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20 Books Set on the Moon

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A mysterious celestial body, which has fascinated many cultures around the globe, has been sparking controversies, inspiring myths and tantalising the imagination of the world’s great thinkers for thousands of years. But only technological advances of the 1960s made lunar exploration a reality.

This month marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 mission and to help you celebrate the occasion, we have cherry-picked twenty stories that will change the way you look at the moon for ever. For mind-boggling sci-fi to folklore legends, these otherworldly tales will send you on a thrilling journey to the moon and back.

Voyage to the Moon by George Tucker


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“A pair of travellers voyage to the Moon in a capsule powered by anti-gravity material and meet the inhabitants. Much philosophising about the differences between Earth and Moon cultures ensues. No, not 'The first men in the Moon' by HG Wells but 'A voyage to the Moon' by George Tucker.

Considered by many to be the first American SF writer, George Tucker wrote this short novel in 1827, over 70 years before Wells' better known work.

Not only does Tucker imagine anti-gravity in the 19th century, he also speculates that the Moon was once part of the Earth - a concept not widely accepted as correct by geologists until quite recently.

If you are into block-busting page turners then this is not for you but for anyone interested in early science fiction it provides a good quick read.”- Michael O’Donnell

From the Earth to The Moon by Jules Verne


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“From the Earth to the Moon is an 1865 novel by Jules Verne. This edition combines that novel with his sequel, A Trip Round It. It tells the story of the Baltimore Gun Club, a post-American Civil War society of weapons enthusiasts, and their attempts to build an enormous Columbiad cannon and launch three people—the Gun Club’s president, his Philadelphian armor-making rival, and a French poet—in a projectile with the goal of a moon landing. The book is filled with Verne’s calculations on the requirements for the cannon and his analysis of what would happen in such a flight. His vision was finally realized 100 years later when astronauts landed on the moon.’- Amazon

The First Men in The Moon by H.G. Wells


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"When Mr Bedford's financial difficulties become pressing, he leaves London for the quiet of the Kentish countryside to write a play which he is sure will win him fame and fortune, despite him never having written anything before. Instead, he meets his new neighbour Mr Cavor, an eccentric scientist, and becomes intrigued and excited by the possibilities of the invention Cavor is working on – a substance that will defy gravity. Bedford, always with an eye for the main chance, begins to imagine the commercial possibilities of such a substance, but Cavor is more interested in the glory that he will gain from the scientific community. And so it is that these two mismatched men find themselves as partners on an incredible voyage – to the Moon!”- Leah.

The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall by Edgar Allan Poe


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"The story opens with the delivery to a crowd gathered in Rotterdam of a manuscript detailing the journey of a man named Hans Pfaall. The manuscript, which comprises the majority of the story, sets out in detail how Pfaall contrived to reach the Moon by benefit of a revolutionary new balloon and a device which compresses the vacuum of space into breathable air. The journey takes him nineteen days, and the narrative includes descriptions of the Earth from space as well as the descent to its fiery, volcanic satellite. Pfaall withholds most of the information regarding the surface of the Moon and its inhabitants in order to negotiate a pardon from the Burgomaster for several murders he committed as he left Earth (creditors of his who were becoming irksome). After reading the manuscript, the city authorities agree that Pfaall should be pardoned, but the messenger who brought them the text (apparently a resident of the Moon) has vanished and they are unable to restore communication with him.”- Revolvy

Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald


Image credit: Gollancz

"The might and magic of money is not what it allows you to own; it is what it allows you to be. Money is freedom."

Truer words were never spoken. People left Earth looking for a new kind of freedom and frontier, not wanting to be constrained by old ideas. On the moon, anything goes, for a price: offer, acceptance and consideration. The only law is the law of contract, enforced by courts and if necessary in bloody trials by combat. In effect, everything is freely available, but nothing comes without a price.- Justin.

