A review for Review Forward:

Adrift On the Sea of Rains by Ian Sales

Commander Vance Peterson has been stuck on a base on the moon for two years together with eight other astronauts after the Earth annihilated itself in nuclear war. Each astronaut is handling the difficult situation in their own way. A strange device made during WW2 enables the castaways to find alternate Earths in the sky. When they finally see an undamaged Earth, with a space station in orbit around it, the astronauts must find a way to leave the moon and get help from the other Earth.

Adrift In A Sea Of Rains is a rare mix of realistic and more speculative science fiction. Everything is described in impressive detail; the lunar environment, the base, the equipment from the Apollo-program, the spacecraft, the aircraft, and late 20th century history. I can’t imagine all the research that has gone into it.

Just about the only thing that is not realistic is the alternate universe device. However, the contrast between the speculative and very realistic science fiction feels a little jarring. That’s mainly caused by the device’s title, a “Wunderwaffe”, which brings up images of silly space blimps and Nazi flying saucers in my mind.

Apart from that, I enjoyed the realism of the story, the harsh setting and the different variations on “the right stuff”-personality of the characters a lot. The portrayals are brief, but interesting, and I would have liked to see even more of the astronauts’ interactions, even though they are not always friendly.

There are also many beautiful descriptions of the harsh environment and the situation, such as
“Peterson sits at his desk in the command centre, mapping the boundaries of his cabin fever.”
“ – leaves the spacesuit like a victim on the floor,”
“Scott has put away his personality, consigned it to some corner of his mind where it cannot be battered and bruised by their slow descent into despair.”

These descriptions are more personal and lingering than one often finds in SF, and I found them deliciously effective. Sales’ confident and somber voice fits the theme and setting perfectly.

The finish has a nice twist, although it feels a little rushed, and is an exciting cliffhanger for the next part. I am now very curious about what will happen in the rest of the quartet.

*

About the reviewer:

Berit Ellingsen is a Korean-Norwegian writer whose stories have or will appear in Elimae, SmokeLong, Metazen, decomP, Unstuck, and other literary journals. Her novel, The Empty City, is a story about silence and is reviewed here. Berit’s short story collection, Beneath the Liquid Skin, will be published by firthFORTH Books in late 2012. Find out more at beritellingsen.com.

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