A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
We don’t even know what to call that place. The eye won’t follow it, and photographs convey only the most fragile impression. There is reason to suspect it exists in more than three spatial dimensions. Nobody knows what it is, why it’s located there, what its true purpose might be, or what created it. We don’t know whether it’s animal, vegetable, or mineral. We don’t know whether it’s somehow natural, or artificial. We know, from the geology of several meteorite craters that have heaped rubble against its sides, that it’s been there for, at the very least, a million years. And we know what it does now: it kills people.
There’s a thrilling mystery at the heart of Algis Budrys’ Rogue Moon. A strange sort of labyrinth that sits on the darkside of the moon tempting mankind to explore it, but killing everyone who enters it. The mystery is probably the main reason people still read this classic SF tale from 1960.
Don’t get me wrong, there are other worthwhile elements. There are bigger than life characters like Dr. Hawks, a mad genius driven by the moon’s secret to create a kind of life after death; or Al Barker, an Evil-Kneivel-like daredevil and the only man with a deathwish big enough to die and be reborn over and over again for Hawks’ experiments; and Claire Pack, Al Barker’s girlfriend, a Mata Hari maneater stereotype that wants to manipulate everyone she can. There’s lots of fast-talking dialogue that seems ripped from noirish detective fiction—usually fun and compelling, but occasionally tedious. There’s also some ideas bouncing around in there somewhere. Life and death, science and instinct, humanity’s place in the big ol’ universe—they all get a fair share of thematic exploration. There’s even a tiny bit of romance wedged into the story, if that’s your thing.
But really, it’s just to see what Budrys’ imagination has cooked-up that we keep reading. We want to know what’s on the other side of the moon just as much as the novel’s characters. All the hints, all the little twists, and all the hemming and hawing of the narrative add up to just enough that we’re not disappointed when we get to the inevitably open ending.
Rogue Moon straddles the pulpy, action-packed SF style of the ’50s and the headier, new-wave style of the ’60s. It’s a must read for SF fans, and recommended for adventurous readers open to SF.
Review by Matthew