Book Review: Adrift on the Sea of Rains by Ian Sales

Adrift on the Sea of Rains by Ian SalesBook Review by Ian Shone

  • Paperback: 80 pages (Hardback and Kindle Editions also available)
  • Publisher: Whippleshield Books (6 April 2012)
  • Language English
  • ISBN-10: 0957188307
  • ISBN-13: 978-0957188303

Adrift on the Sea of Rains by Ian Sales is available from:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

The idea of mutually-assured destruction between the superpowers has lost none of its potency even twenty years after the end of the Cold War. But how would the effects of a nuclear cataclysm be viewed at a remove of, say, a quarter of a million miles? Adrift on the Sea of Rains tells the story of a group of American astronauts stranded on the moon, hoping to get back to a world that may or may not be ignorant of their existence, or which may have been destroyed by nuclear war. Bringing together strands of alternative history and science fiction, Adrift on the Sea of Rains weaves together two of the great obsessions of 1960s America—the hope of lunar exploration and the terror of Soviet annihilation—into an interesting narrative that glances knowingly at both to the Second World War and the post-9/11 era.

A layman with no significant knowledge of the Space Age is not in for an easy ride. Nothing is spoon-fed to the reader. The appendix at the end of the story seems at first a rather eccentric touch, but it works far better than if the author had tried to integrate a crash course in space travel into the main body of the text, thus potentially hamstringing the narrative. True, the jargon is initially a little overwhelming, but once you get used to it then it’s hard not to get swept along by Sales’ enthusiasm for the science behind the fiction. There were several scenes where my engagement with the action was somehow not hampered by the fact that I had no great understanding of what was going on.

The story takes a little while to get going, but when it does the results are rewarding. It is kept buoyant throughout by the fact that Sales writes very well, and has an impressive knack of creating atmosphere through imagery (with nice little turns of phrase like ‘a soft feminine shoulder of the mountains’, to quote one example). It certainly isn’t a character study, but it works on a highly sensory level with a vivid sense of place. The combination of Sales’ lean, unadorned prose and quirky attention to detail is very effective at bringing scenes to life. The austere tone conveys a sense of the isolation, claustrophobia and monotony of life on the moon, which serves well to heighten the impact of the explosive ending. Definitely worth a look.

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