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Top 25 Best Science Fiction Books About the Moon
The Moon hangs clear above us. It is the only celestial body (other than the sun) that we can see as more than a dot. For that reason, it has always bulked large in the human imagination, a place of gods and mysteries.
Then, at the beginning of the 17th century, when telescopes were invented they were inevitably trained upon the Moon. The first map of the Moon was drawn by Thomas Harriot in 1609, and a more detailed map was included in Siderius Nuncius by Galileo the following year. This was the first representation of the Moon as a landscape. In 1620, Ben Jonson presented a masque at the court of King James called "Newes from the New World Discover'd in the Moone", in which the Moon was presented as having forests and cities and inhabitants who went about hiding in clouds. The Moon had become a place where stories could happen.
Right away, in fictions like Somnium by Johannes Kepler and The Man in the Moone by Francis Godwin, the Moon became the setting for any story, usually satires, that were set anywhere other than the Earth. And it continued to be the only such setting right up to the end of the 19th century, when Schiaparelli's discovery of "canali" on Mars opened up a new and more threatening landscape. From then on, Mars tended to become the setting for more colorful adventures, while the Moon was more often the focus of technical stories about how we might reach it, or what it would be like to create our first off-world settlement.
The actual Moon landing by Apollo 11 in 1969 confirmed this more technological approach, but also had the effect of killing off lunar science fiction. Since men had actually walked on the Sea of Tranquility, there was a sense that the Moon was no longer the stuff of science fiction but rather of science fact. Surprisingly little science fiction about the Moon was published during the last quarter of the 20th century, certainly when compared to what had appeared during the previous half century.
As the century ended, however, such sporadic appearances started to increase, although the Moon was often rather taken for granted as little more than a way station between earth and the outer planets, as for instance in Paul McAuley's The Quiet War or James S.A. Corey's Leviathan Wakes. But with the publication of the first part of his new diptych, Luna: New Moon, Ian McDonald has produced the first major new work set on the Moon for some years, and there are rumors that others may be on the way, so the Moon may yet see a renaissance.
One final oddity, in researching this list we found no major work of lunar science fiction by a woman. This is strange; look at any other theme or sub-genre within science fiction and it is almost impossible not to find a wealth of important contributions by women writers, but not the Moon. Now I am sure we have missed something obvious, and before long we'll have people queuing up to tell us so. But for the moment it looks as though the Moon, Selene, which is always presented as female in mythology, has somehow failed to attract a female writer. We wonder why that might be so.
If you like Heinlein then you should read more books by Heinlein of course. But what to read next? Well, there's so much work by Heinlein that everyone interested in science fiction should read, but here's a selection.
The Door into Summer is a novel that explores Heinlein's fascination with time travel. When inventor D.B. Davis is tricked out of his company, his former partners put him into cold sleep. But when he awakes, years later, he finds that many of the innovations in the world are credited to one D.B. Davis. Finding someone who has invented time travel, he goes back knowing how to change the world.
Starship Troopers, another Hugo ward winning novel, is one of the best known of Heinlein's books, a military adventure that traces the career of the central character from recruitment up to an interstellar war.
Stranger in a Strange Land is a Hugo Award winning novel that became a cult classic during the 1960s, and was named as one of the "Books that Shaped America" by the Library of Congress. It's the story of a human raised on Mars who returns to Earth and ends up transforming human society.
If you're fascinated by Heinlein's account of lunar colonies in revolt from Earth, you should check out Time Out of Joint by Philip K. Dick, which tells the story from the other side. RagelGumm lives in a 1950s small town where he makes his living winning newspaper competitions. But strange things start to happen; a soft drinks stand disappears leaving a slip of paper with the words SOFT DRINKS STAND written on it. Gradually, Gumm works out that the small town is not real, and that the newspaper competition is actually a way of predicting where the rebelling lunar colonies will bombard next. It's a novel full of Dick's typical undermining of reality, but it makes a fascinating counterpoint to Heinlein's novel.