Book Review: The Moonborn (or how a science fiction book has convinced me to read Moby-Dick)

Posted: November 13, 2016 by patricksponaugle in Book Review, Opinion, Writing
Tags: , , , , ,

moonborn

The Moonborn, the debut science fiction novel by D. F. Lovett, is an excellent read.

I don’t want to say too much about the book, since I’ve given a positive recommendation (which might be enough for some of you) but I think due diligence or whatever suggests that I should prove that I’ve read this book, and at least make an attempt to entice you into reading it (which is what I hope to do.)

If The Moonborn was a bad book (it was not) then I would try warn you away appropriately (I am not warning you away) and not provide spoilers, regardless.

So I’ll give information about the book, hopefully all non-spoilery, and you can decide to stop reading this review when your mind is made up. But you may as well read the whole review because as is my style, I’ll probably ramble into other tangential-but-related topics of interest.

The Moonborn: Just give me the facts, Ishmael. Can I call you Ishmael?

Title: The Moonborn
Subtitle: or, Moby-Dick, on the Moon
Author: D. F. Lovett
Length: 53k words
Publisher: D.F. Lovett (independent/self-published)
Publication date: November 14th, 2016
Summary: When Ishmael lands on the Moon to ghostwrite the autobiography of Adam Moonborn, first man born on the Moon, he learns the job is not as straightforward as it seemed. They soon embark on a mission to destroy all of the Moon’s rogue robots, whom Moonborn holds responsible for the death of his family and the impending downfall of civilization. A tale of hubris and redemption, The Moonborn reimagines Melville’s Moby-Dick, on the Moon, in the future.

The above info is directly from the book’s official description. You can verify that if you must from its Goodreads page.

Now, you might not have ever read Moby-Dick but don’t be afraid. It’s not a requirement to do so to enjoy this book. In fact, you’ll be in good company with the narrator.

I enjoyed The Moonborn‘s explicit meta-references to Herman Melville’s novel. Full disclosure, I haven’t actually read Moby-Dick, but I’ve seen it presented in enough media (including the animated version starring Mister Magoo) that I could describe the big story. The Moonborn is definitely inspired by the story of Moby-Dick, but it is not some rote exercise where science fiction elements are just substituted in.

What? I hear you say. It’s just not a story about some guys chasing a space-whale?

That’s exactly what I’m saying.

Oh, you might argue otherwise. They both have a narrator named Ishmael, and Adam Moonborn has much in common with the driven Captain Ahab. There are deliberate similarities. But it’s not just whaling boats in space.

moby-dick_1_cropped

I could talk more about similarities and differences, but as I said before, I’m not interested in spoiling the plot specifics. You should go read the book, and then talk to me.

But I can talk about other stuff.

Call Me Ishmael. Call Me Conrad*.

If I can step away from the plot of The Moonborn for a moment (and therefore avoiding spoiling either The Moonborn or the plot of Moby-Dick), I’d like to mention the style of writing. I’m a big fan of the late Roger Zelazny, a science fiction author who wrote amazing and engaging science fiction and fantasy stories.

When I was reading The Moonborn, I was struck how Lovett had a similar “voice” to Zelazny’s. Don’t ask me to describe the “voice” – I’m not the guy who can do that. There’s just this lyrical and poetic quality to the writing.

Roger Zelazny’s works often made literary references, or in the case of For A Breath I Tarry, explicitly included classic literature elements that he science-fictionalized.

People. Track down Zelazny’s For A Breath I Tarry and read it. You’ll find it in a collection with Zelazny’s The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth, which might be a good companion piece to read with The Moonborn. (Which you should also read in case you’ve forgotten the topic of this post.)

doorsface

I want you to understand this: I do not lightly compare someone to Roger Zelazny.

Zelazny was the first science fiction author I ever sought out to see live and in-person. (That would be at the very first science fiction convention I ever attended: Balticon XXI in 1987.) His books are very meaningful to me.

The science fiction universe that Lovett presents has an old-school retro feel. There’s Earth, lunar colonies, Martian colonies, and asteroid mining. It feels like a very familiar setting. But he’s updated his future with things that didn’t exist when pioneer science fiction authors, like Robert Heinlein, were cranking out their works. A lot of this retro-yet-contemporary feel is accomplished by the carefully-chosen terms that he uses.

He doesn’t go into great or unnecessary detail, but how he names things carries a lot of narrative weight. For example: there’s the use of one word, the adjective “sovereign” that carries along a history book-sized implication of backstory to his world. One word.

He has a taxonomy for robots that is perfectly logical, seems obvious, and yet is (in my opinion) unique and groundbreaking.

The ease in which he achieves his world building is really impressive. Specifically lore of the Moon, which works in old superstitions and relatively contemporary Moon-misconceptions. (No other context will be provided, hit me up after you read the book.)

This hits all of the sweet spots of speculative fiction for me. Something a little old, something a little new, and something [untranslateable].

I mentioned the lyrical, poetic quality to the writing, and I meant it. Lovett has an economy of words when it comes to description, but perfectly describes things enough for my mind’s eye to fill in the blanks. If I was an artist (I really wish I was) I think I would be working on adapting The Moonborn into a graphic novel. (Someone should get on this.)