The Hopkins Manuscript by R. C. Sherriff


Image credit: Penguin Publishing

“The Hopkins Manuscript story begins in 1944, when the narrator, a retired schoolteacher turned poultry keeper with an interest in astronomy, learns at a meeting of the Lunar Society of an impending crash of the Moon into the Earth in seven months. The world of the novel is a world of flooding and the darkness and scrabbling around for resources, and one in which – before the catastrophe – scores of sceptics said nothing would happen, but if it did it would be in China where that sort of thing always happened. The months of waiting are described in detail, then the cataclysm (the Moon falls into the Atlantic), then the seven years that follow.”- The Guardian

The Transmigration of Souls by William Barton


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“In the twenty-first century, a joint US and Russian team discover something on the moon, something that leads to greater advances in technology than anything ever before. However, shortly after the discovery, both groups pull out, hiding themselves in their respective countries, without a word of explanation. Decades later, other governments, seek to discover the secrets that could frighten the two greatest powers on the world. The Americans send a force to prevent this, and the two groups unfortunately find out that somethings are better left undisturbed. What follows is a Panuniversal traveling adventure, as they discover more about their universe than they, or anyone else, ever hoped to know. And gain a glimpse of What may be God, or the Devil.”- ThriftBooks

Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson


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“Red Moon is set in the same universe as his last one, New York 2140, but it’s a standalone, a couple-on-the-run thriller set against political unrest in China and among various international colonies on the Moon. That’s the plot; the program is Robinson’s attempt to untangle what a spacefaring future will be like when China is at a peak of its new ascendance. There are car chases, rocket explosions, and philosophical meanderings. Genre, as always, is a good tool for taking big ideas and making them fight.”- Wired

Rogue Moon by Algis J. Budrys


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“Algis Budrys' Rogue Moon is a 1960 sci-fi classic. An artificial, alien structure has been found on the moon, but its investigation leads to the death of explorers going inside. To overcome this obstacle, the technology of the day is to create in a 3D printing manner, clones of the explorers, but their repeated death experiences leads to mental instability. The lead engineer and scientist on the project finds the perfect subject and a strange relationship develops as the labyrinth is slowly mapped.”- Michael Kurilla

The Bamboo Cutter and The Moon Child: A Japanese Folk Tale


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“An enchanting tale is the earliest piece of prose fiction in the Japanese literary tradition and originally written around the 10th century. The main preoccupation of the story is Kaguyahime, discovered as a tiny infant inside a mysteriously glowing bamboo stem by an elderly bamboo cutter. He and his wife raise her as their daughter, and Kaguyahime quickly becomes a beautiful young woman, a shining princess. Destined to return to the moon, her true home, Kaguyahime attempts to discourage her five princely suitors by demanding from them impossible tasks. All fail, and the emperor of Japan too becomes an enamored but rejected applicant for her hand. When an embassy of heavenly beings arrive in a chariot to collect her, she dons a feather robe and they take her back home to reclaim her rightful place as an immortal.”- WDL

This Place Has No Atmosphere by Paula Danziger


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“In the year 2057 people live in malls, take classes in ESP, and get detention from robots. Fifteen-year-old Aurora loves everything about her life. She’s part of the coolest group of kids at school and has just started dating the best-looking guy in her grade. Then her parents make the announce­ment that she’s sure will ruin her life—the family’s moving to the moon! What with water rationing, no privacy, and freeze-dried ham­burgers, how will Aurora ever feel like she’s home again?”- Penguin Random House

2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke


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“Do not ask me why I did not guess the truth sooner- the truth that seems so obvious now. In the first excitement of discovery, I had assumed without question that this crystalline apparition had been built by some race belonging to the Moon’s remote past, but suddenly, and with overwhelming force, the belief came to me that it was as alien to the Moon as I myself. In twenty years we had found no trace of life but a few degenerate plants. No lunar civilisation, whatever its doom, could have left but a single token of its existence.”

