RogerBW's Blog

Red Moon 13 April 2019

2019 alternate-history audio drama in six parts, by Robert Valentine. In 1979, both USA and USSR have lunar bases packed with nuclear missiles aimed at Earth. But Jack Sloper, former MI5 agent now in a dead-end job in the Space Liaison Department, is just concerned about an inventory mismatch…

This is well-researched: the divergence happens with Korolev living long enough (and being clever enough) to make the N1 work reliably, after which there's a Soviet first lunar landing, and with the USA always playing catch-up neither side feels it can stop. (No mention of the various nuclear rocket engines and planned trips to Mars which were among the real-world casualties of the end of the space race.) Some of this is infodumped, with characters telling each other things they really ought already to know, but it's done with reasonable subtlety; and there are points which are pretty obscure even to me, like the abandoned Inner London Monorail plan.

There are perhaps just a few too many aren't-we-clever parallels from real history: I admit I groaned a bit when I heard that the Women's Peace Camp (a couple of years early) was outside RAF Spadeadam rather than Greenham Common. But mostly this is a good action-adventure story, narrated primarily by Sloper and to a lesser extent by a Dr Madison, whose place in the narrative isn't initially clear.

There's a touch of Edge of Darkness or SS-GB cynicism about the business, but unlike those stories this one never forgets that it's a thriller rather than a meditation on the hopelessness of everything. And in order to work a thriller has to offer hope.

As something of an amateur sound mixer myself, I found the audio production highly enjoyable, particularly with environmental sound cues that set the various scenes, and some excellent reverberation effects in a scene in a parking garage.

It's not trying to be drama for the ages, but I rather enjoyed it. Freely available from the BBC site.

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