Long before this story begins, aliens swept through the Solar System and wept as they slammed the Moon into the Pacific Ocean and extremely slowed the Earth's rotation, making a day as long as a year. They said that they had to do this, though their motives remain unclear. In any case, they are gone now, and a Flower Forest (capitalized in the original) covers Europe and Africa on the side of the Earth that now faces the Sun.

The Moon lies partly embedded on the night side of the planet: in effect, an enormous mountain that reaches hundreds of miles above the atmosphere. It is the realm of a powerful scientist who can grant wishes, but he warns our protagonists that he is not all-powerful. There is a man who asked for high intelligence, and got it, but at the cost of staying plugged into a machine; he has no opportunity to use the intellect that he gained. And there are others in equally creative predicaments. Clearly, one must be careful what one asks for when bargaining with this man.

The protagonists ask if the historic rotation of the Earth in 24-hour days can be reestablished. Indeed it can, but after rotating for only twelve hours, the machine fails and the Earth stops spinning. The Flower Forest now faces away from the Sun, while the ex-lunar laboratory faces it, to the scientist's glee.

This was published as a novella or novel, perhaps in the 70s or 80s, in English. I suspect that Robert Silverberg may be the author despite the obvious errors in physics.

  • 4
    I'm reasonably sure that if you dropped the moon onto the Earth very carefully, it would still cause the catastrophic destruction of the Earth's surface and everything on it. The crust of the Earth isn't even remotely strong enough to carry the weight of the moon and it would simply slip below the surface (into the liquid magma) and eventually the planet/s would become spherical again. – Valorum May 5 at 14:04
  • That bothered me too. Another problem with the story is that once the Earth is set back to spinning, angular momentum would ensure that it would stay spinning. Simply having the machine fail isn't enough to stop it. – Invisible Trihedron May 5 at 14:10
  • 5
    @Valorum Suspension of disbelief and all that. In fact, this isn't the only story with the Moon embedded in the Earth poking out as a mountain. It's there in another story I just mentioned in a comment -- Phoenix in Obsidian by Michael Moorcock. – Spencer May 5 at 14:28
  • 1
    Is it possible you've mixed up more than one book? Michael Moorcock's The Shores of Death has an Earth that has its rotation stopped by aliens, it has a Flower Forest (in capitals) and it has a mad scientist that the protagonists approach for help. But the Moon isn't embedded in the Earth (the mad scientist lives on a different planet) and the Earth's rotation is not started then stopped again. – John Rennie May 7 at 10:52
  • 1
    @InvisibleTrihedron OK, I'll write this up as an answer. – John Rennie May 7 at 11:13

The book is The Twilight Man by Michael Moorcock.

This was originally serialised in New Worlds magazine, then published as a novel called The Shores of Death. I have the novel and while it matches some of the points in your description there are significant differences. It does have the Flower Forest and there is a search for the mad scientist, but there is no mention of the Moon being dropped into the Pacific ocean.

After some research I found that the original novel was completely rewritten and subsequently published as The Twilight Man, and this closely matches your description so this is probably the version you read. I don't have a copy of the Twilight Man, but there is a detailed description of the rewrite here. For example the article explains:

As Moorcock concedes, some readers ‘hinted – or stated bluntly, that the science wasn’t all it could be… they were right. I wasn’t convinced by the science either.’ So, instead of a rogue galaxy, for the novelisation there’s a race of space-dwelling creatures ‘seeking the edge of the universe’, who had ‘paused with casual ease to stop the world spinning’, a mischievous prank that creates a climatically divided Earth. Stilled on its axis, one hemisphere eternally facing the sun in everlasting day, leaving the other side facing away from the sun, perpetually frozen and inhospitable.

Other reviews mention points such as the Moon embedded in the dark side of the Earth's surface and the reversal of the day and night sides by the mad scientist Olono Sharvis.

So this is definitely the book you remember, though the publication history has made it a somewhat tortuous identification.

  • One of the Goodreads reviewers for this book, Manny, wrote "the Moon has for some reason crashed in the Pacific ocean." New Puritan, in the Golden Apples of the West blog, wrote, "...Sharvis takes no actions for himself but will happily grant any request asked of him, for a horrific price. In order to reach his secret base on the inside of the moon, which is now submerged in the ocean on the dark side of the Earth, Clovis first has to make his way through a village inhabited by those who have made a bargain with Sharvis..." – Invisible Trihedron May 7 at 13:25
  • Another writer comments that Moorcock based his book on a serialized version whose physics was even worse than the book's. It's possible that my memories are based on the earlier version, since the bit about rotation is flatly unbelievable even while suspending disbelief. Or I could just be misremembering the ending, but I don't think so... However, I am sure that this is the right story, if not the right version. – Invisible Trihedron May 7 at 13:29
  • 1
    @InvisibleTrihedron I haven't read the serialised version. I do have the book and I had a quick scan through it before answering, and I couldn't find any mention of the Moon at all. It would be interesting to see if I can find the serialised version online anywhere. – John Rennie May 7 at 15:06
  • It wouldn't be the first time that a book came in two different versions, and eliminating the Moon-fall would take care of one gross physical impossibility. Scanning the ISFDB entry, the book appears under two titles. I'm not at all sure of the cover art in this case (it was a once-read), but the version I read may be The Twilight Man (1970, Berkley Medallion). – Invisible Trihedron May 7 at 15:28
  • 2
    @InvisibleTrihedron aha, yes, apparently the book was completely rewritten and the version I have is the older version that is basically just the two instalments published in New Worlds tacked together. You are remembering the rewritten version. – John Rennie May 7 at 15:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.