Tuesday, April 15, 2014


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A Fall of Moondust, Arthur C Clarke, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1961, 231 pp

How serendipitous that I should blog about A Fall of Moondust the morning after the lunar eclipse. In fact, the eclipse was way more impressive. This was the least liked book of Clarke's I've read so far. The plot kept me reading. As usual, the author delves into some philosophical questions about mankind. But the device of a cruiser traveling across the Sea of Thirst on the moon only to become buried in the dust by a moon quake was too much like other such movies/novels: meet the characters, disaster strikes, characters either deal of freak out, captain and crew must rise to the occasion, rescue efforts, success or failure.

Not to say that Clarke does a bad or even mediocre job of it. He is after all Arthur C Clarke. In a 1986 Introduction to his 1961 novel, he explains that before the Apollo, Armstrong, and Aldrin, astronomers postulated that the lunar plains were composed of extremely fine dust. So you see the Sea of Thirst was aptly named. The cruiser is the "Selene" after the Greek goddess of the moon.

Clarke's doses of hard science were accessible, even for a science-challenged person like me. The love story is nicely done in a 1950s way, though does hint at premarital sex. But what else are a ship's captain and his sole stewardess going to do to relieve their stress? Pat Harris, the captain, has relationship issues and ruminates, "If there was a clear-cut scientific test that could tell when you were in love, (he) had not yet come across it." Cute!

On board the "Selene" is a nutjob passenger who believes in UFOs and paranoically blames the accident on a superior intelligence who is "after him." Clarke then spends some pages debunking the whole flying saucer myth from a scientist's perspective.

So despite some out-dated science and a hackneyed theme, Arthur C Clarke created an entertaining story while contributing to mankind's myth of someday living on the moon.

(A Fall of Moondust is out of print as a paper book, there is no eBook, but an audio version on CD is sometimes available by special order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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