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Sat, Dec. 07

The Dark Side of the Moon

Ever wonder what's on the other side of the moon - the dark side, the far side, the side that is always facing away from Earth, the side we never see?

The moon's rotation on its axis is exactly the same as its rotation around Earth, so the image of the moon that faces Earth never changes. It wasn't until the space age that humans were able to see what's on the other side, first with photographs from the Soviet Luna 3 mission in 1959, and ultimately with the U.S. Apollo manned flights that orbited the moon in the 1960's.

What's interesting from this limited exploration is that scientists now know that the two sides of the moon are very different in appearance and composition, inspiring many works of literature, both prose and poetry. Even the title of a Pink Floyd album.

As expected, many of the novels about the moon and its far, dark side are science fiction. Two recent such books, written by scifi veterans, have come into our bookstore and I enjoyed reading both very much.

Both are what I would call contemporary science fiction, taking place in the not-too-distant future - as opposed to other futuristic novels that involve super-advanced technology, travel at the speed of light or more and advanced alien civilizations.

The first is The Cassandra Project by Jack McDevitt and Mike Resnick, a combination thriller and science fiction novel whose plot is based on the possibility that maybe Neil Armstong was not the first American to walk on the moon. The authors masterfully incorporate future conspiracy theories into the politics of the 1960's and '70's, with a genuine "I didn't see that coming!" finale.

The second is Farside by Ben Bova, a near-future story involving human colonization of the far side of the moon and including the building of our civilization's largest astronomical observatory there. This book is also part thriller, part science fiction, with a little more emphasis on the latter. A page-turner for sure, with tension gradually building to the book's climax.

The next full moon happens to be on Valentine's Day this year - Feb. 14. Maybe when you look at the moon that night, after a romantic dinner with your honey, you might just wonder what may lurk on its dark side. Make sure to use your imagination - you probably won't be wrong.

Joe Neri is the co-owner of The Well Red Coyote bookstore in Sedona. He can be contacted at (928) 282-2284 or books@wellredcoyote.com.)

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