by Ben Bova

Bantam Books


417pp/$22.95/April 1996


Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Ben Bova's corporate science fiction epic, Moonrise, is a retelling of the same technophobic themes which date back to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Whereas Shelly's societal demon were the sciences of anatomy and biology, Bova's monster takes the form of the emerging science of nanotechnology.

On its surface, Moonrise chronicles Masterson Aerospace's tenure on the moon. In fact, Bova is looking at the soap operatic escapades of the dysfunctional, yet co-dependant Masterson family. At the head of the clan is Joanna Masterson Stavenger, who takes maternal instinct to an unhealthy extreme and loses all her common and business sense where her offspring are concerned. Strong and competant in the business world, Joanna disintegrates to little more than a quivering mass in private.

Joanna's older son, Greg, has other problems which are completely overlooked by everyone outside his family and ignored by Joanna. Although Bova would have the reader believe that Greg Masterson is qualified to head various portions of a multi-national company, Bova never actually shows Greg acting in anything but a paranoid and incompetent manner. This is contrasted by Joanna's younger son, Doug Stavenger.

Doug is everything Greg isn't. The only this he shares with his older half-brother is the certainty that Joanna will side with his brother against him. A genius where necessary, Doug is painted as oblivious at other times, not realizing that good looks, intelligence and wealth will help him attract women. Furthermore, Doug, and everyone around him except Greg, seem to forget that he is only eighteen years old. His actions show him to be much older.

In fact, there is little feeling of aging among any of the characters. Joanna, Greg, Melissa Hart, and other characters act almost the same in the early section of the book as they doo in the later section set eighteen years later. Melissa and Joanna have both aged gracefully, still able to interest any man they desire. Lev Brudnoy, the ancient Russian cosmonaut may talk about being old, but he does not act as if he were any old than Doug for much of the novel.

Moonrise's political background also doesn't quite work out. Bova postulates a world in which fundamentalists of every stripe: Jew, Muslim, Christian, etc. can ban together to form the New Morality which agrees on various planks of their platform and help bring about a nearly global change in morality. Although I could accept a this type of morality (but not the organization) in a few specific countries, the idea of a worldwide rise in similar morality does not seem justified by history.

Some of the ideas which Bova discusses in this book are extremely interesting. Written before the discovery of water ice near the lunar south pole, Bova accurately described the conditions in which it was found. His ideas of asteroid mining using nanotechnology take a different look at an area which has been over played in science fiction. Unfortunately his background and characters do not meet the challenge for the scope Bova has set for himself in the novel.

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