A review of Hot Moon by Alan Smale – not a mystery, but still a lot of fun

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.

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