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A Voyage to the Moon With Some Account of…

A Voyage to the Moon With Some Account of the Manners and Customs, Science…

by George Tucker

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[A Voyage to the Moon, George Tucker] With Some Account of the Manners and Customs, Science and Philosophy, of the People of Morosofia, and Other Lunarians]
Perhaps the subtitle of the book was already too long, but "the story of a Brahmin and the Hindu practice of Suttee" could also be added.

Published in 1827 this is a curious mixed bag that some claim to be America's earliest science fiction novel. George Tucker was a Virginian politician and Member of the House of Representatives, also an attorney, educator, biographer of Thomas Jefferson and as a young man a noted gambler and man about town. A colourful life does not always lead to colourful writing and A Voyage to the Moon written under the pseudonym of Joseph Atterley has a tendency to be a bit flat. The problem is that Tucker cannot decide or does not have the talent to channel his writing in any one direction. He is not a satirist in the tradition of Jonathan Swift, nor a writer of comedy like H G Wells or able to fill in details of flora and fauna similar to Jules Verne.

He tells the story of Joseph Atterley in the first person, complaining that nobody believes his story. He was shipwrecked off the coast of Burma and held for ransom. He spent three years in captivity, but during this time befriended a Brahim hermit and scholar who lived further up the valley. After nursing the Brahim through a life threatening illness he became a confident in the Brahim's next voyage to the moon. They travel in a vessel that is fitted with a rare metal that is attracted to the moon and have a journey similar in many resects to Bedford and Cavour in H G Well's ["The First Men in the Moon"]. Unfortunately the story gets a little bogged down when Atterley and the Brahim arrive on the moon. Tucker launches into a series of descriptions of life on the moon that are meant to satirise or contrast with life in 19th century America, they become more harebrained, but hardly more interesting.

There are somethings of interest: for example Atterley's and the Brahim's passionate abhorrence of slavery, Atterley's idea that America as a young country, well governed and richly endowed with natural resources will become a beacon of light for the world, but the Brahim advises caution pointing out that history says otherwise. Finally there is the Brahim's own story of his life in India, which is perhaps the best story in the book.

Not a great read this one, perhaps only for the curious 2.5 stars. ( )
  baswood | Jan 9, 2015 |
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