NP Novellas, 2022, Paperback, 99pp, £9.99, ISBN 978-1-914953-13-2
This book review was written in 2022 for Vector, the magazine of the British Science Fiction Association.
It’s not an easy life on Saturn’s moon Epimetheus: there are only three of you stationed there, each tour of duty lasts ten years (three years there, three years back, and four years in the middle on Epimetheus); plus, it takes an hour for any communications to even reach Earth, let alone get back!
On the plus side, you’re doing vital and important work, watching over the mass accelerators stationed there ready to deflect any rogue comets or asteroids that might be inclined to pay Earth a visit. And, if you’re Roxy Micah, you’re also glad to be a long way away from your mother, the infamous General Micah, currently on trial for ordering the bombardment, six years ago, of the moon colonies, after they tried to secede from the home world. Or did they? Not everyone’s convinced they really blew up that old SpaceX Station and threatened to attack Earth with their lunar mass drivers, but hopefully the truth will come out during the trial. Hopefully.
Anyway, you’ll soon find out: the long-overdue court verdict is due any day, and it’s not as though you’re close to your mother – you haven’t had a proper conversation with her for a long time now, thanks largely – but not entirely – to the time-lag. You were having communication problems with your mother long before that.
And really it’s not so bad, just the three of you up here. You get on pretty well with your co-worker Karl and your boss, Major Nakita. You’ve got a routine that works, and you’re only a few weeks away from beginning the long haul home, after which you’ll be pretty much set for life.
At least then you might be able to escape from your mother’s shadow, regardless of the court verdict on her. Right now, the only shadow you’re under is the that of giant Saturn, which is impressive…or was for the first couple of years. Amazing how even a view like that becomes routine after a while.
Then you get a communication from the Cronos, the joint venture between Nasa and private finance that’s come to Saturn for… well, you’re not quite sure. Something to do with the ESA. But it is carrying the very latest high-tech cutting-edge communications gear, which enables your mother to talk to you without that time-lag you’ve been enjoying all these years.
And what a conversation that was: suggesting you come home early, fired back to Earth using the mass drivers you watch over on Epimetheus. But that’s never even been tested before. Why would you want to do such a crazy thing anyway? And why is your mother, of all people, telling you to do this? Something weird is definitely going on here. Does your mother know something about the forthcoming court verdict on her alleged murder (and, to be fair, it is still alleged) of the moon colonies? Christ, you hope nothing else goes weird: this is deep space, you want dull and predictable all the way. Fingers crossed things stay like that.
That’s an impressive amount of plot and world building compressed into just 99 pages, and My Mother Murdered The Moon somehow manages to make it look easy. Deas’ relatively spare style does an impressive a job of quietly building a dark world of interplanetary politics, all the while painting in the smaller, more intimate details of this quiet, closed life amongst a very sparsely populated outer solar system.
Then, suddenly, there’s a mystery to be solved, in which so many earlier minor details turn like clockwork, playing their part to bring everything to a climax.
Deas does a superb job of squeezing in a lot of story and character, but My Mother Murdered The Moon never feels cramped or rushed.
I wish all novellas could be this satisfying – hell, there are some novels I wish could be this satisfying!