Adrift on the Sea of Rains by Ian Sales

Whippleshield Books, 2012. 54p plus 21p appendices.

Not only does the usual warning apply to this review, the book has a quote from me on its back cover.

 Adrift on the Sea of Rains cover

In a timeline where NASA did not abandon Moon landings and the Cold War gradually became hotter and hotter before finally boiling over, a group of US astronauts is stranded on the Moon with the Earth only a devastated, barren cloud of dust in their sky. Their only hope of survival is a piece of weird Nazi tech “liberated” at the end of WW2, a “torsion field generator” known as the Bell, which one of them is using to try to jump into a universe where life on Earth is still intact. This ongoing story strand, told in an urgent present tense, is interspersed with the back story of Colonel Vance Peterson, a gung-ho USAF pilot whose past is related, in reverse, in italic sections with larger page margins. After several abortive tries with the Bell a shift at last brings a blue Earth. There is no radio contact but telescopes reveal a space station in Earth orbit. The astronauts cobble together fuel and a return vehicle from the left over Lunar Descent modules scattered near their Mare Imbrium base. Peterson flies it “home.” To reveal what welcomes him would be a spoiler.

Both narratives are seen from Peterson’s viewpoint and crammed full of the alphanumeric soup that was/is NASA speak. I must say, though, I wasn’t entirely convinced by Peterson’s blinkered psychology.

An abbreviations section is provided in the appendices for those who need it and a glossary reveals the history of the US and Soviet space programmes in the altered timeline. Sales’s research is not exactly worn lightly – the man has probably forgotten more about the space programme than I ever knew – but it adds a high degree of verisimilitude and is arguably necessary.

Overall, though, this story stands comparison with any of those nominated for the recent BSFA Awards.

And the quote? “Science Fiction as it might have been. A FALL OF MOONDUST meets DR STRANGELOVE – with a dash of The Cold Equations.”

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