Moonseed (The Nasa Trilogy) Paperback – 2 Aug 1999
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Stephen Baxter established himself as a major British sci-fi author with tales of exotic, far-future technology. More recently, in Voyage, Titan and now Moonseed, he shows his love for the hardware of the real world's space programme. (Comparisons with Tom Wolfe's The Right Stuff have been frequent.) Moonseed is a spectacular disaster novel whose threat to Earth comes from a long-forgotten Moon rock sample carrying strange silver dust that seems to be alien nanotechnology-- molecule-sized machines. Accidentally spilt in Edinburgh, this "Moonseed" quietly devours stone and processes it into more Moonseed. Geology becomes high drama: when ancient mountains turn to dust, the lid is taken off seething magma below. Volcanoes return to Scotland, and Krakatoa-like eruptions spread Moonseed around the world. A desperate, improvised US/Russian space mission heads for the Moon to probe the secret of how our satellite has survived uneaten. Baxter convincingly shows how travel costs could be cut, with a hair-raising descent on a shoestring lunar lander that makes Apollo's look like a luxury craft. The climax brings literally world-shaking revelations and upheavals. Moonseed is a ripping interplanetary yarn. -- David Langford
‘The most important living science-fiction writer in the country’
‘The best SF writer in Britain’
Praise for The NASA Trilogy:
‘VOYAGE is, quite simply, a brilliant book . . . skilfully constructed and enthrallingly told’
‘Baxter handles a complex and gripping plot with his customary aplomb… The ending will blow your mind. Buy TITAN, read it – and then go out and buy everything else that Baxter has ever written’
‘A plausible tale of America’s last gasp at interplanetary exploration… Stephen Baxter proves what a cosmic thinker he is’
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The opening few chapters are typical of Baxter, and the action/mystery starts very quickly with a big capturing event in the first few pages. I found myself instantly engrossed in a story which rapidly spirals to encompass the whole planet, and show how different people deal with different events. The scale of some of the events range from small families up to entire countries and even planets. I did however find that by the middle of the book it felt as though we were running out of steam. Random characters were introduced, to disappear or be killed a few pages later. Action sequences (no doubt designed to instill the sense of catastrophe) would often be short to a few paragraphs and I got the sense that we were rushing through the action.
Whilst some of the characters are explored in depth and you get a real sense of who they are, and what they care about, others are seemingly introduced as fillers. To complete a narrative task which hints at a large back story, but sadly we never get to explore or fully understand.
All in all I enjoyed this book and as per usual, it was a fun and easy read. The science is explained well and concepts are grand. It was let down by feeling rushed, particularly towards the end of the book to its epic conclusion. And after the climatic ending (I won't say what happens for spoilers) it felt as though it was approaching, came, and went in no time at all. A good book, but not without some surprising faults.