Hugh A.D. Spencer has a history of publishing off-kilter SF stories which garner award nominations. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, The Hard Side of the Moon makes for a worthwhile introduction.
Title: Hard Side of the Moon
Author: Hugh A.D. Spencer
First published: September 10, 2021
Prairie-town slacker Matthew Bishop works at a 1970s college radio station that he suspects has a “transmitter… powered by to no-name penlight batteries” that “probably never broadcast much further than the campus buildings, the Esso station on University Drive and the (in)convenience store on Highway Two (11). He also makes Capekoids– robotic looking art pieces– hangs out with would-be revolutionaries, and worries about his mother’s impending marriage to a jerkass who works for a shady corporation. Where can all of this lead, except to a slave labor camp on the moon run with the aid of extraterrestrial technology, and a position providing entertainment for the enslaved workers?
Spencer writes with his own style and voice, but readers will find it hard to miss the influence of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. An absurdist,satiric look at people, economic systems, insular fandoms, college radio, and science fiction itself, its strongest points include the satiric asides and the frequent, hilarious interruptions by radio broadcasts. The adventures of the Capekoids works well at unifying the novel. Indeed, he could have kept the novel on earth and it might have worked as well.
The novel dissembles a little in its final chapters, and some elements remain unresolved. These include the fate of characters who play significant roles in setting the story in motion.
Originality: 5/6 A robot-obsessed college radio DJ ends up working for a secret labor camp on the moon in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I don’t know that I’ve read that story before.
Emotional Response: 5/6
Overall score: 5/6
In total, The Hard Side of the Moon receives 35/42