Whippleshield Books, 78pp limited edition hardback (signed and numbered), £6.99
£2.99 on Kindle (Dec 2015)
Reviewed by Alex Bardy (@mangozoid)
I would not describe myself as much of a ‘hard-science’ fan, but this second instalment of Ian’s Apollo Quartet proved a lot more accessible than expected, and having been fortunate enough to read the first part a good while ago (the BSFA Award-Winning Adrift on the Sea of Rains which I found similarly accessible), I can say with hand on heart that this novella is an easy read and an excellent way of trying Ian’s four-way celebration of the Apollo Missions for yourself. And then you can seek out your own copy of Adrift…
Despite first impressions, these books do not follow directly on from each other, and in this one we get to meet Brigadier General Bradley E. Elliott, a former member of the US Air Force who also happens to be the only man who has ever set foot on planet Mars. In the author’s alternative timeline, the Soviets beat NASA to the moon and a certain Neil Armstrong and co. were forced to abort the mission due to a persistent 1202 error during descent, and just three hundred feet above the lunar surface. Tut tut. The Soviets got there almost two weeks earlier…
Told in unique style and jumping between two different missions separated by twenty years, Elliott of course is the main man in both. The first one recounts his mission to Mars and the earth-shattering alien technology he found there, while the second has him heading for Phaeton Base, an extrasolar colony orbiting Gliese 876 that has suddenly gone quiet, and was only made possible in the first instance by the technology originally discovered on Mars.
To say more would give the game away, but the author has crafted two compelling tales, both of which feel very intimately crafted. Indeed, we’re allowed to accompany Elliott on his travels and share in the deep love (and heartache) he feels for his estranged wife after a failed marriage — a knotty union that is slowly unpicked and severed across the years, a sad reflection of what it means to have torn desires and an urge to explore, perhaps? This is all coupled with an attention to detail supported by Appendices, an extensive Glossary, ample Abbreviations list and an essential Coda (most of which is required reading to fully understand and appreciate the whole story, to be fair).
All in all, another excellent novella that isn’t at all difficult to heartily recommend.
* This review originally appeared on the British Fantasy Society (BFS) website here