The Moon, the four-and-a-half billion-year-old stone orbiting the Earth, has long been a source of speculation and mystery for human beings. Astronauts first walked on the moon in 1969, and both private enterprises and governments are engaged in new efforts to return, this time for extended stays. Wayne Scott Harral, in Moon Luck provides a fascinating and extensively researched novel on what life on a lunar base will be like. He draws together the threads of pure research science, exploitation of the moon for profit, private enterprise space travel, international law, and politics and weaves them together in a murder mystery. It’s a tale that holds up to its space-age setting.
Dan Wedmond is the commander of Venturous, a lunar exploration colony. Staffed with astronauts from NASA, the European Space Agency, and private enterprise corporations Blue Origin and Space X, its goals are to conduct pure scientific research and exploit the Moon’s mineral assets. These goals conflict with each other, and this discord is personified by Dr. Anna Kormendy, of Space X, who is a driven, ambitious scientist with a brusque and aggressive demeanor. The competition for scarce resources to conduct experiments versus searching for precious minerals causes tensions between the crew of thirty. Kormendy continually pushes Wedmond and Bruce Holmann, his Executive Officer, to prioritize mineral exploitation over scientific research. As the conflict unfolds, Holman is killed by an explosion in the station’s tool shed. The commander of the Venturous, along with its eye in the sky orbiting space station Gateway, and the executives of the Moon Exploration Team (MET) on Earth, must quickly determine if Holman was murdered. If he was, is murder illegal on the Moon?
Ostensibly a whodunit, the novel’s best value is found in its descriptions of life on the Moon. Harral explores the conditions, problems, and legal questions generated by operating a lunar base under the aegis of a multi-national, private/public partnership moon mission. The push for profit by the private sector, the bureaucratic barriers inherent in a multi-government oversight structure, and the interpersonal struggles of a group of Type-A high-achieving astronauts motivated by opposite goals are central to the narrative.
The novel excellently depicts the day to day in the life of the characters. Harral’s solid scientific foundation drives the narrative and the characters’ motivations. Experiments in botany, metallurgy, gravity, and the vagaries of lunar life are depicted. The murder plot weaves like a snake through a wood pile, pulling the pieces of the novel together. This clear-eyed examination of future moon exploration will inspire the reader to contemplate the moon in a new light.
|Wayne Scott Harral
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|Mystery, Crime, Thriller