The Moon Goddess and the Son
Baen Books, 1987
Synopsis: Boy, this is a hard one to sum up quickly. The following does not do the book justice:
One plot thread follows Byron McDougall. When we meet him, he is a young pilot, having gone into the Air Force because his father wanted him to be in the army. He’s recently married to a rich man’s daughter. She will try, unsuccessfully, to steer him towards the life she thinks he should have. He in turn will attempt to micromanage his son’s life. His son Charlie will spend his youth rebelling against this and his mother’s attempts at shaping him.
McDougall has an affair with an archaeologist in the Middle East. While touring ruins, he has a vision of the past and the future, realising the temporary nature of man’s works.
Byron gets involved in a long-term project to open space to commercial exploitation and to block any Russian attempt to grab the high ground. The Russians are sending material and men into space faster than the US: to counter this, an innovative new method of getting material into orbit is developed, involving a linear accelerator in LEO. As the book progresses, so does work on the LEOport and the US moon base.
At the same time, a long term project paid for by Sam Bronz, a rich man who has a problem with a defense plan which involves killing hundreds of millions of people, and run by Limon Barnes, a very dedicated role-player and wargamer, is working on the problem of how to transform the national character of Russia from one with cooperative thugs and individualistic heroes. This takes years, from the mid ’80s into the 21st century and involves innovation techniques like Socialist Victory, a samizdat computer game where the goal is to over-run Germany and France before D‑Day [The only way to do this is to kill Stalin off early on]. In the meantime, SDI systems are deployed but the Russians take counter measures.
As the LEOport is being built, McDougal is idolised by Diana, a young girl. Her father beats her regularly. When she is a young teenager, she runs away from home and becomes a waitress in LA. Using false papers, she applies for a job in one the towns supplying the LEOport. She is hired by Mr. Ling, who runs a variety of restaurants and who is also a space fan. Diana seduces Mr. Ling [although they don’t actually have POV sex] and eventually gets a job up on the LEO- port.
The war in Afghanistan drags on. Young Yahya Karargah sees most of his family killed by Russian bombs and devotes his life to killing Russians. He gets very good at it. He also pursues higher education at MIT, where he meets Charlie McDougall, Byron’s son. In the course of playing around at engineering, Charlie inadvertently shows Yahya how easy it would be to use modern technology to fight the Russians. Yahya does, his crowning moment coming when he uses a fleet of high- tech [but built using entirely off the shelf components] cruise missiles, which he uses to destroy Soviet assets from Afghanistan to the Kremlin, where he manages to decapitate the Soviet Union. The Soviets assume it is a US attack and launch a retaliatory stroke.
Almost all of the Russian ICBMs are killed. Two get through. One kills the town of Ruthville, North Dakota. A Russian officer, Savichev, realises that the US did not attack and is only retaliating against the Russian strike. Before the US strikes back with its ICBMs, he seizes control enough to stop the accidental war before it develops into a full-scale spasm war. Momentum carries him into greater and greater power, and he decides, after meeting Limon, that Russia needs to be changed. Perhaps some hope is warranted.
Diana meets Byron. He sleeps with her and then finds out she is jailbait. He returns her to her father. Eventually, the father tries to beat her, but she has learned enough self protection methods to break his arm and escape. She ends up with Charlie. Eventually, they end up on the Moon. Charlie loves Diana, who loves Byron, who ends up marrying the woman he had an affair with way back in the ’80s.
This book was written in ’87, two years before the Wall came down and four years before the Soviet Union fell apart. Who knew? We’ve managed to avoid WWIII so far, coming close in ’97 to an accidental spasm war. Space is largely undeveloped and nothing like the LEOport, the hydras or the orbiting cable around the Moon is in the works. Parts of the book read like they were written in the 1970s, probably because they were: the LEO in an Analog science article and parts of the Diana/Byron story as well, I think.
On the other hand, the flaws that killed the SU are still present in Russia today, as they demonstrate they can be to capitalism and liberal democracy what they were to the ideals of communism, albeit with a much lower body count so far. I am a bit pessimistic about Russia after the Accidental War: Yes, the fellow who took over means well. Lots of people have meant well in Russia’s history.
There’s lots of how not to raise kids in here, from McDougall’s family to Diana’s. Dropping bombs on Yahya didn’t seem to help him either. The entire nation of Russia is a collective abuse, from the Norman invasions to the present day.
As usual, the SF toys are very pretty. The LEOport is tres cool and I would never ride it. The vertical tether is also neat: I wonder what the numbers look like for one in LEO?
A lot of the romantic relationships in this book vaguely squick me for reasons I can’t put my finger on. Too one-way, I think. More parallelism with Russia, perhaps.
Kingsbury’s only got two books out, this one and Courtship Rites [Geta in the UK]. Come to think of it, that had suboptimal courtships in it as well. I’d really like to see more books by him. I seem to recall that Finger Pointing Solward is due before commercial fusion: hope I live that long.