“Humans can’t go ten years off-planet without committing murder among ourselves.” – Scott Harral

Science has found that social isolation can lead to various adverse effects on people’s minds since, by nature, they are social beings. But what about the “cream of the crops”? Will they also be affected by these effects? This notion is the central principle author Wayne Scott Harral unravels throughout his science-fiction book, Moon Luck.

Set in the future, Moon Luck makes space exploration and moon habitation a reality. It follows the lives of the smartest scientists and astronauts as they inhabit the moon to conduct various experiments and research on its resources. The primary story focuses on one particular station housing 30 astronauts, the Venturous. Right off the bat, the book presents its readers with the main conflict: the murder of one of the station’s astronauts. However, the victim is only disclosed in the later chapters once the characters’ dynamics and rocky relationships have been established. In an unfortunate incident, an explosion in one of their base’s modules, readers are presented with their casualty, a senior astronaut and Venturous’ executive officer: Bruce Holmann. 

Following the latter’s death, Venturous falls into disarray as they begin to suspect crewmates and investigate who the perpetrator is. As the story progresses, readers will be introduced to different characters, within and outside the Venturous station, seemingly showing suspicious behavior. Some even harbor grudges or opinions that can easily make them look like the prime suspects. Since readers are immediately made aware of the inciting event, it lures them to decipher the mystery along with the other characters.

A Remarkable Take on a Murder Mystery

Upon reading the synopsis and the initial chapters, one would assume that Moon Luck is simply a mystery thriller strictly revolving around solving Bruce’s murder and that the narrative about moon habitation would be glossed over. However, Scott Harral went beyond one’s expectations and juggled both, giving his readers an extraordinary, seat-gripping murder mystery and a fascinating science fiction in one.

The murder mystery portion of the book is, admittedly, a very cliché plot. Someone in the group gets killed, and the others must find the killer before more death occurs. It’s been done hundreds, even thousands of times. But what Harral does is take this cliché and add a unique twist. Unlike the commonplace plot, where they find out the killer they get taken care of, Harral uses the moon as a setting, thus upping the stakes and limiting the characters’ movements. If they do find out who the killer is, what happens then? They can’t just send anyone to the moon, nor can they send the person back on earth. They get stuck with the threat.

A Clever Choice of Sticking to Realism

While Moon Luck is first and foremost science fiction, I liked how the author wrote the story’s details closest as they can be to reality. Such that, the moon habitation program does without highly fictional equipment – those you can find in sci-fi novels. The moon base’s structure seems doable and can realistically exist in its set time, the 2030s. It becomes evident that the author did ample research before writing the story, showing how easily readers can picture the base’s structure and function in the future.

This realism isn’t limited to the characters and the story’s settings. It also includes how realistic Harral made his characters react to the death of their colleague. While the book’s main plot is Bruce’s death and the search for the killer, the book doesn’t revolve around that alone. Since the characters already had a mission before the death or a purpose for their habitation on the moon, it’s only plausible that the death takes a toll on their emotions, yes, but doesn’t fully take their focus away. I’m glad that the author chose this path of writing the subsequent events.

An Excellent Utilization of Red Herring

If I were to point out a specific factor in the book that I believe had the most impact on the story and the overall feel of the book, I would pick how Scott Harral utilized red herrings throughout the story.

After the pivotal event, some authors would have become predictable because there is already an evident perpetrator. But Harral wrote his book because everyone can be a suspect. The journey of finding out who the perpetrator is doesn’t fall flat, as Harral hits the crucial point in every mystery book: a perfect diversion. Throughout the story, readers are convinced that this one character is the primary suspect since the author establishes their relationship as the rockiest among the team. The characters are shown to believe in this idea as well, thus making it seem like the most plausible answer to the mystery. However, this only throws the readers off the killer, who isn’t suspicious.

Nothing is perfect, and so is Moon Luck

While realism makes the book exciting, it still has a disadvantage and negative influence on the story’s fictional elements. Throughout the story, there is a reappearing character who also exists in real life. Elon Musk, a known personality in the current times, makes an appearance in the book as a character that offers assistance regarding the technological aspects of the mission – pretty realistic. However, knowing that Elon Musk exists in this timeline may limit the readers’ liberty to imagine the book and its characters the way they want them to by being constrained to a specific timeline and setting.

The book also had subtle mistakes technicality-wise. There were mistakes in punctuation, precisely quotation marks, during the dialogue. They didn’t significantly impact the book’s flow, but there were instances where it became confusing when the dialogue ended and the narration began. If you’re a reader who can be fussy about this, then perhaps, you’d give the book a lower rating than the others.

Nonetheless, besides these points, I think the book is well-written. In fact, I could imagine it being made into a movie. If I were to rate it, I’d give it a good 9.5/10 with the abovementioned points as my only criticism. If you’re a sci-fi fan and won’t mind reading those points mentioned, I suggest you grab the book and give it a try.