The Cambridge Geek

Gunpowder Moon - David Pedreira

Alright, another moon-based thriller. Let's see if this manages to be any better than Andy Weir's rather poor effort with Artemis that I read a couple of months ago.

The moon is being mined for helium-3, which the future has discovered is very useful for the nuclear fusion process, the only permissible energy source in a world which only barely survived "Thermal Max". This global warming scourge decimated the planet with flooding and desertification, killing off three billion people, and bringing the nations of the world together in a new global space programme, in order to solve the energy crisis with moon dust.

Which made the moon a very peaceful place to live, in the most part, ignoring the immense danger of being in a vacuum with only a couple of layers keeping your eyeballs inside your head. Five major nations, but primarily the US and China, have established moonbases and are each slowly sifting regolith in order to capture that vital helium-3, while trading the occasional bottle of illicit hooch.

Until one of the US miners becomes a victim of the first murder on the moon, and the US and China begin to slowly arm their respective bases. War drifts ever closer, and US mining chief Dechert must attempt to ease tensions, while keeping his colleagues safe on a base increasingly controlled by the military.

It's not quite as science heavy as some might like, mostly flirting with gravitational problems and some of the more esoteric aspects of living on the moon, allowing it to be driven by the plot more than the technicalities. Nothing particularly jumped out at me as being terribly unrealistic however.

The thriller aspects are pretty good, with the impending war providing a nice rush, and the ever-present threat of vacuum keeping you on your toes.

The core cast of three or four are nicely distinct, but the rest of the players are drawn in rather broad strokes. Especially a problem in military SF, where they don't necessarily get to stick around for long. Still, Dechert is a convincingly grizzled ex-serviceman, and not the superman we've occasionally come to expect.

The loneliness of the moon also comes through well, with a few moments of description of hopping along a desolate surface in a group, while still isolated from people a foot away from you.

Biggest complaint is probably that it wrapped up a little too quickly, with not the most satisfying conclusion. Could have done with a bit more of a final conflict. Still, worth a read.

Score 3

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