My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Moonrise, by Ben Bova, is a favorite of mine because it was the novel that finally convinced me that Hard Science-Fiction could be just as entertaining as the action-packed space opera and military science fiction that I have always loved.
In Ben Bova’s Grand Tour series, of which this is an early example, the action is confined only to technology that is theoretically within our reach now, the colonisation of the solar system and the actions of the human race as a whole. There are no aliens to fight or magic FTL drives (or FTL communication for that matter) and the drama comes primarily from the conflict between powerful individuals and groups of individuals.
Moonrise in particular depicts a very plausible Earth coming slowly under the grip of politically powerful anti-science morality groups made up of a frightening alliance of religious interests and the actions of a few individuals devoted to be science and the ideal of the “frontier”. I am led to understand that as the series progresses, this morality movement gradually gets more and more power even as humanity spreads out across the solar system, but here we get to see its birth amidst violent repression and fear.
What makes Moonrise such a fantastic novel however isn’t just this grand scale political story, but the way this canvas is shown to us through the eyes of very believeable, understandable characters, and how the events of the novel drive these people to stand at the turning points of human history.
Believeable, well written and at times brutal, Bova does not hold back as he piles problems on to his characters to see which will stand the strain and which ones, eventually, will break. It’s a fascinating journey that I cannot recommend enough.