Avengers of the Moon
Author: Allen Steele
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: July 11, 2017
Review by Stacy Dooks
One of the things I absolutely love about science fiction is the fact that the genre looks to the future, whether it’s to comment on the challenges of the present or to anticipate where burgeoning technologies might take us in the years to come. But for all that I love modern SF and the thought-provoking fare modern speculative fiction has brought us over the years, I have a confession to make: I frickin’ love old-school Sci-Fi. Klunky robots, bug-eyed monsters, square-jawed heroes, and stalwart heroines with ray guns and rocket packs. And rocket ships, not starships you understand, but rocket ships. And if said rocket packs and ships should have fins on them? My friend, I am in like Finn.
Classic space opera has been a part of my life since George Lucas introduced me to the genre with Star Wars. After that, I encountered Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and then later characters like DC Comics Adam Strange, the rocket-pack wearing, ray gun-wielding champion of the planet Rann. In the days before cinematic space opera blockbusters or even movie serials, the pulp magazines were the source of swashbuckling derrring-do amongst the stars, and one of the chief heroes of that era was Thrilling Publications’ space hero supreme, Curt Newton, aka Captain Future. Created by Mort Weisinger and written by Edmond Hamilton, the original run of Captain Future tales ran from 1940 to 1951. Now, years later Allen Steele and Tor Books have given the character a new lease on life and a new take on his origins in Avengers of the Moon. So, does it soar across the stars or does it plummet into a black hole?
Curt Newton is a fairly well-rounded person, all things considered, seeing that he was raised in isolation on the moon by a disembodied brain in a jar, a lumbering construction robot, and a sophisticated android. Although he’s lived a fairly stable life, as he’s become an adult, he’s found himself wanting more from life. When fate places him on the trail to avenging the death of his parents, he inadvertently stumbles upon a plot that could destabilize the whole of the Solar Coalition. Can Curt thwart the plot in time? Will he unravel a mystery older than human civilization? And why in the name of sanity would someone call themselves Captain Future?
I don’t think it’s going to take Hercule Poirot to determine that I loved Avengers of the Moon. Is it a profound work of speculative fiction that challenges our preconceptions vis a vis the human condition? No, but that’s not what Allen Steele is here for. This is a loving reconstruction of Captain Future’s origin story, and it’s clear that Steele had an absolute blast coming up with a thrilling space opera that still found some time to work in a little hard science (there’s a fun explanation for why Curt’s ray gun fires what appears to be smoke rings, and a neat method for ships to engage in speedy interplanetary travel through the solar system via a sort of beam rail system) at the same time. Also, the future needed a slight advancement, as the original Captain Future stories were initially set in that far flung and remote year of 1990. Extensive knowledge of the character and his backstory isn’t required here, just an enthusiasm for some fun, lighthearted adventure.
The Verdict: Buy it!
Avengers of the Moon is a loving callback to classic adventure science fiction. It’s got ray guns, rocket ships, clunky robots, and derring-do aplenty. If that sort of thing sounds up your alley, pick up this volume and the slushy of your choice and enjoy a pleasant summer read. Recommended.