Review #22: The Long Way Around by Carl Frederick

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Jun 4, 2010 in Reviews |

Published by: Analog Magazine, July/August 2010

lunarooMetal Roo Image by Richard.Fisher Creative Commons

The Story:

Blame it on politics for the inhabitants of First Lunar Outpost being the recipients of a brand new Lunaroo, Australia’s  contribution to the space program. It’s a robot kangaroo with a cockpit designed to hop its passengers around the lunar surface. Aussie engineer Adrian was shipped up with the Roo, and he knows it’s going to be tough selling the lunar residents on this revolutionary method of transport, but what better way to get around in 18% gravity than hopping over rough surfaces? After the Lunaroo’s maiden voyage, however, Adrian might have a hard time selling the idea to himself.

The Craft:

SPOILERS

At the heart of The Long Way Around is the interesting concept of an alternate form of lunar transport that steps away from the old moon buggy fallback. The inhabitants of the First Lunar Outpost are skeptical about how much use it will be under the hostile conditions of the moon. But beggars can’t be choosers, so moon resident Victor volunteers to go with Adrian to take the Lunaroo for a test run out to the solar furnace, five kilometers away from the base. Their plans get changed along the way, and they instead decide to venture to the Silent Earth Radio Telescope even further out.

Navigating the Lunaroo takes some getting used to, with the vehicle being sensitive to the movements of its passengers. A little body English can make turns go easier, but Victor makes a mistake, throwing his weight around and sending the Lunaroo crashing down on its side. The Lunaroo’s forward motion is busted, along with its communications, and Adrian’s knee is as well. Over twenty kilometers away from help, oxygen, and protection from the rising sun, Adrian and Victor must use their wits to find a way to save themselves from death.

The story is full of action and danger, with a hefty dose of science for those who like to geek out on telescopes, radio signals and such. Plus a dab of humor in the form of the real world bureaucracy that would send such an inept design to the moon in the first place. But I found myself wanting more from this story than just a cool concept and action. I wanted to know more about the characters and what brought them to the moon, and see more of the outpost itself. I also had a hard time getting a sense of things spatially, since the description veered towards the sparse side. It was a cute story for what it was, a quick, plot-driven romp around the moon.

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