Title: A Fall of Moondust
Author: Arthur C. Clarke
Even though this is only the fourth book I review by Arthur C. Clarke, I’ve read far more than that, so much that it feels weird that there are fairly famous books by him I still haven’t read. A Fall of Moondust is one of them. It turned out to be a solid and well-written book, but also with a dullness that sometimes is as much a characteristic of Clarke’s writing as is his keen eye for interesting details and wonderful concepts.
Now and then accidents befall mankind’s various expeditions into difficult or hostile environments, and heroic rescue operations are launched. It might be a submarine on the bottom of a cold ocean or a collapsed mine with people trapped inside. Or it might be a ship that vanished without a trace on the Sea of Thirst, a dust-filled basin on the Moon looking very much like water, but far, far more dangerous. Cruising on the dust in the Sea of Thirst, Selene, the only ship of its kind, suddenly disappears without a trace.
A Fall of Moondust is a story about three things: the people on the vanished ship, the people who are supposed to find and resque them, and the search and rescue operation itself. Clarke’s execution of the first two parts is adequate, but doesn’t really add true value to the novel. It adds flavour, but not enough to hide the fact that this book is really about an extraordinary engineering feat thought-out and carried out on the moon. Clarke makes the hostile environment and chain of events feel more real than I think any other author could (although others, such as Kim Stanley Robinson and his Mars Trilogy come to mind).
Still, this is a novel focusing on a fairly technical subject, even though Clarke makes a valiant effort to soften it up with characters, social interaction and so on. If he were a mediocre author, this book would have been horribly boring. Fortunately, he is not and thus this book is worthwhile reading. I’m not prepared to give it more than three and a half snail, but I’m still impressed by how such a dry subject can be turned into such a neat little novel.