On the airless surface of the Moon the ‘cold war’ continues, with the bases of the major world powers watching each other and waiting . . .
The dedicated personnel of Britain’s Moon Base seemed well-adjusted to their peculiar existence despite a series of mysterious happenings. What bothers them most is the visit of a Royal Commission sent by an economically-worried British Government to investigate expenditure. Travelling with the Commission, but under separate and secret orders, is Felix Larsen, who’s investigations are of quite a different nature.
Larsen, alive to the possibilities of espionage, soon finds himself faced with the inexplicable. Why should one man fall a thousand feet and escape with minor bruises while another dies after falling a mere eighteen inches? Why does a desperate man, bent on suicide and with all the means at hand, find it absolutely impossible to kill himself? What are the strange messages emanating from the Base – and from whence do they come? And what is the fantastic thing that has been conceived in the research department?
Leinster was a scientist with rather odd political ideas. When he discovers a new super-efficient rocket projectile, he decides to publish his findings to the entire world. The implications are tremendous. Who-ever reaches the moon first and establishes a base can control the earth…
East and West despatch their various expeditions and the space race ends in something like a photo-finish. Almost every Lunar crater in the Sea of Rains becomes a new base for one or other of the great powers, and a new miniature cold-war develops on the moon. Suddenly the leaders of the various expeditions mysteriously disappear. What sinister power is at work? Does life still exist below the dead surface of Lunar?
Has out satellite been the target for non-human space expeditions?
Can the earth men combine against this weird scientific peril?
Or will they remain divided and fall before the terrible alien aggressor?
Originally published in 1958, under the pseudonym David Osborne.
Dr. Jeffrey Brewster, assistant professor of psycho-sociology at Columbia University, had been six weeks old when the first crude satellites were flung into space back in 1957. During his childhood there had been Moon rockets and the space stations – then the joint American-Russian-manned expedition to the Moon in 1965, right after the collapse of the Soviet dictatorship. Mars and Venus had been reached as he grew up and a permanent base was established on the Moon in 1973. Now the day’s papers reported that an expedition was ready to leave for Callisto, moon of Jupiter.
But Dr. Brewster had a class to make and he was late.
That was when the telephone rang and Mari, his wife, said, “Long distance from Washington.” The caller was Colonel Chasin of Unsecfor – United Nations Security Force, the global and international army that policed the world in these days of relative peace and harmony…
The Hammer of God is vintage Clarke: superb storytelling, authentic science, and wonderful vignettes of life in the twenty-second century on Earth, the Moon, Mars – and in space.
‘The Hammer of God’, the short story on which this novel is based, first appeared in Time magazine in the autumn of 1992. It was only the second piece of fiction ever to appear in the magazine – the first having been Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
They came out of the void, from Venus, only to find there was no answer to their radio signals. Earth seemed dead. And on the Moon, Man’s greatest achievement, the Lunar Military Base was a mass of rubble and blasted wreckage.
Here, the crew of the Stellar Polaris, led by Commander John Forrest, discovered one sole survivor. He was mad! To their questions he could only answer that the children had destroyed the armed might of the Military Base.
When they finally reached Earth, they found that what he had said was true. The children had taken over control of the world. But then, these were no ordinary children – and their little weapons were almost enough to overthrow the armed superiority of the Stellar Polaris herself!
Nine ships blasted off from Moon Base. Once in space, eight of them formed a globe around the smallest. They held this formation all the way to Earth.
The small ship displayed the insignia of an admiral – yet there was no living thing of any sort in her. She was not even a passenger ship, but a drone, a robot ship intended for radioactive cargo. This trip she carried nothing but a lead coffin – and a Geiger counter that was never quiet.
It meant little to Robert Fairlie, a serious and dedicated young philologist, that the United States and Soviet Russia were at odds about the Moon. He had little interest in the first rocket landings or the bases that the two nations had established there. And he neither knew nor cared why the Americans would not agree to mutual inspections of these bases.
Yet the Americans had reason enough: and quite unexpectedly, because of his specialised knowledge of languages, he found himself sharing the burden of an incredible secret. For what the American base had yielded was astounding evidence that space had already been conquered many centuries before by a people who had once spanned the stars. There had been machines and destructive weapons beyond the comprehension of present-day scientists which, if knowledge of them fell into the wrong hands, could plunge the world into unutterable chaos.
Fairlie’s trip to the closely-guarded rocket base in New Mexico turned out to be only the first step on a fantastic journey amid the unexplored stars to the home-world of the space-conquerors of long ago.
It was a journey into the appalling reality of stellar space still haunted by the past cosmic struggle whose scale in space and time dwarfed the rivalries of tiny Earth’s quarreling nations.
Philip Shane, journalist for the London Sunday Sentinel and undercover agent for the British Government, sets out, at the Prime Minister’s request, to investigate the death of key scientists on the moon. His fellow travellers are Claire Scott, daughter of Sir Fabian Scott, pioneer of Lunar City; Professor Denis Quarles, a one-man Investigating Commission; Gaff Midley, a psychiatrist; the Ferry Rocket Commander and crew.
At Woomera, firing base for the Ferry Rockets in the year AD 2050, Shane is drugged and sabotage occurs. On the Commonwealth Space Station, 1079 miles above the Earth the Ferry Rocket Commander is killed.
Who is responsible, and why?
In the wake of an extinction-level meteor impact, a small group of human survivors manages to leave the barren Earth and establish a new home on the moon. From Tycho Base, they’re able to observe the devastated planet and wait for a time when return will become possible. Finally, after millennia of waiting, the descendants of the original refugees travel back to a planet they’ve never known, to try to rebuild a civilisation of which they’ve never been a part. But after so much time, the question is not whether they can rebuild an old destroyed home, but whether they can learn to inhabit an alien new world – Earth.
Winner of the John W. Campbell Award for best novel, 2002