I’m a bit particular when when it comes to SciFi. I strongly prefer what was once called “hard” SciFi, but is more often now considered “speculative fiction.” The key to the genre is in according proper respect to real science-i.e., staying within the realm of the possible, and not bounding over to complete fantasy or pseudo-science.
For a science fiction author, towing that line and still rendering a mind-bending, personal, and exciting tale remains more of a trick than readers may think. Bob Goddard does it well in Mother Moon, a story which weaves together the tale of a Moon colonists forced to fight for their survival after a comet hits Earth, and a rough hewn sailing family whose sea-life is threatened by religious oppression. I was first attracted to this book by its promising mash-up of these two stories.
Readers are given a quick early glimpse into each of these worlds, then the story focuses mainly upon the valiant struggles of an ensemble of lead characters working to save the moon base. Goddard shows us a team of smart, dedicated protagonists, who must use their talents and wits to overcome one quite credible crisis after another. During the lead-up to the comet’s impact, we learn their strengths, weaknesses, hopes and fears. And–as their personal stories unfold–it is easy to develop a strong empathy for them.
I found myself rooting for the main characters, Will, Lian, and Tamaya. But ultimately it is Nadia, the colony’s governor, whose strength, foresight, and professionalism is at the center of the story. Her insights, dedication, and (importantly) ability to inspire trust in the others, is what ultimately secures the future of the colony.
Goddard handles the science and mechanics of running a colony masterfully. He provides detail enough for readers to follow and understand, but never lets it slow down the story. The pacing is steady and engaging..
Periodically, Goddard takes us back to a the story of Yonoton, a ship’s master sailing with his sons on a square-rigged vessel, the Pelican, to trade with other lands. But his ship has been confiscated by a Cardinal to spread religion to foreign lands by force and brutality. It’s an unhappy situation for Yonoton, and he knows he too is at risk from being declared a heretic by the cardinal and his men.
I personally enjoyed when Goddard downshifted into Yonoton’s story. It is a very straight-forward tale, but I would have liked to see stronger insights on some elements (foreshadowing) it introduces. While both tales are about courage and bravery, Yonoton’s is also a morality tale, with an unusual finish.
Overall, Mother Moon has a satisfying and interesting ending that should delight many. I certainly enjoyed the entire ride, recommend it to anyone who enjoys SciFi, and particularly recommend it to those who prefer hard SciFi. It’s inspiring, and a good story.