Meriol Trevor’s 1957 The Other Side of the Moon is a standalone juvenile SF novel.
The Kingville Lunar Expedition did not intend to take an untrained boy on their mission to the Moon. Nor did Gil Pentfoyle intend to stow away. Having snuck on board to play spaceman, Gil fell asleep. The busy crew overlooked the boy until the expedition was well on its way to Earth’s satellite.
Although displeased to discover the stowaway, Captain Raider doesn’t airlock Gil. Perhaps this is because Gil’s brother, the expedition botanist1, might object. Perhaps this is because the captain is decent guy. Besides … the expedition already has a useless member, the expedition sponsor’s son Tracy. Gil makes two of them. (Perhaps three; see1.)
Turns out that the Moon is a surprising place.
The side Earth sees is exactly as expected: dead and airless. The far side of the Moon is quite different. There’s an unexpected oasis of life, hidden from human eyes. Once the expedition sets down, they find a land with normal gravity and air. Natives as well.
Gil is the first to encounter one of the locals, a beautiful woman who “untwists” Gil’s tongue so that he can understand the language of those untainted by a great evil.
Further contact proves complicated. The Moon people know that Earth has been touched by the great adversary; Earthmen might be evil. The Earthmen for their part lean towards bombast and aggression; their immediate reaction to discovering that there are natives is to shoot at them before being overpowered and captured. (Colonialists born and bred! Rule Britannia!)
[Editor’s note: I’ve read a great many boys’ adventure novels of the late 19 th and early 20 th century; all too many of them feature trekkers blazing away at anything that moved. Usually animals, but sometimes pesky natives .]
Raider and his men waste little time escaping into the wilds of the Moon. Nothing for it, as far as the Lunarians are concerned, but to track down and round up the errant visitors. A complication rears its head: the Enemy has its allies on the Moon: the Half People. When the Half People take one of the Kings of the Moon prisoner, the Earthmen may be the ruler’s only hope.
Ah, the good old days when a single well-to-do American industrialist and good old British technology was all that was needed to put together an expedition to another world.
While Trevor’s vision of the Moon does not fall within 1957’s consensus models of the Moon, I will point out that not only was Dick Tracy using a habitable moon well into the 1960s, Marvel Comics still has the Blue Area of the Moon. Unless it was destroyed in a crossover.
Meriol Trevor was a prolific author and yet … not only is this the first book of hers that I have read, this is the first time that I have ever heard of her. It’s a big world.
It is hard to overstate just how Christian a book this is. Not only is the setting manifestly Christian, there seems to be no awareness that this is NOT the only possible setting. Nobody is surprised to find indigenous Christians on the Moon. If they have a religion at all, it has to be Christian. Right? Right?
(There were Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. in 1957 Britain, but they must have been invisible to the author.)
Gil is a plucky young fellow and even better, the sort of British person willing to have a conversation with strangers before opening fire on them. Some of companions are not quite so amiable. This seems to presage a plot in which the young boy saves the day. Curiously, the author does not adopt this hoary ploy. It falls to one of the amiable adults to undertake the dangerous quest whose prize may be key to rescuing the King.
I have read, and enjoyed, a fair number of SF juveniles. I cannot say that I enjoyed this, but it was an interesting foray into a worldview very different from my own.
The Other Side of the Moon is out of print.
1: Hilary, the botanist, is of no use to the team because he is off researching the native flora. That’s OK. He would have been of little use if there hadn’t been any flora. Why the heck did the planners feel a botanist was necessary? They had no way of knowing that the moon was habitable. The botonist’s own mother questions his utility to the mission before it sets out.