I’ve long been aware of Budrys as a ‘classic’ author in the SF genre, and ‘Rogue Moon’ was a Hugo nominee, so this seemed like a good place to check out his work.
A mysterious alien artifact has been discovered on the Moon. Under the supervision of a brilliant researcher, Dr. Hawks, it’s being investigated, with the help of a new, Star Trek-style transporter technology which allows men to beam to the moon. Luckily, the body that ends up on the moon is only a duplicate. “Luckily,” because the artifact on the moon is an enigmatic “American Ninja Warrior”-style obstacle course, and men keep dying. The horrible experience leaves even the duplicates back on Earth insane.
Dr. Hawks’ solution, presented to him by a slimy administrative type, is to recruit an adrenaline junkie with a deathwish, Al Barker, rather than the upstanding young astronaut types he’s been going through. Will Barker have the “right stuff”?
The story isn’t really ‘just’ a science-fiction adventure. Budrys uses his premise to do a lot of implicit editorializing about “types of men,” “relations between the sexes” and whatnot, by contrasting Hawks (and the program administrator) with Barker, and their girlfriends with each other. Unfortunately, I felt that this attempt to elevate the tale beyond its basic speculative premise weakened the piece rather than strengthening it. I wasn’t fully on board with his whole ‘essential differences between men, and what makes a ‘real man” digressions – but his ideas about the nature of women are just deeply peculiar (and flat-out wrong, IMO.) (Basically, he seems to be saying that a woman can either be supportive or non-supportive of her man, but the idea that a woman might have qualities independent of how she relates to a man seems to have never occurred to him.)
I appreciate a good, deeply thoughtful spec-fic story, but I prefer simplistic adventure stories to half-baked social theory.
Many thanks to NetGalley and Open Road Media for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.