A Draft of Moonlight Paperback
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R.H. Burkett, author
I simply don't have the words. Awful would sum it up best.
Even his writers club nerd friends couldn't find it within themselves to give it more than 3 stars. That tells you everything you need to know.
With A Draft of Moonlight, I had to take a middle road. I wouldn't call this Greg's best work--he has a space opera and some Westerns that are much better written--but it's probably far from his worst (I haven't seen that yet, so maybe this is his worst).
It's not the concept I have trouble with. That, in and of itself, is probably the strongest part of the story: the idea that the Russians reached the moon before the US did, and left a nuclear weapon behind in a long-range plan that outlasted the Soviet Union itself is highly entertaining and interesting. I might have executed the story differently, but that's the beauty of different writers: we take the same idea and put a different spin on it.
The story revolves around one Robert Smith who, it turns out, is a secret agent for the US government, and his mission is to do something about the nuclear device on the moon. I won't give away exactly why--that's part of one of the twists of this tale--I'll just say it's necessary for a very good reason. There's a lot of wrangling going on, people advancing plots and trying to either counter other plots or at least figure them out, and there's even a romance subplot. What good thriller doesn't have one of those?
But if the story is strong, the writing itself leaves a bit to be desired. Especially from someone as talented as Greg is. Part of that, I must admit, is that Greg is a fan of Isaac Asimov. And while I'd be the last to diminish the late doctor, I'd also be the first to say his writing isn't for everyone. Both writers have characters who have long, somewhat intellectual conversations. We learn a lot about the characters this way, but we also sit in place for long periods of time. Granted, in science fiction, this is one of the best ways to convey lots of information about what's happened between our time and theirs, but it still gets stale after a bit. I kept wanting to tell them to just get up and do something, already.
Despite all this talking, we don't get as much internalization as I think these characters deserve. A Draft of Moonlight isn't a long book, but it could have been a bit longer and not suffered for it if there was more internalization. We rarely get to see what these characters think of the things they're going through. There are some flashbacks, as well as a few occasions when we get the exasperation or boredom or whatever, but on the whole, a lot of things happen and the characters just keep right on going without batting an eye at most of it.
I won't keep on dissecting the story bit by bit. I will recommend reading the book, though, especially if you like small twists on established history that are done well enough to leave you wondering if, possibly, this could have happened.
And, in the end, isn't that what we want out of all our stories?
Well worth the read, but don't expect hard science fiction.