Adrift on the Sea of Rains is the first Novella in Ian Sales' Apollo Quartet, and was originally published in 2012. The second book in the series – The Eye With Which the Universe Beholds Itself - is also languishing on my reading pile (hopefully not much longer), whilst the 3rd book, titled Then Will the Great Ocean Wash Deep Above, is scheduled to come out late in 2013.
Ian Sales is a British writer, editor, blogger, and now publisher. Adrift on the Sea of Rains was the first book published on his own Whippleshield Books imprint (he is expanding beyond his own writing now, so this is definitely not a vanity setup). Adrift on the Sea of Rains won a BSFA Awards in the short fiction category – to my knowledge the first self-published book to win that award.
The premise of the book is simple, and stark. The USA have continued with the Apollo Programme past Apollo 16, and now have both a Space Station in LEO (“Freedom”) as well as a small moon base (“Falcon”) in Rima Hadley, Mare Imbrium (literally “Sea of Rains”, thus the title); the landing area of Apollo 15. The Cold War, meanwhile, has escalated past anything we have seen in our history. Whilst Colonel Vance Peterson is Commanding Officer of Falcon Base, it has actually led to open, nuclear warfare, thus stranding the men on Falcon Station on the Moon. At the point where we join the story they have lived like this for over a year, but only have supplies for four months left.
What they also have, though, is a researcher and his top-secret project – called a Torsion Field Generator (by the scientist) or The Bell (by everyone else); a Nazi “Wunderwaffe” found in Silesia at the end of WW2, and, eventually, shipped to the moon for safety reasons. The crew takes hope from the fact that it allows them to travel back in time to, hopefully, a point where they can be rescued. If it indeed travels in time…
I won’t spill (and spoil!) more of the story for you, it is very much worth reading yourself. The setting and the technology feels exceedingly realistic, compelling, and very well researched; were it not for the Bell I would have called this Hard SF.
The language is measured, sometimes terse and sparse. Reduced, like the men at Falcon Base. And sometimes you get glints of poetry shining through, like when Peterson looks out on “the garden of descent stages on the Sea of Rains”. Marvellous.
The book provides a Glossary for all the abbreviations in the text (and this Alphabet Soup, requiring me all too frequently to consult the Glossary, would be the only real complaint I could make about the book. Besides it being too short, of course); a potted history of the Space Programmes and associated Aeronautical developments (which starts in our history as we know it, and, in an imperceptible and very smooth way, rolls into an alternate history as it could have been along the way), a bibliography (which I could not detect any fictional entries in so far), plus a list of online sources.
I cannot recommend this highly enough – the book is still available in paperback and eBook (sorry, no more signed limited edition hardbacks. And you’re not getting mine, either), and I really rather look forward to the next books in the series. Ian, should you be reading this - I want one of the signed hardbacks, either through your shop or via Ian Whates...
Title: Adrift on the Sea of Rains
Author: Ian Sales
Series: Apollo Quartet
Series Number: 1/4
Reviewer URL: http://thierstein.net
Publisher: Whippleshield Books
Publisher URL: http://www.whippleshieldbooks.com
Publication Date: 2012
Review Date: 131122
Price: UKP 3.99 (PB)
Format: Limited Edition Hardback
Topic: Alternate History