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Book Review:  Lunar Descent

Reviewed by: Ken Murphy
Reprinted from Ken's Out of the Cradle website with permission
Title: Lunar Descent
Author: Allen Steele
Format: Paperback
Pages: 336
Publisher: Ace
Date: 1991
ISBN: 044150485X

Sex, drugs and rock & roll on the Moon. This book was fun. It tells the story of Descartes Station, a Lunar mining facility created by SkyCorp from an abandoned NASA facility in the near future. Byrd Crater (85.3N, 9.8E) at the North Pole supplies their water needs, and there's a telescope facility, the Stephen Hawking Lunar Observatory at Krasovsky Crater (3.9N, 175.5W) on the far side.

There's regular traffic to GEO [geosynchronous orbit] where the U.S. has built a solar power sat, and SkyCorp wants to build them for Japan and Korea. The Moon supplies aluminium sheeting and PV [photovoltaic] cells to the GEO installations, as well as oxygen.

It's staffed by unionized blue collar workers who've gotten to the point of slacking just a biiiit too much, and a purge by management sends half the staff of 110 home. Lester Riddell, an ex-drunk failure who had been Moon base manager in the past, is sent in to clean things up. For corporate reasons, he's set up to fail, but he's unaware of that and gets things whipped into shape. That's when things get really interesting.

This book has it all – pornography to marijuana to Moonshine. It's frank, with abundant adult language and some sparse mild adult, uh, 'situations' (of both major sexual preferences) and it's very blue collar. It's pieced together with vignettes and descriptives of odd things, like a SkyCorp "Welcome to the Moon" training vid, newspaper clippings, TV interviews, and so forth, as well as narrative exposition. The main characters are diverse and interesting, from a Playboy model who studied selenology, to the Hells Angels of space (the 'Vacuum Suckers'). There's larceny, piracy, smuggling, and a litany of other vices. When I envision our near-term future on the Moon, it's closer to this than any sterile NASA vewgraphs.

Is there any doubt this one gets a top-notch "Full Moon" rating?

© 2006 Kenneth Murphy

Ken Murphy is an investment analyst and underwriter for a private bank in
the Dallas area and was co-chair of NSS's 2007 International Space
Development Conference.

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