My son displays an interest in the Moon, so I'm trying to track down an old kid's story/novella/book that takes place there. I have a feeling it was Asimov. Longer than a short story, shorter than a book?

Kid goes to a Moon base where his dad works. I seem to recall there is a military base some distance away. There's a spy... is it his mysterious dad?!

The one scene I recall clearly is the boy and his dad end up locked in a closet with a pan of chemicals giving off arsenic or cyanide. This proves his dad is not the bad guy, while also making it obvious who it really is.


This is Vandals of the Void, by Jack Vance, originally published in 1953. Full text is available on Archive.org.

In it, the plucky young teen hero, Dick Murdock, leaves his native Venus to visit his father, who works at a observatory on the moon.

The scene you reference is Chapter 19, where Dick is alone in a darkroom. He has just developed some photographs, when he is confronted by someone; the photo evidence makes Dick realize this is the bad guy. Said bad guy starts monologue-ing and explains how he will kill Dick by pouring hydrochloric acid into sodium cyanide, to form hydrogen cyanide (or prussic acid) gas. Fortunately, Dick is saved by an interloper after getting only a tiny whiff of the bitter almond smell.

The book features space pirates, indigenous people on the moon and Mars, undercover agents, a rocket raft, some characters straight out of central casting (a wise African-American bosun on a passenger liner; eccentric old coot lunar prospector; etc), and a climactic battle featuring a nascent Space Navy (armed with gunpowder-shell cannons).

  • Right, the base is abandoned, I forgot that tidbit. – Maury Markowitz Jan 31 '18 at 18:57

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