- Portis, Charles — True Grit (215 pages)
- Simpson, Joe — Touching the Void (210 pages)
- Bardin, John Franklin — The Last of Philip Banter (207 pages)
- Millar, Martin — The Good Fairies of New York (278 pages)
- Millar, Mark — Kick-Ass (190 pages)
- Sachar, Louis — Holes (225 pages)
- Baxter, Stephen — Moonseed (523 pages)
Page count: 1848.
Moonseed was touted by one critic, the year it came out, as that year's great disaster novel. I feel this sells it short.
I did wonder, for the first third or so, why the book hadn't been made into a Hollywood blockbuster along the lines of 2012. It takes the trouble to develop characters we care about as well as introducing all sorts of characters from all walks of life who respond to cataclysms worthy of the most expensive Hollywood FX studio in unique and interesting ways. (Although, by the third time it happened, the whole "Wow, I might actually live through this yet…Oh shit!" schtick became a bit clichéd.)
But then suddenly this disaster novel takes a right turn and becomes The Right Stuff, focusing on the science and logistics of space travel and the men and women that makes it happen. Then, of course, after nearly 500 pages of hard science, the story becomes wildly speculative.
I did find Moonseed a very enjoyable and, for its size, quick read. I'd never read a space travel story told from the perspective of a geologist before!
At one point the principal character states that he was interested in becoming an astronomer until he visited an observatory and realized that astronomers never even look through telescopes anymore; they just analyze data. So he became a geologist instead, where scientists were still doing hands-on work. You have no idea how that statement resonates in me. I grew up very much wanting to be an astronomer. Then a visit to Mount Laguna observatory turned me off the science. It sapped the romance right out of astronomy. Instead, I became a singer but darned near added geology as a second major.
Anyway, Moonseed offers tremendous insights into geological processes (small scale to tectonics), NASA and the space program, and a slew of other areas while managing to tell a compelling read with well-developed characters. The book has its flaws, for sure, but they are easily ignorable. I recommend Moonseed to anyone who enjoys hard science fiction, the space program, global (and beyond) catastrophes, and ripping yarns.