Moonfall

Moonfall

4.0 17
by Jack McDevitt
     
 

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It's the 21st century, and all is right with the world. Or so it seems. But all that is right is about to go disastrously wrong when an amateur astronomer discovers a new comet. Named for its discoverer, Tomiko is a "sun-grazer," an interstellar wanderer with a hundred times the mass and ten times the speed of other comets. And it is headed straight for our moon. In… See more details below

Overview

It's the 21st century, and all is right with the world. Or so it seems. But all that is right is about to go disastrously wrong when an amateur astronomer discovers a new comet. Named for its discoverer, Tomiko is a "sun-grazer," an interstellar wanderer with a hundred times the mass and ten times the speed of other comets. And it is headed straight for our moon. In less than five days, if scientists' predictions are right, Tomiko will crash into the moon, shattering it into a cloud of superheated gas, dust, and huge chunks of rock that will rain down on the earth, causing chaos and killer storms, possibly tidal waves inundating entire cities...or worse: a single apocalyptic worldwide "extinction event." In the meantime, the population of Moonbase must be evacuated by a hastily assembled fleet of shuttle rockets. There isn't room, or time enough, for everyone. And the vice president, who rashly promised to be last off ("I will lock the door and turn off the lights"), is trying to figure out how to get away without eating his words.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Racing neck and neck with doomsday, this breathless near-future thriller pits young, single and politically hopeful U.S. V.P. Charlie Haskell and a gigantic international cast of heroic helpers against an interstellar comet that blows the Moon to lethal smithereens and threatens to wipe out life on Earth. Just before the comet is spotted, cancer-riddled President Kolladner dispatches Charlie to the ceremonial opening of the U.S.-led commercial Moonbase, setting Charlie up for a spacewalk into destiny. Loaded with flaming action and fortified with characters from today's headlines, the novel hurtles cinematically from one point of view to another so rapidly that the characters, except for Charlie, tend to blur into one another. After McDevitt explodes the Moon midway through the novel, fearsome tsunamis wreak havoc on both American coasts. With a murderous gang of rocket-hating backwoods militants thrown in for a whisker too much good measure, U.S. know-how and rough-riding true American grit save the day on the ground. In space, Charlie faces more perils than Pauline didand loses some of his credibility as a result. Overall, though, McDevitt's scrupulous research and ability to bring the arcane intricacies of space engineering within the grasp of the earthbound make this a fine-tuned disaster to remember. (Apr.)
Don D'Ammassa
Exciting, suspenseful, and thoroughly rewarding.
Science Fiction Chronicle
Kirkus Reviews
Big, bustling, medium-future global disaster yarn from the author of Eternity Road (1997). In 2024, just as the first manned flight to Mars is about to be launched, astronomers detect a strange new comet far out in space. Comet Tomiko is large, moving very fastþand in only three days' time itþll smack into the Moon! If Tomiko shatters the Moon, as seems likely, at least some of the debris will rain down on the Earth, but dying US President Henry Kolladner chooses to disregard this possibility to avoid sparking a general panic. Meanwhile, Moonbase's owner, Evelyn Hampton, orders the Moon evacuated; among the last to leave, mere minutes before impact, are Evelyn herself and US Vice-President Charlie Haskell. Within hours, fragments of the Moon pound the Earth, triggering tidal waves and earthquakes. President Kolladner, fleeing doomed Washington, dies in an accident; he'd ordered a nuclear strike against one Moon fragment huge enough to devastate the entire Earthþbut would the resulting cloud of radioactive wreckage prove just as lethal? At last, working closely with astronomers and space pilots, new President Haskell comes up with a better alternative: A fleet of space planes, operating in concert, might be able to nudge the fragment into a stable orbit. Plausible, panoramic, and sometimes exciting: another solidly engrossing entry from the dependable McDevitt.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061050367
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/28/1998
Pages:
480
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.45(d)

Read an Excerpt

Moonfall

Chapter One

Totality Monday, April, 8, 2024

Cruise Lier Merrivale, eastern Pacific.5:21 A.M. Zone (9:21 A.m. EDT)

The Merrivale was bound for Honolulu, four days out of Los Angeles, when the eclipse began. Few of the passengers got up to watch the event. But Horace Brickmann, who'd paid a lot of money for this cruise, wanted Amy to understand he was a man with broad scientific and artistic interests. Yes, he'd told her last night while they stood near the lifeboats and listened to the steady thrum of the ship's engines and watched the bow wave roll out into the dark, total solar eclipse. Wouldn't miss it. To be honest, it's why I came. And when she'd pointed out that the eclipse would also be visible across much of the United States, he'd added smoothly that it wasn't quite the same.

