A fun combination of alt-history, science fiction, and thriller…
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I was offered a review copy of Alan Smale’s Hot Moon. But what I found was a fun combination of alternative-history and science fiction, with a good bit of thriller thrown in for good measure. And there’s a very very solid technical background that adds to the story without overwhelming it – in my opinion, at least, although some might disagree on the “overwhelming” part.
As the story opens, we rather quickly realize that we are in a different time – Vivian Carter is the commander of Apollo 32 (last I checked, Apollo flights stopped at 17), and she’s in the midst of a battle in space. And who is she fighting – yep, the Soviets, with their Soyuz program actually having been the first to put a cosmonaut on the moon. Carter escapes NASA’s Columbia Space Station, which is being overrun in a surprise attack, and heads for the US Hadley base on the lunar surface. From there, we’re taken on a wild ride where we get to see both sides of the conflict from different points-of-view, and Vivian’s there for it all.
Hot Moon is pretty long, but the story kept me moving right along, making me want to know what happened next, so I didn’t really notice the length. And most books don’t start out with diagrams of Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft, maps of the moon, and plans of a space station, but all of the detail made the story seem more realistic. (Having spent a good chunk of my career working in space life support systems, the parts I knew something about seemed spot-on to me.) And, although the bits-of-possible-romance right at the end seemed a bit hokey, the rest of the ending, the behind-the-scenes political machinations after all the space hi-jinks were over, seemed all too credible to me.
Finally, I really liked the brief historical note and bibliography at the end. Hot Moon is billed on its webpage as “Apollo Rising #1”, which leads to the idea that there may be an “Apollo Rising #2” in the works – and I hope there is! And my thanks to the publishers, CAEZIK SF & Fantasy, for the review copy.