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[techbooks] "Moonfall", Jack McDevitt

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  • Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Tr
    BKMONFAL.RVW 990612 Moonfall , Jack McDevitt, 1998, 0-06-105112-8, U$6.50/C$8.50 %A Jack McDevitt %C 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299 %D
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 16, 1999
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      BKMONFAL.RVW 990612

      "Moonfall", Jack McDevitt, 1998, 0-06-105112-8, U$6.50/C$8.50
      %A Jack McDevitt
      %C 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
      %D 1998
      %G 0-06-105112-8
      %I HarperCollins/Basic Books
      %O U$6.50/C$8.50 fax: 212-207-7433 fax: 212-207-7222
      %P 544 p.
      %T "Moonfall"

      Watch out! It's a comet, come to wipe out ... no, not the earth.
      Just the moon. Then bits of the *moon* wipe out the earth.

      Wonderfully sympathetic characters. Interesting twist on an old
      premise. A bit *too* much tension: by the time the hero survives the
      cataclysm you begin to wonder why half the book is left, and by the
      end you are almost willing for everyone to die, just so long as the
      darn thing finishes! (Along the way a few too many of the plot twists
      are telegraphed well in advance: not a lot come as any surprise when
      they do show up.)

      An awful lot of people from NASA and other space institutions get
      thanked. In many areas careful research is evident. A number of
      astronomical, astrophysical, and cosmological facts are presented
      correctly. Readers of the RISKS-FORUM Digest would be quite happy
      with the fact that it is small errors, in combination, that create the
      biggest problems. However, when the plot action starts happening, all
      the careful research goes out the window.

      A major factor in the plot are a number of "single stage to orbit"
      spaceplanes. The space station seems to have an inexhaustible supply
      of fuel for them. However, the idea behind an SSTO is that while it
      uses a huge amount of fuel to get up, it needs almost nothing coming
      down. There just wouldn't be any reason to have that much fuel on
      hand.

      Now, despite what "BattleStar Galactica," "Starship Troopers," and
      other quality training materials may show you, fireballs do not
      billow, nor do clouds roll, in the vacuum of space. Absent the fairly
      minor curvatures imposed by gravity, and the effect of the odd
      collision, everything in space moves in pretty straight lines,
      including light, hot gases, and rocks of whatever size. Shockwave
      "fronts" do not exist in space. Dodging debris would be a zero sum
      game, since unless every piece had the same velocity, in which case
      matching speed once would take care of everything, decreasing your
      delta-V with respect to one chunk would tend to increase it with
      respect to something else.

      Also, having achieved the relative safety of earth orbit in concert
      with some of the bits that were going your way would give scant
      relief: shortly you would round the earth and start heading into a
      bunch of stuff going the other direction. Orbital dynamics is not a
      real strong point in this book. The biggest error, though, is granted
      to the biggest piece of rock. POSsible IMpactor number 38, dubbed
      Possum in the book, makes two very exciting passes on an elliptic
      orbit around the earth. The first one is definitely east to west,
      while orbit two is west to east ...

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 1999 BKMONFAL.RVW 990612

      ====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
      rslade@... rslade@... slade@... p1@...
      Watch me disappear! [CLICK] - Ryan's version of the `Treasure' Cat
      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade

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