Wednesday, June 06, 2007

VIPs on the moon

kw: book reviews, science fiction, lunar development

Moongate recently came out in paperback. I'd given it a pass five years ago, so I thought I'd take a look. William Proctor, sometimes called a "Christian Tom Clancy", and David J. Weldon, an MD and congressman from Florida, wrote a space-politics opera about energy development and wormhole research carried out on the Moon.

Aside from the wildly optimistic timeline—well-developed space tourism with space hotels, 100-passenger shuttles modeled after the current "fleet", transfer stations, and a 130-person contingent of lunar residents, all by 2017; construction of a laser-implosion-driven fusion power plant in something less than two months—the scientific setting is sufficiently scoped and scripted to be plausible.

The political setting is a mixture of plausible (a weak U.S. President dominated by a ruthless Russian leader: shades of Nixon and Brezhnev) and speculative (Russian politics dominated by their Mafia, particularly "Pika", from slang for "knife", a supposed team of assassins. If Pika exists, it's news to the CIA).

So a team goes to the Moon to build a fusion power plant there, fueled by Deuterium and Helium-3 (called "molecules" several times; Helium does not form molecules; these are Isotopes). A Russian scientist is substituted at the last minute for the American scientist, who has died in an 'accident'. The Russian scientist has a secondary task, to use the high energy density of the fusion plant to produce a wormhole. In what seems a side note, but becomes central, the Russian scientist is a closet Christian, who gets spiritual guidance from an American evangelist and combat veteran.

To cut to the chase, the fusion plant succeeds, as does the wormhole experiment. What do you do with a wormhole, that may be connected with just about anywhere in the Univese? Of course, you drop in a "nanodisk" containing the human genome and a good part of all human literature. Like that Voyager disk that shows wandering aliens just how to find us (yes, I am paranoid. Power corrupts, and "wandering aliens" are by definition more powerful than we are). A bigger wormhole soon erupts in its place, and out pops a collection of similar disks, a seeming gift from the folks at the other end of the wormhole.

Clearly, the authors are thinking Trojan horse here, while the politicos they have created are vying to use the "gift" to their advantage. The story ends on an ambiguous note in several ways. The American evangelist and a miraculously-healed cripple stymie the Pika's attempt to kill everyone, the agnostic congressman at the center of the story begins to believe but doesn't just yet, and the copied alien data is stored in a locker somewhere. Do I hear "sequel"?

As it happens, this book is a sequel, to The Last Star, an earlier book by Proctor. Scenes from that book litter this one, and the evangelist is its hero, and presumably the hero of the next book to come. As Christian science fiction goes, it is better than most.

No comments: