I read two hard SF novels back-to-back, which is something I haven’t done in a while.  (Read two hard SF novels in a row, that is…)  The first was TIME HOLE by Mit Sandru.  (I received this book as a gift!)  The second was MORE THAN HUMAN:  THE MENSA CONTAGION by Steven M. Moore.  (I received this book as a gift as well!)  The books have similarities, although they tell very different stories in terms of subject matter and scope.

TIME HOLE tells the story of an odd discovery on the Moon, where international teams are working at mining and exploratory operations.  A piece of equipment breaks down and a pair of generalists, DeeDee and Arno, are sent to drive the new equipment to the outpost.  On their way they encounter a large crater…but this crater isn’t made by a meteor impact, and it had not been noted before along this road.

When Arno falls in, DeeDee uses the truck’s winch to pull both of them back to safety, and they make a startling discovery.  They aren’t on the same moon that they were on a few minutes ago.  Or, perhaps it’s the same moon, but where in time are they?  Things are much different.

This short novella (47 pages, according to Amazon**) read a little longer than this.  It told a lot of story in those pages, and I came to really care about the two main characters as they tried to get back to their own reality, then find themselves “out of phase” and basically invisible as they return to their base and solve a mystery of what caused the huge time hole on the Moon.

(** ETA:  The author pointed out that it is 119 pages, not 47, and now Amazon reflects this length.  I thought that it seemed a lot longer than 47 pages and was wondering why Amazon said it, but I took them at their word when I looked…)

This is smart science fiction, that requires the reader to think as he reads, and that works around some more advanced scientific concepts.  I enjoyed it quite a lot, and if I have a criticism, it is that the first chapter seemed a little dry, too expository perhaps.  Once the characters are introduced, the story kicks into a higher gear and it became a very good read. The writing is very good, and it was a clean ebook, few errors in terms of things to be caught by a proofreader.  (I don’t really remember seeing any.)  I liked the cover, too.  Intriguing image.

The second book, MORE THAN HUMAN: THE MENSA CONTAGION, promised to be really good and right in my wheelhouse in terms of describing an apocalyptic-type event (disease, one of the standard cataclysms that affect humanity in that sort of book).  But It became a lot more than that.  It became a far-reaching “history” ala Dr. Asimov and his FOUNDATION/EMPIRE future history.

In this story, a meteroid strikes Earth in South Africa, and it carries something with it:  a virus.  It is quickly determined that the virus is a.) bioengineered, and b.) deliberately aimed at Earth.  The story starts with an airline cleaning crew finding a dead body with green sludge oozing from his orifices.  The CDC and the government quickly act to lock down the passengers and crew and anyone associated with the plane, but of course, it’s not enough and the virus gets out.  Others die before the virus mutates — again and again — into something more benign and even beneficial, perhaps.

The virus wakes up the world to the possibility that there is something more out there — and the second part of the book deals with man’s colonization of Mars as a response to a perceived threat by aliens who would target the planet with a virus, even if the virus is meant as a gift.  The third part of the book deals with the discovery of the aliens’ ship found in the vicinity of Saturn, and the resulting recurrent xenophobia brought on by humanity’s first contact with life from somewhere other than Earth.

A lot of packed into the 231 pages of Moore’s novel, which begins to read like a series of short vignettes rather than a continuous story; this style is made necessary by the many jumps in time between significant events.  I was reminded of Heinlein stories as far as the flow and pacing of this story.  With its cast of hundreds (it seemed; I really didn’t count them), this was a novel with an incredibly broad scope and a quite optimistic, if realistic, take on the future of humanity.

As always, this is a well-written and well constructed SF tale, again with a pretty clean job of copyediting and formatting.  Steven M. Moore has something like twenty novels out there, and while I can’t rank this as his best, it’s right up there.  (As an aside — when you’ve read a lot by a particular author, you can’t help “grading” them against their own output, or at least I can’t.  For example, when I read a Stephen King novel, I often think it’s only a “B” effort, but that’s because I’m judging it against King’s best works and not against “all” books.  If that same book had been written by a different, new  (to me) author, I might give it an “A”, if that makes sense.  I think I’m doing that with Steve Moore’s works now.  There have been several that I’ve liked so much that other good stories might suffer a bit in comparison to those.)

In conclusion, I’d say that these are both worthwhile reads for anyone who likes their SF to be of the “hard” variety.  I’d grade them both as “A”.

Happy reading!


4 thoughts on “Two SF Novels: MORE THAN HUMAN and TIME HOLE

  1. Steven M. Moore

    Hi Scott,
    Thanks for the review. I’m happy you enjoyed More than Human. I blush at the comparison to classic authors, though. 🙂
    Time Hole sounds like a cross between the beginning of Hogan’s Giant trilogy and Clarke’s 2001. I’m still trying to get a copy (Amazon snafu). I’ve been chatting with Mit about various things–a kindred spirit for the two of us, methinks.
    Gifting More than Human was without obligations for a review, but I’m happy you wrote it. Jumping among short vignettes is in the style of the Chaos Chronicles. The alternative: something like the extended Foundation series where each vignette becomes a complete novel!
    Mit’s Folding Reality is interesting too. Mit and you might have a winning formula: longer short stories or novellas instead of long sci-fi sagas. They seem to be popular in all genres.

  2. Scott Dyson Post author

    I was happy to write one, and I posted it to Amazon, but while it shows 2 reviews for your book (and 4 for Mit Sandru’s), neither review shows up yet. I’m wondering if Amazon is cross-referencing to see if we “know” each other. (I mentioned in both reviews that I had received gift copies of the books…maybe that’s a flag?)

    I am hopeful that your novels will gain some small part of the audience they deserve! (Though, I take comfort in the idea that you will keep writing them even if they don’t…)

  3. Steven M. Moore

    Hi Scott,
    I noticed that too. It might be my doing. Mit convinced me to add links to authors, which I did on “Steve’s Bookshelf,” but I seem to remember Konrath complaining that Amazon’s bots were looking for links between reviewers and authors and wiping out the reviews. Do you do your reviews under your pen name or real name? If your reviews don’t appear within a few days, let me know, and I’ll take the links down from my site (my link to you is via your pen name, but the link to Mit is via his own name–are the bots smart enough to go from me to Mit to you?).
    You’d think they’d be more concerned about those zero-content one- and two-line reviews. More and more it looks like book reviewing is becoming like American Idol voting–just a popular vote that allows Amazon to produce an average star-ranking, which is all Amazon really cares about.
    You might not want to get too comfortable, by the way. I’m considering two changes: (1) The most radical is to stop releasing ebooks altogether because I’ve never covered costs; or (2) release novels in serialized form on my blog like I did originally for Evil Agenda because that costs nothing. In either case, I would continue promoting those ebooks already released, which will reduce my costs by about 50% in the worst case (some minimal paid PR and marketing like I do now) or by 100% if I just promote where it’s free. Another option is to turn the entire catalog over to one of those ebook distributors that are always contacting me. I’ll continue as is for a while, though, at least to clear three current projects that are part of the C&C series.
    And yes, I’ll always keep writing, but you might not ever see the new stuff! 🙂

  4. Scott Dyson Post author

    My reviews are there, on my profile, but they don’t show up on the book pages, although I received emails from Amazon saying that all of them are live. (I wrote three.) Maybe it was my comment that I received the book as a gift.

    I am also trying placing links as Mit suggested. Can’t hurt.

    Take care!

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