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September 30th, 2006, 08:30 PM #1
October '06 BOTM: Rogue Moon by Algis Budrys
Discussion is now open on Rogue Moon. Ropie contributed a few questions to kick us off:
1. I saw Rogue Moon as a somewhat disjointed mix of hard science fiction, philosophy and melodrama. To what extent did you find the mix of styles worked together?
2. Budrys keeps the action on the moon very conspicuously in the background until near the end. Did you find this intriguing or annoying?
3. David Pringle calls Rogue Moon "one of the first really modern, modern sci-fi books". What the hell is he on about?
4. Did you find Barker convincing as the 'man's man' and hero?
5. What did you think of the complex process of copying and duplicating required to send versions of the men to the moon? What about the even more complex psychological and philosophical implications of this?
October 1st, 2006, 09:49 AM #2
First of all, I'd like to say that I read the book about one year ago and I didn't like it all. I expected a Big Fumb Object story, something like "Rendezvous with Rama", and I was completely dissapointed
Now my answers to the questions:
1) Not at all. The SF setting was irrelevant most of the time and I couldn't get interested in the characters and their stories...
2) Completely annoying. I wanted to know *why* the maze was there and *what for* but that seemed to be of no interest to the characters and to the author himself
3) It's been a long time since I realized that Pringle's taste and mine are not very alike and "Rogue moon" proves it even more.
4) No. Most of his actions seemed completely ridiculous to me. I couldn't see his motivations.
5) I think it was not very well developed and didn't add much to the story. The philosophical implications were not very deeply explored
October 2nd, 2006, 04:38 AM #3
Odo, I agree with you on some levels, though I had read about Budrys and knew that he doesn't write like many other SF writers.
To answer my own questions:
1. As I said, I found the book disjointed and very odd, very dated. The occasional glimpse of the moon was inserted and withdrawn almost as if two very different books had accidentally come together. This was not unenjoyable in some way but the weaker parts of the story got much too much pen-time.
2. I could almost appreciate what Budrys was trying to do here. I got the feeling he was just trying to put two fingers up to Western-style SF of the day by purposefully seting up a classic, potentially (science-fictionally) fascinating event on the moon and almost totally ignoring it in favour of the ensuing character driven banalities back on Earth. Really, if I want this kind of character analysis, a 1960s SF novel is not the place I'd go looking for it. Most of the characters were laughable in their objectives and one dimensionality and their life stories ranged from a bit strange to very dull. Quite why Budrys thought readers would gain from this book by knowing more about his characters than the actual story perhaps shows a naive side to his writing here.
Also, it was a shame that when we did get a chapter set on the moon and the journey through the maze, it was pretty weak and not anything like as terrifying as it had been set up to be. Maybe it would have been better if he'd left it as pure report and conjecture.
3. I think, with relation to the above answer, Rogue Moon could be seen to be presenting one idea and dealing with it in a completely unnatural way for the genre at that time. Like I say, I respect what Budrys was trying to do but think he failed. I'm not quite sure of the chronology here, but it seems that Budrys was drawing from Eastern European SF, especially Lem (Budrys himself is of Eastern European descent). The way science fiction could be observed from a remote standpoint was a favourite method of Lem's and of the Strugatsky brothers.
4. The characters really drive Rogue Moon but I wasn't really interested in them. I quite enjoyed the way they were set up as rather jaded beings from a film-noir, but don't think they really had the substance or interest to carry the book. Barker himself was little more than Budrys' idea of a gun-toting all-American ex-GI and not a very convincing one at that.
5. This was where Budrys succeeded to a large degree. I agree with Odo that he didn't concentrate enough of his writing into dealing with this aspect of the story. I think what he touched on was very interesting, but fed to us through the mouths of those rather self-obsessed characters it was tough to discern a lot of the substance. I don't have much time to talk about it now but I liked the way the problems of the duplicated men were talked about, even if it was a bit of a cop-out to say that most of them felt like committing suicide.
So, in parts a potentially great book, but with such distended waffle from the main characters that most of it was quite trite. At least it was a quick read.
I'd give two stars out of five for this one.
Edit - apparently Rogue Moon was developed from a short story - anyone read it?
Last edited by Ropie; October 2nd, 2006 at 06:17 AM.
October 3rd, 2006, 07:41 PM #4
I'm pretty much on the same page on most points with you gents above, about this one...
Now, I have a soft spot for pretentious gab fest 50's/60's SF, but this one certainly didn't hit that spot. Perhaps it seemed cutting edge when it was first published, but it's mildewed and smelly now. I wonder if it maintains some of it's status because Budrys is such a highly esteemed SF critic. I can tell you for my part, that Michealmas has been moved way down in the TBR pile after reading this relic.
My main take on this novel is that it seems like a mix of an exceptionally windy and pungent Outer Limits episode, and any old William Holden movie, where he gets to tell somebody or everybody off at the end.The spectre of WW2 and Korea, and the resultant martial definition of manhood, looms large over all the characters in this overwrought coldwar novel. Barker is the "action man", and of course he's a man of culture too, so he can quote passages from plays whilst being manly. I've read this wet dream so many times in the past two years, I can't tell you how sick I'm getting of it. All the character stuff about Hawks, Barker with his nympho chick, and cowboy booted job placement exec would perhaps be fun, if Budrys didn't take it all so seriously. Since he does, it seems quite ludicrous.
If this were an ep of The Outer Limits, we'd ride though this business, because we'd get to see something cool when we got to the Death Zone on the Moon at the end of the show. Not here though -no fun allowed. Budrys keeps that way,way out of focus to concentrate on his murmuring, angst ridden, existential puppets.So it's easy to come out of this novel feeling that you got bupkis. And why is it that initially in the Death Zone you can't cross your eyes and whistle without being turned inside out, and in the end Barker and Hawks are running through the thing like it's morning calisthenics at an army training facility?
Hawks' big windy, noble speech at the end, about a duplicate's desire, or responsiblity to die is, take your pick: unconvincing, false, plot serving, contrived, totally lacking in human behavioural insight...
To label it a "cop out" is a good call.
This is ultimately a posturing bozo of a book ; completely unsuccessful at any insightful consideration of the moral, existential themes it wishes to bring up, totally lacking in any convincing portrayal of human behaviour in it's characterization, and bereft of the tricks and treats that might make you forgive these failings.
It gets two stars as opposed to one or none, due its complete oddness, and it's brevity -it's only saving features, IMO.
As far as Pringle goes- oh well can't be right all the time. It's not the only SF "classic" that people keep bringing up that's more work than it's worth.
I do love the Gold Medal pb cover illo, though. No kidding-it's the cover that sold me on reading this. I would have hung a scan on my wall, but the book turned out to be P-U.
On another note:
If you like the texture and charm of pretentious 50's/60's SF, a much more thought provoking read can be found in Charles Harness' The Rose. Same weirdo unconvincing kind of characters, but in a more surreal context that at least makes that less of an issue. IMO,it will get you thinking, as opposed to pretending to do so and striking a pose. And the ending is oddly, almost inexplicably, moving.
Last edited by ArthurFrayn; November 19th, 2006 at 10:29 AM.
October 4th, 2006, 03:45 AM #5Originally Posted by ArthurFrayn
I'd disagree that Rogue Moon was more work than it was worth though, simply because it was so concise. And there was something about it I did like; it could be,as you say, the 50s/60s oddness and texture of it. Budrys is still a writer I'd like to read further. I think he may well have got a grip on his ideas and characters as his writing matured and his point of view is sufficiently different to that of most SF writers to make him worth reading IMO.
Not a particularly great read though, this one, it has to be said. I'll check out The Rose too.
October 4th, 2006, 03:57 AM #6Originally Posted by Ropie
October 4th, 2006, 09:40 AM #7I'd disagree that Rogue Moon was more work than it was worth though, simply because it was so concise.
I'm not sure if Budrys cared that he couldn't really write convincingly about the strange zone of the maze but when I think of passages from the Strugatsky's Roadside Picnic, Lem's Eden and especially Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman, where undescribable places are described with such success, it makes me think that he should have do
Last edited by ArthurFrayn; October 5th, 2006 at 12:36 AM.
October 4th, 2006, 03:38 PM #8Originally Posted by ArthurFrayn
Michael Moorcock describes The Rose as "one of the 5 best SF novels ever written". I wonder if he still thinks that?
October 4th, 2006, 05:14 PM #9Michael Moorcock describes The Rose as "one of the 5 best SF novels ever written". I wonder if he still thinks that?
Harness, for me is turning out to be a fairly fascinating writer, in the way someone like Lafferty is. The pb release of The Rose that Moorcock guided to reprint in the 60s, comes bundled with a story called The New Reality. That, despite it's unnerving religious underpinnings (Harness was a seminarian and considered the priesthood when he was young) is a mind blower.
Both of them are bundled in the not cheap NESFA anthology An Ornament To His Profession ( I did buy though) as well as the pb I mentioned. But Harness is such an odd duck, he's good to approach slowly. The Paradox Men and The Rose are where I've started. I'd recommend reading one or the other before diving into the deep end of the pool.
