Moonrise by Ben Bova (1996) – Reading a Ben Bova book is like having a really satisfying meal. He is notable for his epic science fiction (Moonrise is over 550 pages), and this one doesn’t disappoint. Ben is skillful at providing a very good science fiction main course while giving the reader a lot of insight into the personal lives of his characters as the side dish. He’s quite the chef.
For me, I am perfectly content with just the beef, but his side dishes are very tasty, too. Moonrise is more about the first base on the moon than the characters, but we follow several generations of one family responsible for establishing and keeping the moonbase operational. In spite of the politics, financial cliffs, and psychopathic family members, the base must survive for all the hope of mankind’s future.
Sometimes the space opera turns a little soap opera. When the owner of the company kills himself, his wife’s lover, a black astronaut, takes over as CEO to ensure the moonbase remains solvent. There’s a vengeful, psychopathic half-brother, a young heir apparent, the cold-blooded businesswoman/mother, several murders, a moral majority faction, and nanorobots. What more could you ask for?
The book is split into three parts: the astronaut, the astronaut’s son, and the son as a grown man. During each of these stages, the moonbase is threatened, mostly because of the nanotechnology they use (nanotechnology is ungodly and illegal on Earth). My only complaint about the Bova meal was the weak entrée of the naive son. He’s happy, he’s charming, he sees the good in everyone, and he’s a little 2-dimensional. He’s like potatoes without salt. When he’s killed by his deranged half-brother, he’s injected with nanos and comes back new and improved. Of course, he’s not allowed on Earth any longer, but he doesn’t care as long as his moonbase is safe.
As I said, the science alone would make this a very satisfying meal, but when you add in the personalities and the conflicts of these dramatic people, it really takes it to another level. The mother’s efforts to protect her murderous son are so wrong and yet so believable. Even the throwaway characters add spice to the dish.
It’s nice to fall back on some good, meaty science fiction. After a couple disappointing, lo-cal books, it was nice to ingest something of substance. There’s a sequel, but I’m saving it for when I am starving again.