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A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C Clarke
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A Fall of Moondust (original 1961; edition 2002)

by Arthur C Clarke

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1,125207,293 (3.7)52
Member:jchokey
Title:A Fall of Moondust
Authors:Arthur C Clarke
Info:Gollancz (2002), Paperback, 224 pages
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A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke (1961)

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I see from the now barely decipherable scrawl on the flyleaf of my copy of this book that I bought it in November 1979, now thirty six years ago, and it was already nearly twenty years since the novel's first publication. By way of context, I was then sixteen and had just entered the lower Sixth Form at Loughborough Grammar School. Pink Floyd were on the verge of releasing 'The Wall', and we were six months into Margaret Thatcher's first term as British Prime Minister.

Is it fair to criticise a novel that is now more than fifty years old for seeming dated? Probably not, though the mere fact that I offer the thought is a testament to how well Arthur C Clarke's other novels have survived the passage of time. I do recall thinking this novel was marvellous when I first read it as a teenager, yet a little of that glow was absent now.

The basic story is, as so often with Clarke, beguilingly simple. At an unspecified date in the 21st century man has colonised the Moon, and some of the wealthiest citizens now spend their holidays there. Several of them have gone for an excursion in the Selene, a specially designed craft which skims across the dust filled 'seas' of the moon offering fantastic view of earth dominating the lunar skyscape. By great misfortune, Selene's passage over the dust bowl coincidence with a 'moonquake' which causes an underground cavern to collapse. The disturbance causes Selene to be pitched down into the chasm where it is immediately covered by tones of fine silicon dust which, as well as smothering the ship and hiding it from vie, also render radio contact impossible.

The rest of the story revolves around the attempts firstly to locate and then rescue the Selene. Clarke always pitched his stories in the realms of the scientifically plausible and unlike many science fiction writers, he had a great understanding of human relations. His characters are always utterly believable, regardless of the outlandish circumstances in which they might find themselves. Here he gives us a varied list of passengers from different walks of life back on earth, including, fortuitously, ex-Commander Hansteen, one of the leading space navigators of his generation, who happened to be visiting the Moon in his retirement.

The sense of datedness arises partially from the attitudes of the characters. The all-pervasive male chauvinism is, no doubt, a reflection of attitudes prevalent at the time it was written, but that does not hold true for most of Clarke's other works. I also felt that he might have dashed this off rather quickly - it displayed an uncharacteristic ponderousness that left if feeling more like a latest draft than the finished article. Despite these doubts, I enjoyed rereading it, but this is clearly not a work in the forefront of what is generally an outstanding portfolio from one of the masters of the oeuvre. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Mar 30, 2015 |
Arthur C. Clarke is one of the best writers of hard science fiction and A Fall of Moondust is a tense but enjoyable rescue mission set on the Moon. Clarke creates a fully believable futuristic world in which humanity has colonised the Moon and tourist cruises run across its "seas". Herein is the story set as one of pleasure cruises suffers an accident as is trapped beneath the moon dust. Each problem is presented after the previous one is solved, keeping a brisk pace, and though the characters remain rather flat, the story keeps the reader reading onwards, hoping that the rescue is a success.

The science in A Fall of Moondust is somewhat dated, but Clarke admits that in the preface to the new edition. Nevertheless, the book is still enjoyable in spite of this, and remains an excellent example of classic hard sci-fi. ( )
  xuebi | May 30, 2014 |
Quality science fiction. No fantasy, no magic. ( )
  DeanClark | May 6, 2014 |
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

Pat Harris is the captain of Selene, the only tour bus on the moon. Every day he and his stewardess, Sue Wilkins, take passengers on a trip across the moon's Sea of Thirst. This crater filled with moondust seems similar to a lake on Earth, and Selene, like a motorboat, smoothly skims across its surface. By the light of Mother Earth, Selene's passengers are entertained by glorious views of the moon's topography, including the impressive Mountains of Inaccessibility.

Pat Harris loves his job. Selene is an excellent dust cruiser, Pat enjoys skimming along the dust and delighting his passengers with the moon's views, and he has a secret crush on his stewardess. But Pat's and Sue's wits and characters will be severely tested when an unexpected moonquake shakes the Sea of Thirst and Selene sinks into the dust. Communications are cut off and nobody knows where they are. Now Selene's crew and passengers must work together to try to save themselves while scientists and technicians from Earth and the moon are frantically trying to locate them.

Arthur C. Clarke's A Fall of Moondust is a science fiction thriller which was first published in 1961 and was nominated for a Hugo Award. I like Clarke's dramatic stories and his no-nonsense writing style and I love both SF and survival fiction, so I knew A Fall of Moondust would be a winner for me.

At only 224 pages (trade paperback) and 8 hours in audio, this was a short fast read with plenty of nail-biting tension and psychological drama. Plus, as Clarke fans will expect, lots of scientific ideas and hypotheses, too. Character development is a bit lacking, since the book is so short, but the insights we get about Pat Harris and Sue Wilkins, as their characters are tested in an ongoing life-threatening situation, are rewarding, and I was really rooting for them by the end of the story.

I read Brilliance Audio's version of A Fall of Moondust which was narrated by Oliver Wyman. This was the first time I've heard this narrator and I thought he was perfect. He did a great job with all the characters and his reading was enthusiastic without being overdramatic. He sucked me right into the story and I listened nearly straight through, finishing the novel on the day I started it.

A Fall of Moondust probably isn't for everyone, due to its quick pace and focus on survival rather than world-building or character development, but readers who like hard SF and survival stories will be very pleased. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
As a student of real disasters, this is an excellent book on a possible future disaster. Dramatic and realistic (within the science of the time) the details of the unfolding story hold up well, even with derailing by various side plots that have little to do with the problem at hand. Believable characters and situations, complete to real-time coverage of the protagonists' plight on interplanetary TV. Well worth reading. ( )
  BruceCoulson | Jan 9, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Clarke, Arthur C.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ellis, DeanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Emmerová, JarmilaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gambino, FredCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gambino, FredCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Griffiths, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Károly, AndrásCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kuczka, PéterAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nygren, HansTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sanderson, FatoşTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Siegel, HalCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Szentmihályi Szabó, PéterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Westermayr, TonyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0575073179, Paperback)

Time is running out for the passengers and crew of the tourist cruiser Selene, incarcerated in a sea of choking lunar dust. On the surface, her rescuers find their resources stretched to the limit by the mercilessly unpredictable conditions of a totally alien environment. A brilliantly imagined story of human ingenuity and survival, A FALL OF MOONDUST is a tour-de-force of psychological suspense and sustained dramatic tension by the field's foremost author.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:48 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

SCIENCE FICTION. Time is running out for the passengers and crew of the tourist cruiser Selene, incarcerated in a sea of choking lunar dust. On the surface, her rescuers find their resources stretched to the limit by the pitiless and unpredictable conditions of a totally alien environment. A brilliantly imagined story of human ingenuity and survival, A Fall of Moondust is a tour-de-force of psychological suspense and sustained dramatic tension. "The best book yet about man's most dramatic journey, the most exciting science fiction novel for years." - Evening Standard "Expertly told and cruelly exciting to the end." ? Sunday Times "Extremely good . . . with some superbly ingenious and exciting new twists." ? Daily Express.… (more)

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