Moorcock/Bayley/Ballard (the apparent 3 musketeers of the British New Wave), were very enthusiastic about The Rose.
If you do a bit of Googling, you'll encounter Moorcock's forum where he talks a bit about Harness, in memorium-Harness died last year.
Last edited by ArthurFrayn; October 9th, 2006 at 09:57 AM.
October 10th, 2006, 05:12 AM #10
Has anyone else read it? I know Erf said he enjoyed it. Would be good to have a positive opinion...
October 10th, 2006, 08:53 AM #11
I'm working on coming along with comments. I did kind of like it. I'm just so darned slow at writing book club posts that I try to make sure I have a good long chunk of time before I sit down to write them. Chunks of time have been a little more rare lately, but I'm working on getting more of them.
October 24th, 2006, 10:20 AM #12
Me Backa. SFFWorld was really cranky with me last week. I could get to the forum listings, but it would usually crap out after that. So no luck posting last week very much.
As to the book:
I quite enjoyed Rogue Moon, but I find it pretty hard not to enjoy a book that I can read at one sitting. At the beginning I did have some concern that these were wildly unreal people. But as it became more clear what Budrys was doing with them, it became a little more forgivable. I think they're all so blatantly focused on their one personality trait because there just wasn't enough room in a book this size to flesh them out in more directions. And the shortness was one of its selling points for me.
1. Sort of in relation to what I said above. I think Budrys was trying to explore what would happen if these particular personalities were put into conflict. So while there was the whole "transportation-copy" pseudoscience of the whole thing, I think the book was far more a character study than anything else. So I don't necessarily agree that it's a mishmash. As a character study, I think it's very focused on what it's trying to do. It does give us the characters through this lens of exploring the moon, but that's not what I felt the book was about.
It's about these people with power obsessions. The Doctor who is obsessed with his research to prove his power over science, the MANman who is obsessed with pushing all boundaries to prove his power over the world, the mynx-woman who wants to manipulate these men around her in order to prove her power over them and thus the world, the manipulator-man who wants to weave the webs of conflict to show he can control all of these other people. (The names have all grown foggy.)
What happens is a little melodramatic, I agree, but the people are all so over-the-top in their personalities that I don't think friction between them can be presented in any way other than melodrama.
The splash of philosophy I felt made things more interesting, but, again, the main event seemed to be studying how these people interacted (not a very hard SF concept at all, really. Much more akin to a lot of later socio-SF).
2. The moon being in the background: While I was intrigued by the base on the moon and found it to be an interesting concept, as can be seen in No. 1, I didn't really think it was but so relevant to what Budrys was doing, so I was perfectly content with how it was presented. If it had turned into a book about exploring this BDO on the moon, rather than these larger-than-life characters, I think I would have had a problem with it, probably the same problem I had with Ringworld, that the characters aren't necessarily serving the purposes of the story. In this case, as the story is the characters I felt it was fine.
3. What the hell is he on about? Again, I think one of the reasons reads as freshly as it does to me is because it is written like a lot of SF in the '80s and '90s, when people really started exploring the soft sciences, human interaction, things like that in SF books, rather than strictly hard scientific ideas or bug-eyed monsters. I would stick this book in the same category as Peter Watt's Starfish or Michael Flynn's The Wreck of The River of Stars.
4. I found him convincing in that his GOAL was to be the man's-man and hero. And I found him convincing in that his role in the story was to strive for that place. As to whether he got there, I think all the characters in the book had to face that their goals were a little on the extreme side.
No time for the last one right now.
October 26th, 2006, 02:10 PM #13A novella which sucessfully presents a kind of "death maze" full of riddles and traps is "Diamond dogs" by Alastair Reynolds. In fact, it pays a kind of homage to Rogue Moon (and also to Indiana Jones and The Cube ). It is one of the best novellas I've ever read and I recommend it to anyone which read RM expecting an exploration of an alien artifact.
December 17th, 2006, 03:22 AM #14
I recall reading "Rogue Moon" when it was new out. It sticks in my mind because, for the period, Budrys definitely delivered a "sense of strange" which marked him out from the general run of his contemporaries.
Not a classic, though, I have to admit. I notice that I no longer have my copy of the book - I must have disposed of it at some point as not worthy of one of the hotly-contested spaces on my bookshelves. I have kept one book as a representative of Budrys' work: my favourite of his, "The Iron Thorn". Again, not great, but different - and worth a read.
January 3rd, 2007, 06:51 AM #15