The Moon is A Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein


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“The Moon is A Harsh Mistress represents an anatomy of a revolution, set in a prison colony on the moon. Four “loonies” plot to free their ever-dangerous farming and mining world from Earthside rule and exploitation. We follow them through the inception and growth of their underground organization, systematic disruption of local government, fundraising and politicking, open rebellion (space warfare!), and resolution.”- Zedsdead

Moonseed by Stephen Baxter


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“It starts when Venus explodes into a brilliant cloud of dust and debris, showering Earth with radiation and bizarre particles that wipe out all the crops and half the life in the oceans, and fry the ozone layer. Days later, a few specks of moon rock kicked up from the last Apollo mission fall upon a lava crag in Scotland. That’s all it takes…

Suddenly, the ground itself begins melting into pools of dust that grow larger every day. For what has demolished Venus, and now threatens Earth itself, is part machine, part life-form: a nano-virus, dubbed Moonseed, that attacks planets.”- HarperCollins

The Consolidator by Daniel Defoe


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“This 1705 novel is a prime example of how interplanetary travel was used to satirize earthly mores, politics and society. In spite of its overt satirical purposes, the novel is original in its attempt to give a scientific underpinning to its fantasy, including a flight to the moon by means of a flying machine powered by an internal combustion engine.”- Lulu.

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson


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“The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.” People figure out that in two years, chunks of the moon will rain down on Earth in a cataclysmic meteor shower, wiping out every living thing and leaving the planet uninhabitable for thousands of years. The world unites on a plan to get as many spacecraft as possible into orbit, where a few select people can ride out this Hard Rain and keep humanity going.”- Bill Gates

Steel Beach by John Varley


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“After nearly a decade's silence, Varley makes a triumphant return with this absorbing novel, set in a future where humanity, expelled from the Earth by the alien Invaders, now lives in artificial habitats on the moon, Mars and other planets. Advanced technologies ensure a fairly effortless and secure life--almost any injury or disease is curable; people can change their features or even their gender with an afternoon of painless surgery. But all is not well on Luna. Hildy Johnson, top reporter for a tabloid, has been unaccountably depressed, even suicidal, and he soon learns that he's not alone. Even the Central Computer that maintains Luna's environment has been feeling down… Varley's tight, clean writing, full of wit and good humor, evokes despair, joy, anger and delight. His Luna is packed with wild inventions, intriguing characters and stunning scenery. This long-awaited return is one of the best science fiction novels of the twentieth century.” - Publishers Weekly

Ice by Shane Johnson


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“Shane Johnson's newest novel is part sci-fi, part fantasy, part horror, and totally cool. It has moving moments, scenes of wonder and grace, descriptions of violence and otherworldly doings. From its seemingly innocuous beginnings to its startling center, "Ice" brings imagination up a level. The book follows two astronauts in particular, men stranded on the moon after a failed ascent back into the moon's orbit. With mere hours of oxygen to spare, they decide to die doing what they've always dreamed of: exploring the ice fields on the dark side of the moon.”- Eric Wilson

The Lotus Caves by John Christopher


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“Marty is a bright boy who lives in the Bubble colony on the Moon. He becomes friends with Steve, a prankster and iconoclast who convinces him one day to take an unoccupied crawler out on the Moon's surface to explore first station. Once there they find a journal of one of the first explorers. One that details a sighting of a plant. The boys go off in search of it, and fall through the surface, into the cavern of a giant Plant. Can they get back home?”- Dutcher

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente


Image credit: Tor Books

“The moon doesn’t have to be all gloom and doom. In Valente’s evocative, beguiling slice of sci-fi Victoriana (out in October), it is transformed into a sort of space age Tinseltown, albeit a space age existing in an alternative 1920s in which we’ve gone on a Grand Tour of the solar system in ornate rockets but still haven’t quite mastered synching sound and image or colorizing film. Though the larger story is of revered filmmaker who goes missing on Venus, its scenes on the moon—ruled by warring film studios, its high mineral levels turn its inhabitants’ skin a dusky blue (which happens to photograph quite fetchingly in black and white)—are evocative and deeply memorable…much like the rest of the book.”- Barnes and Noble

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