Adrift on the Sea of Rains is the first volume in Ian Sales Apollo Quartet. Available as a limited edition hardback (75 signed copies), paperback and ebook, this science fiction adventure falls between alternative history and parallel world story.
It is the late 1980’s, the Cold War has gone nuclear and all that’s left of the human race is the crew of the US moon base Falcon. Colonel Peterson is looking for a way home before the food runs out. Hopes lie in a partially understood piece of Nazi technology called the Bell.
To say more would be to give too much away – the story is only 43 pages long. Within this length Sales does a fine job of evoking the detached, almost mechanical efficiency of a team of men who, in the face of overwhelming tragedy have withdrawn into themselves. There is a starkness here reminiscent of Arthur C. Clarke at his most nuts and bolts cool.
In what is essentially a hard science fiction escape story unfolded against a detailed and well imagined alternative military / space exploration history, and perhaps too much tec. / maths talk for some tastes, Sales gradually reveals that character is all. There is good reason Peterson is on the moon rather than the front line, and the conclusion is chilling. Anyone who liked the idea of the recent SF film Moon, but found the execution too silly, will much prefer Sales’ more rigorous story.
Adrift on the Sea of Rains comes complete with an extensive list of abbreviations (looking them up while reading the story does tend to break the narrative flow), a lengthy glossary of the history of the US space program (real and imagined), bibliography and online resource list. This extra material totals another 20 pages.
Sales has written a strong story, but it is an unusual approach to self-publish something so short as a self-contained book. At 17,000 words or so it doesn’t quite class as a novella. The author explains the reasoning behind his decision on his blog. Even so, while Adrift of the Sea of Rains would grace any collection or anthology I am not sure it stands out so far ahead of other stories as to deserve individual publication. That said, it is well worth reading and now that it has been published makes a useful addition to any serious SF reader’s library.