Good Minds Suggest: Kim Stanley Robinson's Favorite Lunar Fiction

Posted by Goodreads on September 28, 2018
Kim Stanley Robinson

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Kim Stanley Robinson is a New York Times-bestselling author and winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. He's written more than 20 books, including the Mars trilogy, Forty Signs of Rain, The Years of Rice and Salt, 2312, and New York 2140. In 2008, he was named a "Hero of the Environment" by Time magazine, and he works with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute. This month, Robinson is back with a new sci-fi book, Red Moon, set 30 years in the future when China is the first nation to establish a permanent base on the moon. It's here that murder and intrigue unfold. In honor of his lunar-themed novel, Robinson is recommending his favorite fiction that takes place just outside of our atmosphere.

"Science fiction has tended to shoot right by the moon—to the galaxy and beyond!—so there isn't as much lunar fiction as you might expect," says Robinson. "I do have some fiction favorites I will list, but first I want to suggest a brief nonfiction orientation. Great maps, photos, and histories of the moon can be found in Atlas of the Moon by Antonin Rükl, and The Clementine Atlas of the Moon by Ben Bussey and Paul D. Spudis. And Voyages to the Moon by Marjorie Hope Nicolson will give you a wonderful history of moon stories written before the 20th century, from Lucian of Samosota to writers like Cyrano de Bergerac, Johannes Kepler, Daniel Defoe, and Francis Godwin. Now to my favorite lunar fiction…"

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"This is the iconic moon story, literally so, in that it is about the famous monolith that triggered the events depicted in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Clarke saw what our moon might ultimately be best for, which is as a test of our ability to successfully get off our home planet, then as a launching pad to places farther out there."


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"This is another version of the moon as a place where an alien test for humanity has been left, a test considerably darker and more intense than the one described by Clarke. This is Budrys' finest work and an existential classic of 1950s science fiction. As rats in a maze are we to the gods…"


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"One of the greatest moon novels ever is hiding in plain sight. Le Guin's superb utopia is set on Annares, moon of the planet Urras, where a group of anarchists has been exiled. When they make a return visit to Urras, they find it to be remarkably similar to our Earth during the Cold War, and suddenly Annares looks very much like our moon with a bit of an atmosphere added. Seeing it that way brings it closer to home, and it's always good to have a reason to reread this wonderful classic."


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"Again the moon is portrayed as a kind of intelligence test for humanity in crisis. Swanwick's post-Apollo vision of life on the moon is vivid and convincing. He packs a number of spectacular scenes into this excellent short novel, and I think the survival method he describes his protagonist inventing will someday be called 'doing a Swanwick.' "


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"Because I've been writing a novel set on the moon, I've avoided reading the recent spate of books set there, but I did read the one by my friend John Kessel. If they are all as good as his—meaning Ian McDonald's Luna series, Andy Weir's Artemis, and Catherynne Valente's Radiance—then it may be the case that 'the golden age of moon fiction is now.' Kessel's is a beautiful lunatic novel, describing a complex set of societies coexisting in dynamic turbulence. The moon as a space for competing radical social experiments? I think so."


Want more book recommendations from authors? Check out our Good Minds Suggest series.

Comments Showing 1-37 of 37 (37 new)

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message 1: by Johnny (new)

Johnny Heinlein The Moon is a Harsh Mistress


message 2: by Veronica (new)

Veronica Vazquez Zamora The Lunar Cronicles


message 3: by Manfred Kodila (last edited Oct 16, 2018 05:14PM) (new)

Manfred Kodila Don't forget "Steel Beach" and "Irontown Blues" by John Varley... however, Robert A. Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" sets the bar for them all.


message 4: by Alex (new)

Alex Shrugged Ben Bova's Moonrise and Moonwar.


message 5: by Jordan Roberts (new)

Jordan Roberts Artemis


message 6: by Madeline (new)

Madeline Kim Stanley Robinson writes wonderful science fiction, but as usual, I am the odd man out. The book he wrote that remains one of my favorites is not about the future. It is about the past. Way, way back in ancient times, and is titled “Shaman.” I loved the realistic way he imagined people ate, traveled, lived and died. He made me feel I was a part of that time, living in a cave, happy to know how to make fire.
I wish he would write more books about ancient times. There are few writers who can make this world real and he is one of them.