Thar She Blows!

Okay, time to get real. This book was definitely something I enjoyed, but your mileage may vary.

If you like a lot of hardware in your science fiction, and lots of action, this might not scratch that itch. I mean, there are spacecrafts, lasers, bubble-helmeted spacesuits, etc. But that’s not really the central focus. At least, not from an action-y perspective.

Much like its inspiration (based on what I know from Melville scholars) The Moonborn is an introspective story, and someone who is used to having everything spelled out for them might not necessarily recognize or appreciate that. With just the little bit of Moby-Dick knowledge at my disposal, I gleaned a lot out of the more subtle stuff that was woven through the story.

So even though I say reading Moby-Dick isn’t required, I’m recommending it. I’ll probably make some time to read Moby-Dick, so I can come back and re-read The Moonborn.

Scrimshaw and Circuitboards

The expected publication date of The Moonborn is November 14th 2016 (coming up!) and as I’ve said several times before, I recommend it to fans of science fiction. My PDF copy comes in around 100 pages, so it’s not a long read.

Even though I have the book digitally, I plan on getting a physical copy. Part of that is to show support to Lovett, part of it is because I just like physical books, but largely because I want to loan a physical copy to my dad, who is both a crusty nautical salt and someone that I got hooked on science fiction many, many years ago. It’s the kind of book I want him to read so we can discuss.

If I’ve not convinced you to pick up the book, or you would like to read more of D. F. Lovett’s writing before you commit to The Moonborn, I recommend you at least check out his blog, What Would Bale Do, specifically his beginner’s guide to reading Kurt Vonnegut. He’s someone I can talk about Batman with.

(You can also find him posting on Reddit, but Reddit still scares me.)

And hey, if you’re ready to order the book right now, in paperback and/or kindle? Here’s the details:

Paperback:https://www.amazon.com/Moonborn-Moby-Dick-D-F-Lovett/dp/0998379409/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Moonborn-Moby-Dick-D-F-Lovett-ebook/dp/B01M17L0VH/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

So, The Moonborn: One Thumbs Up. (Why one and not two? I’ve been lectured by my buddy David Hart from the Pop Culture Case Studies podcast that reviewers should only indicate like or dislike. There is no middle ground. And one thumbs is all that’s required. I don’t make these rules, I just follow them meekly.)

Order your copy today!

moonborn


Special thanks to D. F. Lovett for requesting I read and review The Moonborn.

*”Call Me Conrad” is a reference to Roger Zelazny’s science fiction novel This Immortal. The fact that I had to explain that in a footnote means more people need to read all of Zelazny’s work.

Images are from the cover of The Moonborn by D. F. Lovett, the cover of The Doors of His Face, the Lamps of His Mouth by Roger Zelazny, and a production still from the 1964 animated feature The Famous Adventures of Mister Magoo, which told the story of Moby-Dick. I make no claims to the images. I usually reserve rights to my text, but am about to make an exception…

I give permission for anyone to reproduce and share this review. (Look at how cute I am, thinking that someone would do that, with or without my permissions. It’s adorable, really.)

© Patrick Sponaugle 2016 Some Rights Reserved

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Comments
  1. This sounds very interesting! I read a little of Moby Dick in high school but did not finish it (oops, and yeah it was for a class). Maybe I’d appreciate it more now, but at the time, I was a pretty avid reader anyway and felt like I was wasting my time reading these tedious descriptions of whaling when I could be reading other things I actually enjoyed. Maybe I’d find all that fascinating now, I don’t know. Yet the overall story of Ahab and the whale has always sounded so good! I might have to pick The Moonborn up soon, as I’m always looking for more sci-fi books.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Kas says:

    This sounds intriguing! I tend to love the introspective stuff and I’ve been meaning to read Moby Dick for a while now, so I’m guessing I should get on that and also check this book out.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. DFLovett says:

    Thanks for the review! Looking forward to your Moby-Dick review next!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. […] This was one of those weird situations where I heard about one thing from two different sources in a short amount of time.  I received a Twitter DM from the author D.F. Lovett the other day asking if I wanted to read/review his book.  Due to me not having any time and currently embroiled in four other books, I had to politely decline, but since I know how hard it is to be a writer and readers are our lifeblood, I did ask him what the book’s title was so I could add it to my TBR list.  Upon hearing the title, a memory sparked in my head, because I knew I’d heard the name recently, and after some rumination, I recalled that Pat Sponaugle had reviewed it here on his blog. […]

    Liked by 2 people

  5. chattykerry says:

    That sounds really good. There was a Star Trek New Generation episode that focused on something similar. They thought it was a ship but it was an organic being whose crew had died and the empath who found it went to live happily ever after. You haven’t found my dragons yet. Ser Patrick….https://chattykerry.wordpress.com/2016/11/16/1901/

    Liked by 2 people

  6. […] told David that I would love to give his book a try after reading Patrick’s review of the same. It took me a little longer than I expected because of my constant travel and other […]

    Liked by 2 people

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