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Adrift on the Sea of Rains (Apollo Quartet) (edition 2012)

by Ian Sales

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5216229,653 (4.1)22
Member:lewbs
Title:Adrift on the Sea of Rains (Apollo Quartet)
Authors:Ian Sales
Info:Whippleshield Books (2012), Hardcover, 75 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:science fiction, signed, counterfactual history

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Adrift on the Sea of Rains by Ian Sales

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::Palimpsest of Ambiotic Susurrus::


Adrift on the Sea of Rains by Ian Sales

This is where I got the title from.

You will have to read it to find out.

It's a novella that might remind you of some of the old early 60's Twilight Zone Episodes.

If you like Twilight Zone you might appreciate this.

One warning is that I do not think the characters in this novel come up to the standards of the characters in the old TV shows.

Also there are some annoying problems in format:

There are no dialogue quote marks which made it difficult for me to tell if someone is talking or the main character is thinking or what.

There are six flash back sections, which were difficult and annoying to me. In the e-book they are two page single paragraphs that are italicized and constitute a wall of text or exposition that has the same affect I get when a needle skips on a record.

I know I lost something but not sure how much.

I get to the end and have to look back to see where I lost track. It's important because I believe within this expository is a clue to most of the motivation of the main character.

The writer appears to me to be trying to make the story scientifically authentic. So, there's a lot of science description to make the reader get the impression that they are working in a time close to our present time and near to and maybe a bit beyond our present level of space exploration.

It's a world where US and USSR are still in a cold to lukewarm war. In this world it has gone too far. The space program has had many more lunar expeditions. The last expedition crew are now the only survivors.

These survivors are using a Nazi device that launches them into parallel universes. They are searching for a parallel where the earth hasn't been destroyed.

For me the story comes off rather flat and the characters seem to be the problem. We see the story through the eyes of the one man, a pilot, who is having the flashbacks. Unfortunately I couldn't easily see the man in the flashback as being the same man in the story.

He's supposed to be a professional pilot who has had quite an extensive career with a lot of training and experience from the flashbacks. In the story he comes off to me like some high school bully who could care less about his classmates(the other survivors).

I see the rest of the crew from the main characters point of view and I keep thinking they might as well not be there.

I have no sympathy for this man and he seems to have no real depth.

I think that the flashbacks are suppose to also tell me his motivation. And it does seem that the final outcome might be deducible from the picture we get out of the flashbacks.

Not my cup of tea, but it did give me the elements for the name of this review.

J.L. Dobias
( )
  JLDobias | Nov 10, 2013 |
* spoiler * I listened to this novella being read in two parts on the StarShipSofa podcast, and by the end of the first episode I was very engaged by the story. The characters were cheering and thinking they were saved, and I was looking forward to more drama in the second half as I could think of several reasons why they probably weren't saved at all.

Unfortunately the second half was much duller, full of acronyms and technical details about space-craft, fuel and escape velocities, and equally jargon-filled flashbacks to the moon base commander's days as a hot-shot USAF pilot. And the ending sucked! I wasn't surprised by the revelation about the space station at the end, but the commander's actions were ridiculously unbelievable after all his comments about needing to save his men.

After part one, I might have given it 4 stars, but now it't only getting two starts because the jargon drowned out the inter-personal relationships in the second part. ( )
  isabelx | Sep 15, 2013 |
Sales's novella is very Hard SF one, but as it becomes clear rather quickly it is set in an Alternate History. This may seem like being a contradiction, but Sales manages to make it work very well.
Interestingly it is neither the Hard SF nor the Alternate History elements that are the best thing in this story. What stands out most is the feeling of desolation and claustrophobia that Sales conveys through his writing. There is an underlying tension to the whole of this, that together with the chilling Alternate History scenario in the background makes for a very eerie read.

Being a fan of Alternate History, I care about how "what if..." scenarios are presented. It doesn't matter how interesting an idea the diversion from our history is if there's no plausible way to get to the alternative world that the story contains. Fortunately, that is not a problem here. Sales presents a future that seems to be just a flicker of coincidence away from the history we know.

There is something that has to be mentioned about the Hard SF in this novella, namely that it very easy to argue that there is none. This may sound a bit strange of me to say when I have already stated that this is "very Hard SF", but the SF is only Hard SF in the Alternate History setting of the story.
If you, like some people I have seen online, argue that Alternate History is Fantasy, rather than Science Fiction, then this would be a Fantasy novella. As someone who has a strong interest in History, I would say that Alternate History is without a doubt Science Fiction (, i.e. scientific speculation about how history could have diverged), and thus I don't hesitate to say that this is a Hard SF story in an Alternate History setting.
Without going into spoilers, I will say that there is an element that isn't very realistic. But in the way it is handled here that is not a problem. Rather it feels as an integral part of the alternative timeline of the story, and in my opinion doesn't detract anything from the Hard SF feel of this novella.

The story itself is very well written. Sales manages to convey a lot in a limited amount of space, especially the worldbuilding is excellent. Most of the history of this timeline is presented in its own passages, as retrospectives. I found this to work very well, they add to the main storyline without being disruptive to the flow of the story.
I've already mentioned the tension of this story, and that builds nicely as the narrative moves along. It's never clear what is going to be the conclusion to this tale, and the ending comes with a very satisfying twist.

There's no doubt that this story will be a great read for those who are fans of Hard SF, and the Alternate History elements make it worth picking up for fans of that genre. It's connection to the Apollo program will also make this a good read for anyone interested in real world human space exploration.

This review was originally published on my blog: http://weirdmage.blogspot.com/ ( )
  Weirdmage | Apr 1, 2013 |
Marvelous alternate history of the race to the Moon, complete with Nazi macguffin. ( )
  AlanPoulter | Mar 30, 2013 |
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Some days, when it feels like the end of the world yet again, Colonel Vance Peterson, USAF, goes out onto the surface and gazes up at what they have lost.
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