message 7: by Peter (new)

Peter Card Fall of Moondust - Arthur C Clarke


message 8: by Clare (new)

Clare O'Beara You beat me to it, Peter.
Artemis is good.
Anyone remember the TV show Space 1999? Moonbase Alpha was colonised and the moon was set adrift through a collision.


message 9: by Keith (new)

Keith Mann Wow, KSR, I have immense respect for you but I'm shocked that "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" didn't make your list. I'd have thought that the theme of that novel -- the moon's independence from Earth -- would have been an influence on your Mars Trilogy.


message 10: by Tanzey (new)

Tanzey I really enjoyed The Hopkins Manuscript by RC Sherriff, written in the 1939s. It is SF about a cataclysmic event causing the Moon’s orbit to change but also a great tale of people’s behaviour and reactions.


message 11: by Goran (last edited Oct 17, 2018 05:32AM) (new)

Goran "Luna: New Moon" and "Luna: Wolf Moon" by Ian McDonald are excellent. The third and final part "Luna: Moon Rising" was supposed to have been published by now, but it's been moved to 2019.


message 12: by Ben (new)

Ben Nash Keith wrote: "Wow, KSR, I have immense respect for you but I'm shocked that "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" didn't make your list. I'd have thought that the theme of that novel -- the moon's independence from Ear..."

Maybe it was too obvious a choice? Maybe he didn't want to suggest the first thing to come to everyone's mind? Maybe he doesn't care for it?

I read it for the first time just a few years ago and wasn't impressed, so I know not liking it is possible.


message 13: by Thea (new)

Thea Madeline wrote: "Kim Stanley Robinson writes wonderful science fiction, but as usual, I am the odd man out. The book he wrote that remains one of my favorites is not about the future. It is about the past. Way, way..."
If you haven't already, you might want to read The Years of Rice and Salt.


message 14: by Doug (new)

Doug Reed Manfred Kodila wrote: "Don't forget "Steel Beach" and "Irontown Blues" by John Varley... however, Robert A. Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" sets the bar for them all."

Steel Beach was one mighty weird novel, IMO. Maybe not by today's standards, but when it first came out.


message 15: by Marty (new)

Marty Preslar I must add to the chorus of 'Why? Why would Robert A. Heinlein's "The Moon is a Hash Mistress" not be included in a list of seminal moon-related science fiction works???'

Other than that, I'd like to add in a cross-genre option that I absolutely adored: "Flowers of Luna" by Jennifer Linsky. This Science Fiction, LesFic romance was a wonderful story. In addition to the story itself, it had sufficient world-building to make me long for more stories set in that universe and included cute homages to many science fiction icons, frequently as names of cities on the moon and things like that.


message 16: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Broderick "Inherit The Stars" by James Hogan. How could a 50,000 year-old human in a space suit be on the Moon in the 21st century? Fascinating exploration of evolution & man's place in the solar system. Part of a trilogy but a great stand-alone novel.


message 17: by Marc (new)

Marc Vanderveen Seveneves is the story I think of everytime I see the moon. And I watch the moon a lot these days, just in case.


message 18: by Johan (new)

Johan Clare wrote: "You beat me to it, Peter.
Artemis is good.
Anyone remember the TV show Space 1999? Moonbase Alpha was colonised and the moon was set adrift through a collision."


Oh yes, I do remember Space 1999, fondly.
Is Artemis better than The Martian? I wasn't impressed by The Martian and that is holding me back from reading Artemis.


message 19: by Neil (new)

Neil Haggath As this is about novels set on the Moon, may I draw attention to a new one recently published, "Moonsafe Red", by myself! It's available for Kindle; look it up on Amazon. And reviews can be found on this site.


message 20: by Philip (new)

Philip Higgins Er, hello are we all forgetting Wallace & Gromit's seminal 1989 classic "A Grand Day Out"? OK, not technically a book...alright then, what about H.G. Wells' "The First Men In The Moon" ? There is an ominous silence from NASA about the presence of insectoid Selenites on the Moon. The truth will out!


message 21: by Dave (new)

Dave Kane Johnny wrote: "Heinlein The Moon is a Harsh Mistress"

I read this book just this summer. It was amazingly good and made me an instant fan of Robert Heinlein.


message 22: by Michael (new)

Michael Bafford Yep


message 23: by Dave (new)

Dave Way Madeline wrote: "Kim Stanley Robinson writes wonderful science fiction, but as usual, I am the odd man out. The book he wrote that remains one of my favorites is not about the future. It is about the past. Way, way..."

