Title: Worlds Enough & Time
Author: Dan Simmons
DAW Books / 441 pages / October 1999
Four missions to build Farside, the first permanent base on the Moon — four successes. But something went horribly wrong with FS-5, and it is the Farside 6 crew that must learn the truth behind the disaster. It is going to be tough enough to unravel the mystery behind the murders and bizarre phenomena; surviving to pass on that knowledge may be too much to ask.
Blood Moon invents a catastrophe on the scale of the Challenger explosion, but with even more questions and with stranger answers. This is a tragedy beyond explanation and beyond mankind’s reach. Any investigation is going to be carried out far from home, in a hostile environment.
The far side of the Moon hides more than its craters and seas.
DiVono has done an excellent job of creating the tension of a crime scene where the criminal may still be at large. The additional pressure of the isolation and fortress-like feel of the base make for a compelling read. And the grisly nature of the killings should keep readers moving at a brisk pace.
The pace, however, hits a few major obstacles along the way. Late in the book, Blood Moon begins to bog down under the weight of its own exposition. Long, detailed discussions of the scientific principles involved throw the brakes on at some of the most inopportune moments, and shatter the connection between reader and story.
It’s difficult to imagine characters in this kind of danger sitting down to lecture to the other members of the crew. Even if the reader needs to know the science behind the fiction, the long-winded lectures are a jarring element in an otherwise slick story. Similarly clunky explanations of religious beliefs also bog down the action.
Is that a reason not to read it? Oh no, the story, the characters, and the alien setting make for a fascinating read.
The division of the investigation between Moon and Earth crews is an especially refreshing touch. The characters in Houston participating in the inquest come off as fully-developed and as interesting as those trapped on the Moon. The inclusion of a homicide detective adds a hint of traditional mystery in a story that is anything but conventional.
Are some die-hard science fiction fans going to balk at the blend of SF and mystery? Possibly, but if outer space is our destiny, things are going to go wrong and someone is going to have to find out why. People being people, there is no way we are going to leave Earth without taking along our problems and our faults. Perhaps faults is too tame a word for the murderous impulse, but it’s just part of the amalgam that is the human race.
Besides, every facet of murder and madness on Earth has been explored in novel after novel, why not go outside our experience to find a new face for the mystery? And why not start with a tale as baffling and riveting as Blood Moon?