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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Author Stephen Baxter follows up his previous efforts, Voyage and Titan, with a powerful third offering entitled Moonseed, another provocative novel of penetrating yet believable science fiction that makes the best use of hard-SF elements, with perplexing questions on the nature of the universe and exactly what the future of humanity's role in the cosmos will be. With a wide array of characters brought to life with warmth and feeling, the reader soon becomes involved with not only a star-spanning threat but also what it means to find regret, triumph, and wonderment at the dawning of a new age.
We witness the birth of the moon five billion years ago: a violent, strange, and altogether uncanny — and possibly alien — delivery. Jumping to the near future, our current story begins as Venus explodes, leaving NASA scientist and space-station astronaut Geena Bourne and her brilliant geologist ex-husband, Henry Meacher, groping for answers. Venus has not only exploded but actually been annihilated into a gaseous state — an effect that takes a blast a million times more powerful than all of the world's nuclear arsenals combined. Speculations regarding Venus's demise range from black hole superstrings to world-eating alien nanotechnology.
Henry then travels to Scotland to investigate one of the last untouched moon rocks, collected 30 years earlier during one of NASA's Apollo missions. In Edinburgh, Henry immediately takes to his research assistant, Mike Dundas, even while embarrassing himself in front of —andfalling for — Mike's brassy sister, Jane.
As a gift for his sister, Mike takes a few grains of moondust from the lab. The dust transforms the volcanic formations of the city, creating silvery pools that contain further superstring forces. Soon Edinburgh is inundated by volcanic eruptions as the Moonseed spreads around the globe, causing cataclysmic changes in the Earth's crust.
Henry realizes that the answers await him on the moon, and his ex-wife is the best-qualified astronaut to get him there. With the communal efforts of NASA, the Russians, and several other tangential secondary characters (including an Irishman-turned-monk in Japan), Henry and Geena voyage to the moon, which appears to already be suffering through its own odd changes. The moon may, in fact, be the last safe refuge for humanity, and plausible terraforming comes into question, although there may not be time to complete the project before the end of the world arrives.
Working with a solid and exuberant narrative voice, Baxter is utterly at ease with the flow of the book, moving fluidly from high-tech elements to the suspenseful and credible story line about the possible end of the Earth. The author has created a terrifying but poignant novel of calamity, swiftly gathering up the major plot threads from all corners of the world that inevitably knit together.
Baxter indulges in the realistic and practical details of space flight and geological upheaval. But here science isn't merely dry facts or formulaic action; instead all the flux of data is intriguing and used to strong effect in building apprehension, as more and more information is revealed about what exactly is happening to the solar system. We also see how some relationships are, in one way or another, encouraged, weakened, or built upon a common passion for scientific study — and how competitiveness over breakthrough discoveries can drive even lovers apart. Moonseed is at turns wistful, action-packed, and enlightening, and will likely ignite a new passion in the reader when he stares into the looming possibilities hanging in the night sky.
— Tom Piccirilli, barnesandnoble.com
— Tom Piccirilli,is the author of the critically acclaimed supernatural novel Pentacle, as well as the dark suspense mysteries Shards and The Dead Past. His short fiction has appeared in many anthologies, including Hot Blood: Fear the Fever.