She'd hinted she'd also like to see the event. Amy had been beautiful in the starlight, and his heart had pumped ferociously, bringing back memories of his twenties, which he recalled as a time of romance and passion. It was Horace's impression he'd terminated the various relationships of his youth, much to the despair of the women; that in those early days he had not been ready for serious commitment. But still there were times he woke in the night regretting one or another of his lost paramours. He wondered occasionally where they were now and how they were doing.

It was an odd sort of dawn, Sun and Moon clasped together in a cold gray embrace. The ocean had grown rough and Horace sat in his chair sipping hot coffee, wondering what was keeping Amy. He tugged his woolensweater down over his belly and reminded himself that it was dangerous to look directly at the spectacle. Most of the other early risers had brought blankets, but Horace wanted to cut a dashing figure and the blanket just didn't fit the image.

To his consternation, a voluble banker whom he'd met the previous day appeared before him, greeted him with the kind of cheeriness that's always irritating early in the morning, and sat down in an adjoining deck chair. "Marvelous experience, this," said the banker, lifting his eyes in the general direction of the eclipse while extracting a folded copy of the Wall Street Journal from a pocket of his nautical blue blazer. He tried to read the paper in the gray light but gave up and dropped it on his lap.

He began to chatter about commodities and convertibles and price-earnings ratios. Horacel's eyes swept the near-empty decks. A middle-aged man at the rail was watching the eclipse through sunglasses. A steward strolled casually over and offered him one of the viewing devices the ship had been distributing. Horace was too far away too hear the conversation, but he saw the man's annoyed expression. Nevertheless, he accepted the viewer, waited until the steward had turned away, dropped it into a pocket, and went back to gazing at the Sun. The banker babbled on, fearful that the Fed would raise the prime rate again.

The wind was beginning to pick up.

The steward approached Horace and the banker, holding out the devices. "You don't want to look directly at it, gentlemen," he said. Horace took one. It consisted of a blue plastic tube about six inches wide, with a tinfoil disk attached to one end. "Point it toward the eclipse, sit," said the steward, "and it'll project the Sun's image onto the disk. You'll be able to watch in perfect safety." The tube was decorated with the ship's profile and name. Horace thanked him.

She was now twenty minutes late. But Amy had an eight-year-old daughter to take care of, so there was a degree of unpredictabillity in any rendezvous.

He became aware suddenly that the banker had asked a question. "I'm sorry," Horace said. "My mind was elsewhere."

"No problem, partner." The man was finishing up with middle age. He was oversized and prosperous-looking. His hair was shoe-polish black, and the deck chair complained whenever he shifted weight. "I know just what you mean."

A deep dusk had settled over the ship. The banker cleared his throat and essayed a quick look at his watch. He had to raise his arm, so that the face of the instrument caught a reflection from a porthole. It seemed almost as if by consulting the time he was exercising control over the event. The last of the gray light drained from the sky and the corona blazed out, pale and somber. Horace heard awed conversation and drawing in of breath.

The stars emerged, and the ocean was swallowed up in the dark.

"Wonderful thing, nature," said the banker. "Beautiful."

Horace mumbled an appropriate response.

Over the course of an hour or so, the event concluded, the eclipse passed, and the banker went in to breakfast. Amy didn't show up, and the Merrivale plowed through a sea that remained gray and unsettled.

Horace stayed in his chair a long time. A damp chill had stolen over him. Later, wandering the decks, he saw Amy and her daughter at a dining table with several others. She was deep in animated conversation with a man Horace had seen going off the high-dive yesterday. He lingered for a moment but she never looked up.

It was as if the shadow that fell across the ship had touched the heart of the world.

Space Station L1, Percival Lowell Flight Deck. 8:03 A.M.

There was never a time we didn't know that the canals were bunk, that Percival Lowell's network of interconnecting lines, and the areas that darkened, in the summer as the water flowed, were just so much self-delusion.

Moonfall. Copyright (c) by Jack McDevitt . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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