Book Review: Walking on the Sea of Clouds

walking on the sea of clouds
Walking on the Sea of Clouds, by Gray Rinehart (2017). A hard science fiction novel, gritty and realistic, about the first commercial colony on the Moon. Reviewed by Mark Lardas.

Category: Fiction
Reviewed by: Mark Lardas
Title: Walking on the Sea of Clouds
Author: Gray Rinehart
NSS Amazon link for this book
Format: Paperback/Kindle
Pages: 386
Publisher: WordFire Press
Date: July 2017
Retail Price: $19.99/$5.99
ISBN: 978-1614755210

Image life on the first Lunar colony. It probably provokes visions of high adventure in a high tech environment. Reality would likely differ. It would be cramped, dangerous, smelly, uncomfortable, frequently tedious, exhilarating yet terrifying—and an adventure of a lifetime.

Walking on the Sea of Clouds, a science fiction novel by Gray Rinehart opts for reality. He tells the story of setting up the first commercial colony on the Moon.

The story follows the fortunes of two couples who are lunar pioneers: Stormie and Frank Pastorelli and Van and Barbara Richards. Only Van Richards is on the Moon when the novel starts. The rest are candidates for the colony. The Pastorellis are independent contractors while the Richards couple are employees of the consortium building a Moon base on the Sea of Clouds.

Rinehart takes the reader, along with these four characters, through the process of qualifying to go to the Moon, and follows their activities once they get there. All four have different motivations and interests. Rinehart populates his book with well-developed and three dimensional characters. They are smart and share a vision of building a new world on a new planetary body. Some are motivated by money, but there are easier ways to make money. For most, money is a way to keep score, a way to justify the hardships and challenges of being pioneers.

Rinehart’s Moon is a dangerous place, made more dangerous by the economic realities of a commercial enterprise in a hazardous location. Think the building of Hoover Dam or the challenges of installing the first North Sea oil platform. Equipment fails. The law of unintended consequences kicks in. Humans make human errors with cascading consequences.

The result is a story which draws readers in despite a lack of good guys and bad guys. Instead there are people who come into conflict due to conflicting perspectives and goals. There are heroes, but no real villains, except perhaps the implacable Moon.

This is hard science fiction. Rinehart describes the nuts and bolts of the various systems required in a Moon colony with an accuracy drawn from participating in Air Force space operations. At times it reads like a NASA mission description. Yet he keeps the focus on the individuals and their goals, producing an exciting and at times intimate story of human accomplishment in the face of adversity.

While a modern story, it also captures the optimism and yearnings seen during the early years of the Space Age, when the sky was literally the limit. It captures the flavor of the SF of that era, especially the stories from Astounding and Analog Science Fiction when John Campbell was editing it.

This is Rinehart’s first novel. Although as entertaining as some of Heinlein’s early fiction, it is not Heinlein, despite many Heinlein tropes. It seems closer to the type of fiction Jerry Pournelle wrote in the 1960s and 1970s. The style is clearly Rinehart’s own, both readable and involving.

There are a few rough edges, as would be expected in a first novel. None distract from the story. Rinehart also avoids the trap of writing a feel-good ending, where everything ends happily-ever-after. Rather he chooses to show the price of pushing back frontiers.

Walking on the Sea of Clouds is the type of story seen too rarely today. It captures a pioneering era that once was and could be again. Those who seek to explore space will read this and say, this is what pioneering space would and should be like.

© 2017 Mark Lardas

Please use the NSS Amazon Link for all your book and other purchases. It helps NSS and does not cost you a cent! Bookmark this link for ALL your Amazon shopping!

NSS Book Reviews Index

Share:

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
LinkedIn
National Space Society

National Space Society

Leave a Comment

Search
Categories
future 1

Don't Miss a Beat!

Be the first to know when new articles are posted!

Follow Us On Social Media

JOIN THE
GREATEST ADVENTURE

Give The Gift Of Space: Membership For Friends and Family

Book Review

Archives

ISDC 2024:
A NEW SPACE AGE

International Space Development Conference May 23rd-26th, 2024

FEATURED BLOG

Image of Kalpana One space settlement courtesy Bryan Versteeg, spacehabs.com $32,000 in Cash Awards Given for Best Space-Related Business Plans — Deadline March 1, 2024

Category: Nonfiction Reviewed by: John J. Vester Title: Nuclear Rockets: To the Moon and Mars Author: Manfred “Dutch” von Ehrenfried Format: Paperback/Kindle Pages: 270 Publisher:

Partially Successful Flight Reached Space and Demonstrated New “Hot Staging” System The National Space Society congratulates SpaceX on the second test of its Starship/Super Heavy

Ad Astra, the NSS quarterly print, digital, and audio magazine, has won a 2023 MARCOM Gold Award. The awards are given yearly for “Excellence in

By Jennifer Muntz, NSS Member Coordinator On October 10th, an inspiring breakfast event took flight at the Center for Space Education at the Kennedy Space

By Grant Henriksen NSS Policy Committee Benefit sharing is a concept that refers to the distribution of benefits derived from the exploration and use of

People residing and working in space, space settlements, or on long-duration space flights will need to produce infrastructures and food to maintain healthy lifestyles. The

Image: Artist’s concept of the Blue Moon lander. Credit: Blue Origin. Second Human Landing System Contract Encourages Competition and Innovation The National Space Society congratulates