Astronauts that didn't manage to evoke the sense of the reality of space travel that Sales holds throughout this work.

The appendix describing the Apollo program we never got is itself worth the price of admission.

I eagerly anticipate Sales future work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Impressive detail, beautiful descriptions and tense characterizations, 17 Aug 2012
Commander Vance Peterson has been stuck on a base on the moon for two years together with eight other astronauts after the Earth annihilated itself in nuclear war. Each astronaut is handling the difficult situation in their own way. A strange device made during WW2 enables the castaways to find alternate Earths in the sky. When they finally see an undamaged Earth, with a space station in orbit around it, the astronauts must find a way to leave the moon and get help from the other Earth.

Adrift In A Sea Of Rains is a rare mix of realistic and more speculative science fiction. Everything is described in impressive detail; the lunar environment, the base, the equipment from the Apollo-program, the spacecraft, the aircraft, and late 20th century history. I can't imagine all the research that has gone into it.

Just about the only thing that is not realistic is the alternate universe device. However, the contrast between the speculative and very realistic science fiction feels a little jarring. That's mainly caused by the device's title, a "Wunderwaffe", which brings up images of silly space blimps and Nazi flying saucers in my mind.

Apart from that, I enjoyed the realism of the story, the harsh setting and the different variations on "the right stuff"-personality of the characters a lot. The portrayals are brief, but interesting, and I would have liked to see even more of the astronauts' interactions, even though they are not always friendly.

There are also many beautiful descriptions of the harsh environment and the situation, such as
"Peterson sits at his desk in the command centre, mapping the boundaries of his cabin fever."
" - leaves the spacesuit like a victim on the floor,"
"Scott has put away his personality, consigned it to some corner of his mind where it cannot be battered and bruised by their slow descent into despair."

These descriptions are more personal and lingering than one often finds in SF, and I found them deliciously effective. Sales' confident and somber voice fits the theme and setting perfectly.

The finish has a nice twist, although it feels a little rushed, and is an exciting cliffhanger for the next part. I am now very curious about what will happen in the rest of the quartet.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 100 words on Adrift on the Sea of Rains, 26 Jun 2012
By 
Glen Mehn (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Adrift on the Sea of Rains (Apollo Quartet Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
Obsessive research and worldbuilding in a mostly prebuilt world manages to combine 60s-style hard SF with 80s style fear of Soviets and 90s style hopelessness about the future with contemporary plot and depth of character. Plus, a wunderwaffe. And a potted history of a fictionalised, militarised Apollo programme.

In a word: fascinating. Short enough to read in a sitting, deep enough to return and explore.

Demonstrates how ebooks can reinvigorate short literary forms, while providing limited hardbacks for the collectible-obsessed.

This we need more of. Fortunately, it is the first of a quartet. I Can't wait for the other three.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost as good as walking on the moon yourself, 15 May 2012
This novella is a love letter to the space program. The descriptions of the lunar landscape are beautiful and Sales' descriptions of rocket flight are truly empathic. The science behind mankind's voyages to the stars are described in detail that borders on pornography--the spacesuits and the walks across the lunar seas, the Velcro shoes used in the station's one sixth Earth gravity and the empty bands of radio that the stranded astronauts hopelessly scan. This isn't the space travel of space opera, not even the space travel of science fiction. This is the space travel of our own past, of Yuri Gagarin and Neil Armstrong. This is the closest you'll get to orbit without being a billionaire.

However, there's no speech marks around the direct speech and it only serves to make the line between reader and character even thicker. Like all those pieces of tech, the characters are consistent and work the way they should... They just don't ever quite feel human. They're just one more part of the space program, no more or less important than the rockets or the lunar base.

Adrift on the Sea of Rains is a wonderful hard science novella that will make you feel as if you've left the Earth's surface perched atop over seven million pounds of thrust and kicked up the sand of the Moon's seas. Maybe it's fitting that the humans are reduced to another machine in the program, that they're put in their insignificant place in the cosmos. I miss it, though, that uniquely human element we always carry around in our skulls. Hence the missing star. However, I'll be fighting for my place in line when the rest of the Quartet lands.
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