Arthur C. Clarke
A Fall of Moondust (1961)
Reviewed: 1997-06-12

A near, space age future. One of the more remarkable geologic features found by future explorers on the Moon is the Sea of Thirst, a sea of desiccated dust so fine it has some of the properties of a liquid. Tourism is a fledgling industry on this developing world, and a ride on the unique dust-skimmer Selene over the alien sea to the Mountains of Inaccessibility is quite an attraction. A boatload of tourists gets more excitement than they bargained for when a cave-in causes Selene to be trapped below the surface of the dust sea. Rescuing the shipwrecked crew and passengers will be a desperate race against time and the hostile Lunar environment.

A Fall of Moondust is an unspectacular hard SF novel by a Grand Master of the genre. Clarke sets up a deceptively simple engineering problem and proceeds straightforward to its resolution. Characters and plot are simple, although the complications caused by the unpredictable Lunar environment keep up the suspense to the very end. Despite these mild twists there is never any doubt about the eventual outcome of the story. Along the way, Clarke presents the psychology of the disaster victims in an almost textbook-like manner. This novel is perfect material for a 1970s-style disaster movie and I'm surprised that it wasn't made into one.

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Christian "naddy" Weisgerber <>