Saturday, February 26, 2005

Neo-Heinleins: D. S.Halacy

D. S. Halacy Rocket Rescue New York W. W Norton 1968
D. S. Halacy Return from Luna New York W. W Norton 1969


Both of these are “career” books.

In Rocket Rescue, Grant Stone loses out by a mere two percentage points on his chance to join the Space Service, and is sent instead to Rocket Rescue while his twin brother is sent into the SS.

Rocket Rescue is popularly known as the Fire Service and hasn’t accomplished a rescue in its fifteen years. It has trouble getting appropriations and its equipment is dated.

Half way through the novel as Grant is becoming accustomed to his fate, an experimental X-ship is damaged by solar flares and a team, including Grant, is sent to the rescue. Grant is chosen because there is evidence he can communicate telepathically with his brother—this is handled poorly, the emergency communication we see implies a lot more confidence in its success than has actually been reported either by parapsyologists or the twins.

Grant and his team manage to rescue half the ships crew, and his boss rides the X-ship into the sun where its anti-matter engine can be safely destroyed. The service gets the money it needs, Grant and his brother Lee with live the rest of their lives under pseudonyms. And Grant gets his place in the Space Service with the implication that he only ended up in Rocket Rescue because they wanted to keep him away from his brother.

The one really touching scene is where Grant’s friend, Harry Harrison (short and red-headed) dies after a mission.


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In Return from Luna, Rob Stevens is rejected from the military draft because of a hitherto unsuspected heart murmur. Faced with the Peace Corps he accepts an offer from his Physics professor to go instead to the Lunar Station.

There is a lot of infodump in the beginning of the novel. Halacy seems uncomfortable with the idea that he is, in effect, writing an alternative present.

Part way into the trip. The cold war goes hot, and a small Asian nation bombs the US. Nuclear war breaks out. Interestingly, the book has mentioned that the draft would probably have sent Rob to Asia, and doesn’t come over all injured about the attack, even while it doesn’t come right out and say “the US deserved it”.

Trapped on the moon, Rob’s Professor Munson becomes so unhappy with nuclear power that he destroys one of the reactors and spends the rest of the novel in solitary, until he escapes to commit suicide (he is left where he is found, lying on his back, gazing at the earth.

The Moon techs send home the women and four others and settle down to surviving: there is some really good make do and mend engineering described here (much as Rocket Rescue celebrates tinkerers). Rob helps design and sustain a solar generator which helps provide oxygen, develops a vegetable garden which fails through another’s mistake but, in true Heinlein style, the garden is there to accept the seeds provided by the Russians who, when their moon base is contacted, turn out to have solved the food problem (they even have pigs and chickens) but not to have solved the oxygen problem.

When they are rescued, it is to return to a damaged earth, but knowing that they may have created a moon base that could genuinely sustain itself.

One thing I spotted in this book that few adult writers of colonisation novels remember: that the Old World kept the US colonies alive with re-supply for many generations before they became self-sufficient.