Synopsis: The story follows Gunther, an industrial worker on the Moon delivering goods to assembly plants. Initially a reprimanded slacker, he gets into several dangerous situations like unexpected Solar flares, or robots out of control in a factory, and really exceeded expectations.
Through his adventures, an ice queen lady crosses his way several times, leading to an unexpected romance.
When a thermonuclear World War starts on Earth, people on the Moon find their way back cut, their provisioning stopped, and violence swaps over to the Moon.
Gunther finds his role as the right side of his love interest who steps in as a beneficial dictator. They need to order logistics, control the upcoming violence, and solve a mystery: a terrorist managed to initiate a mind controlling device turning half of the people in the station into zombies.
Review: Swanwick is one of my favorite authors, often excelling in short stories – check out for example his collection “The Dog said Bow-How” (review here).
This novella is, in contrast to its fantasy oriented title, a Hard SF story set in the mid-term future. It ranges from fleshy Space Opera to posthumanism involving radical radical neuroengineers, and can count as a prequel to his novel Vacuum Flowers.
Readers who prefer an action-heavy ride with many loops will be highly entertained by this page turner. It feels like a classical SF stories from Heinlein or Clarke but with a (relatively, as written in the 1990s) modern touch.
Gunther is a highly relatable protagonist, starting out as a cool slacker, falling in love, solving problems, getting into a ethically difficult situations, and turning slowly to a hero. Swanwick draws not only Gunther in multiple colors, but also his sidekicks and opponents are never black and white only.
The tension arc has some problems, though. Some scenes are only weakly connected to the main plot and felt like yet-another-fragment for an extended novel. Also, there were so many twists and tension bumps, that the story’s final resolution didn’t come to full fruition and didn’t feel like a dramatic peak anymore. In other words: the novella couldn’t decide if it wanted to be an open-ended short story or a closed novel.
Recommended for fans of Space Operas who like a small bit of romance, for Silver Age SF fans, and also for those who want to read a comment about the dangers of posthuman development.