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Gentry Lee – Double Full Moon NightThis is a re-post of an old review, originally published on Diversebooks (long defunct) for Double Full Moon Night, a Gentry Lee solo novel set in the Rama Universe, which ties up some strands from that series, whilst getting stuck on the same religious questions. If you liked the various Aliens in Rama then you’re gonna like this, too.

The story follows Johan Eberhardt, born on Earth, former Colonist on Mars, as he encounters a number of alien cultures, and interacts in various combinations with the other members of the group that was rescued/abducted (all a question of point of view) from Mars during the final days of the colonization effort.
At the beginning we find him on an (artificial) island in an alien spaceship, raising his true love’s (Sister Beatrice of the Michaelites, RIP) child (conceived when she was raped) as his own. This basically sums up the topical content of the book – mysterious omnipotent aliens, artificial worlds, theological disputes, social interaction, and Johan’s relationship with ‘his’ child, Maria.
The story is a series of varying combinations of the actors, in different alien-provided environments, interacting with changing groups of alien creatures of varying levels of intelligence and power in the spaceship most of the story plays in. If this is a Zoo, or a Research Station conduction experiments (and how would you, as an inmate, tell the difference?) is left open. There are entities at different levels in the alien hierarchy, with the ‘Ribbons’, enigmatic and very pretty particle beings, on tops of it. The Ribbons are the only spacefaring civilization that the Rama collective intelligence can’t figure out.

As just mentioned, the book plays in the Rama Universe. Main difference is that the controlling aliens are the Ribbon creatures this time (save for a short spell on the Rama Node), and that the spaceship the story plays in is globular instead of a cylinder, but the rest of the story feels very familiar with its social interaction, genetics, and human-alien relationship issues. There is, towards the end, a spell where the humans spend time on an actual planet which has two moons, which leads to the Double Full Moon Night of the title, which has a pivotal effect on the destiny of the group of humans.

I think that, despite the book playing in the Rama Universe, and being tied into the older story, it could very well stand on its own. The main parts are, as always with Gentry Lee, the excellently designed Alien creatures and their respective cultures, and some rather interesting human/alien interaction.
The human sociological parts, focussing on the father-daughter relationship and the interactions amongst the evacuee group are a bit wooden at times (nothing new there either for Lee), but, on the upside, are nothing as grating as some in the Rama series, so good news there!
The story itself shows plenty of gaps and illogical shortcuts between the very well written parts – I guess that’s where AC Clarke helped, in tying things together and ensuring a better flow to the overall story.

This is the 2nd (and, given the resolution, presumably the final) book in the series. You don’t need to have read the first one, Bright Messengers (or the Rama series for that matter), as a short summary of the state of play is provided at the beginning. That the summary should sound as contrived and illogical as it does is an indication of the weakness of the overall story arc, which requires plenty of forced turns to connect the individual well written blocks of the story.
Gentry Lee now has 14 books to his name – a good number co-written with AC Clarke, and the latter ones (SF as well as non-fiction ones) solo, and generally more enjoyable…
Now, the book overall is a good read, it is engaging and pulls you into the stories through its good character development and storytelling. It’s worth buying for the aliens and their cultures alone, so if you’re into biological or social SF then this is a must. If you’re allergic to religious SF then stay away, though, as the ‘Ribbons are Angels’ vs ‘Ribbons are advanced Aliens’ argument rages throughout the book…

More Gentry Lee


Title: Double Full Moon Night
Series: Bright Messengers
Series Number: 2
Author: Gentry Lee
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL: http://skating.thierstein.net
Publisher: Bantam Spectrum
Publication Date: 2000
Review Date: Dec 25 2005
ISBN: 0553573365
Price: USD6.99

 

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