Thursday, 31 January 2013

Review of Adrift on the Sea of Rains, by Ian Sales

Adrift in the Sea of Rains, by Ian Sales

This is a work of 'hard SF', which is to say there are no thoroughly unscientific bases to the weirdness in it. No monsters, no inexplicable events, no disorientating postmodern flourishes. Hard SF tends to be a subgenre which defines itself by what it isn't.

I grew up reading that sort of thing, but also developed a taste for the fantastic and whimsical. So I may not even have stumbled across this extraordinary novelette but for the fact I know the author: Mr Sales was a founder member of the Sheffield SF and Fantasy Writers' Group, which I still go along to.

The story is set in a parallel reality and concerns a small group of astronauts and scientists stranded in a tiny lunar base when the earth is wrecked by nuclear war. The hope they increasingly seldom dare admit to is that they will be able to shift into another parallel universe in which the earth is still alive. The tale opens amidst their attempts to do this by means of the Bell, a piece of ultra-weird technology salvaged from the Nazis at the end of WW2.

It surely cannot be a spoiler to tell you that they do of course eventually succeed. To reveal any more would be a major spoiler.

What is extraordinary about 'Adrift...' is the sensory vividness of the space environment. I have never felt so physically present on the Moon or in a cramped spacecraft.

We learn details such as how it feels to walk in 1/6 of earth's gravity, the sequence for taking off an A7LB (a kind of spacesuit, to folks like you and me), the cordite smell of the regolith dust on your space gear. All of this is contrasted with the mundane details of quasi-military routines; shift handover protocols, clipboards and microwave ovens exist in front of an alien landscape.

A couple of samples of the writing:
'...his own breath an amniotic susurrus within the confines of his helmet.'
'...he sees the blanket-like folds of mountains, grey upon grey, and a plain of the same lack of colour, all painted with scalpel-edged shadows.'

'Adrift...' is the first of a series, Sales's 'Apollo Quartet'. The second volume, 'The Eye With Which The Universe Beholds Itself', just came out. I shall buy it.

If you like any kind of SF, buy this book. It's only £2.56 on Kindle, which is the sole present edition.

1 comment:

  1. Ian adds: Btw, pbks & hbks are available from