Blood Moon, Sharman DiVono

DAW, 1999, 441 pages, C$8.99 mmpb, ISBN 0-88677-853-0

In 1997, the movie EVENT HORIZON arrived in theaters… only to disappear almost immediately, unseen by most moviegoers and destroyed by critics, who saw in it yet another slasher film crossed with yet another ALIEN clone. Not a bad description, really; In the film, a rescue crew sent to investigate the mysterious appearance of an experimental ship discovers evidence of supernatural influence in the original crew’s demise.

I was one of the lucky few who saw EVENT HORIZON in theaters, and somehow loved the film unconditionally. For some reason, it worked very well on me and even today, you can get me going on a ten-minute monologue on the rationality-versus-superstition motif in EVENT HORIZON and how, with a few tweaks, EVENT HORIZON could have been a modern SF/horror classic. It remains one of the few horror films which made me lose some sleep, though I was kept awake more by the potential of the film than its execution. And the same elements that attracted me to EVENT HORIZON are probably those which compelled me to read Blood Moon.

The novel wastes no time in starting in full-blown hard-SF mode. As a rescue team lands on the moon, the reader is subjected to a barrage of acronyms, technical details, techno-speak and steel-gray descriptions. In this context, the initial horrors contained in Moonbase (where, is it useful to add, a previous astronaut team has abruptly ceased all communications with the home planet) seems all the more shocking. Graffitis everywhere in dried blood (“Food for the Moon” plus a few extra occult signs and obscenities), trashed equipment and no sign of anyone are the initial jolts. Worse is the presence of swarms of flies, not only because of their unpleasant associations with devil imagery (Beelzebub by any other name) but mostly because of their invasion of a traditionally antiseptic environment.

Things go from bad to worse, as a survivor dies of fright upon seeing the rescue team, and the only last live member of the previous team is stark raving mad. The novel then shifts in procedural mode, as everyone, on the Moon or on Earth, tries to figure out what’s happening.

Things get weirder after that, as we’re constantly see-sawing between rationality and pure horror in trying to reconstruct the last moments of the previous expedition. DiVono drags things out for too long, unfortunately, and the novel could have used tighter editing. No less than two romantic subplots seem tacked-on for no useful reason, and the continuing lack of commitment to either hard-SF procedure or occult manifestations eventually grates when carried on for this long. Most characters are indistinct and there aren’t as many “cool scenes” as you would expect from the above premise. Fortunately, the conclusion is rather good (not to mention fascinating in its cosmological implications), which goes a long to redeem the novel.

(Alas, there are also a few errors. From a cursory reading, at least three minor mistakes really stand out: The moon isn’t a planet, mass is not equivalent to weight (which is why a hammer does not have to be heavier on the moon) and it is the Apollo 1 astronauts which died in their capsule, not Apollo 7, though you can probably chalk the last one to the copy editor. None of these mistakes really affect the plot, but -hey-, if you’re going to play the hard-SF game, you might as well play it right!)

But ultimately, none of these problems detract from the sheer curiosity of a book willing to try to merge hard-SF and horror. Good or bad, it doesn’t really matter when it’s so interesting. In a time where publishing genres are merging, fusing and borrowing from each other, Blood Moon stands as a particularly absorbing and unusual offering. Base readers will love the entertainment and serious SF scholars will delight in its meta-fictional significance, but Blood Moon is worth a read one way or the other.

Too bad it’s not all that scary. But then again you can’t put a shrieking violins soundtrack in a book.

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