Agreed. I've read 6 other of his books but Shaman blew me away. Far better, I think than the Jean Auel series starting with Clan of the Cave Bear. Far more lyrical. And just to particularly blow me away, I was reading it on the train on my way into Paris' Gare du Nord and what do I see in the cavernous lobby? A photographic study of the Grotte de Chauvet which he clearly used as a setting (for the cave painting parts).
My wife is now reading this one.


message 24: by Jason Hill (new)

Jason Hill Reminds me of my young years when i would play with my space toys. Oh ive got to get my hands on this or similar book.


message 25: by Bill (last edited Oct 21, 2018 05:08PM) (new)

Bill Doetsch The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

One of my all time favorites.

I also second The Years of Rice and Salt. And personally, I also really liked 2312.


message 26: by David (new)

David D I also "third" The Years of Rice and Salt. Extraordinary, time-spanning, mind-opening saga (elements of the picaresque, as well), an extraordinary achievement for KSR, and relevant.


message 27: by David (new)

David D I agree that Shaman is way more interesting than Auel's series, but I'd recommend Peter Dickinson's series (aimed at YA but pertinent as so many of the genre to adults) The Kin series. Also his Eva.


message 28: by Adnan (new)

Adnan Rehmat Many years ago I read a great novel based on the moon - 'The Lotus Caves' by John Christopher


message 29: by Robert (new)

Robert Konczal Kim Stanley Robinson has wrote some of my all time favorite fiction: The Years Of Rice and Salt, Aurora, and Shaman. I re-read Years Of Rice and Salt every 5 years or so with each time being as enjoyable as the first. His understanding of history and the frail but important roles humans play in it touches my soul every time.


message 30: by Martin (new)

Martin Madeline wrote: "Kim Stanley Robinson writes wonderful science fiction, but as usual, I am the odd man out. The book he wrote that remains one of my favorites is not about the future. It is about the past. Way, way..."

I loved Shaman as well! And was about to suggest "The Years..." but as you've noticed a bunch of folks have already mentioned it. :D
So I'll mention a 1989 novella collection, "Escape from Kathmandu" whose stories are mostly set on the Indian subcontinent. It hints of Robinson's growing admiration for Buddhism and the East, and it's a fun short read.


message 31: by Martin (new)

Martin Marc wrote: "Seveneves is the story I think of everytime I see the moon. And I watch the moon a lot these days, just in case."

Don't forget to keep an eye on our ever-growing satellite collection, too. ;)


message 32: by Rob (new)

Rob I've never read this author so might try him out. I am a huge fan of Clarke and Wells, also Alan Dean Foster.


message 33: by Michael (new)

Michael Edgar Beyond "Moon is a harsh Mistress," Heinlein has dozens of short stories set on the moon. Favorites: "The Menace from Earth" and "It's Great to be Back."


message 34: by Isaac (new)

Isaac Robert wrote: "I re-read Years Of Rice and Salt every 5 years or so with each time being as enj..."
This makes me want to read Years of Rice and Salt again.

Not specifically our moon, however, a book I enjoyed that is set on a moon of sorts: 'The Bones of the Moon' by Jonathan Carroll.


message 35: by Margaret (new)

Margaret seveneves. wonderful, expansive, really interesting.


message 36: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Phelan I loved Lunar Descent by Allen Steele. Gritty, industrial take on near future Luna.


message 37: by Joe (new)

Joe Nilles Madeline wrote: "Kim Stanley Robinson writes wonderful science fiction, but as usual, I am the odd man out. The book he wrote that remains one of my favorites is not about the future. It is about the past. Way, way..."
I wholeheartedly agree. "Shaman" is excellent. Well worth the read!


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