Rogue Moon (S.F. MASTERWORKS) Paperback – 12 Jan 2012
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This study of the human psyche has an incredible amount of power which when combined with the study of relationships and exploration of that final frontier - the inevitable truth that is death - creates a unique and breathtaking novel that simply has no equal, a true classic in every sense. (Antony Jones SFBOOKREVIEWS blog)
Described by Robert Silverberg as containing 'The most terrifying pages in any SF novel I have ever read', ROGUE MOON is the disquieting story of what happens when monstrous scientific ambition is matched by human obsession.See all Product description
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I originally read Budrys’ chamber piece in the early 1970s and was much impressed by the depth of characterisation and intelligent dialogue about life and death, power and responsibility. Coming back to it 40 years on, the dialogue feels contrived and often meaningless, particularly in the pointless chapters in which Hawks talks at (never with) his girlfriend, unintentionally revealing himself to be a self-obsessed narcissist. (And, yes, I know those chapters are only there to pad the novella out to just about novel length, but that’s hardly an excuse.) The technology of the matter transmitter is described in some detail to give the story a hard SF edge. From this we learn that, in order to beam someone to the moon, the nature and position of every atom in his body first has to be encoded on magnetic tape. In the 1970s this seemed fair enough; now it gives me a fit of the giggles. That’s got to be some big-ass tape spooling at near light speed yet somehow not breaking or catching fire from the friction!
To be fair, the characters are colourful and you care what happens to them; the description of the insides of the alien artefact, when it finally comes, is worth the wait, and there’s a nice (if guessable) twist at the end. But if you want a haunting story about super-advanced aliens leaving their lethal stuff littering our solar system (why aren’t they environmentally conscious enough to take their rubbish home with them?), I’d sooner point you in the direction of the Strugatsky brothers’ brilliant ‘Roadside Picnic’.
It's anything but a slam-bang action story. It is, in every sense, an existential novel, about how to live in good faith in an utterly indifferent universe. If you're already recoiling, this is not the book for you. If you're intrigued, it's strongly recommended as a book which uses what's still an original SF idea to make an important point - and make it more effectively than mainstream novels could ever do. The plot isn't full of incident, but that's because the narrative is used to reflect and develop the ideas and characters in an unified manner. The characterisation is vivid and well-drawn, particularly in the context of SF of this vintage. On which point, the previous reviewer found this book dated. I felt the decision to set it in the year of publication (1959) was an effective way to prevent it from dating; the characters and technological speculation are of their time, so anachronisms don't get in the way of the themes, which are as relevant now as they were then. And the last chapter isn't a bit of tagged-on pulp action, but a sting in the tail which sharpens and clarifies everything that's come before.
It's not perfect: it does drag in places, and bits of the dialogue are overly theatrical. But for the most part it's a novel of great ambition which is largely realised, and, in its deep and unflinching look at human nature, a remarkable achievement from an author who was still in his late twenties when he wrote it. It sees SF as a genre capable of more than providing entertaining diversions (not that there's anything wrong with that) and is a highly honourable precursor of much of the good stuff to emerge from and follow the "New Wave" SF of the sixties.
The overall story arc or plot is great, mysterious alien artifact on the moon which is killing all who investigate it and an equally intriguing device on earth for copying and transfering human beings. Not exactly clones or teleportations but shades of each idea associated with some vague but strange tape recording idea. These are the things which it is truly worth reading this novel for to be honest and the literary/plot devices which motivated me to read on.
There is a cast of characters who interact and whose interaction is meant to be pivotal to the whole progression of the narrative, I was able to tell that the author really did want to convey how group politics motivated the behaviour of the antagonists and protagonists. That said the dialogue is awful for the most part, not gripping at all and sometimes really dated, perhaps the characters seemed less one dimensional at the time of the original publication.
I bought this book for the idea that it would deal with the topic of death, death wishes, that sort of thing, while a lot of time is spent dealing with this idea because previous candidates for the transfer and exploration role have gone insane because of a kind of existential horror at experiencing their own deaths I was disappointed really. I didnt think much time was spent considering that the process of copying and transfering persons to the moon involved the creation and "death" already, although the telepathic, remote viewing/control idea is maybe not meant to involve that I couldnt see exactly how it would not.
Better than some books in the series and better than some of the more pulp fiction examples in the fantasy masterworks such as Black Gods And Scarlet Dreams (Fantasy Masterworks) but still not one I would highly recommend.
This narration is not first person, it is third person and I am aware that the books I've liked the most in the series are generally first person narratives so it could be a factor too.
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