10

I'm trying to trace a series of books that I read in the mid-70s. They were older than this though, as they clearly predated the Apollo moon landings, so I would guess that they were actually published in the early 60s. It was very anglocentric so it must surely have been a British author.

There were at least two books in the series, and possibly more. They dealt with the adventures of an English schoolboy/teenager in the British space programme based at Woomera. It is the second book that I recall most clearly. The American had sent a mission to the moon, but on landing they suddenly lost contact with the astronauts. A rescue mission is sent up from Woomera using a jury-rigged Blue Streak rocket with the schoolboy and a veteran astronaut (who I think was called "Jock"). The Blue Streak was never designed to get to the moon, but in the previous book they had put some fuel tanks in orbit, and refueling from these just about gave the rocket the range. The schoolboy protagonist was included in the crew because he was light (lighter than an adult astronaut anyway) allowing a two-man crew to travel without paying too much penalty in weight.

After some adventures along the way they arrive at the moon and find that the astronauts have been taken prisoner by a secret mission from the USSR. There was some kind of internal conflict between the Soviet crew members: two of them were good guys, and wanted to stick with the Soviet plan of simply greeting the American when they landed with a "You took your time, didn't you!" to win a propaganda victory. The other two had some secret agenda and were responsible for taking the Americans prisoner. The Brits allied with the good Soviets, and rescued the Americans, and got home on the Soviet ship. This was enormous and so had plenty of room, but had had the misfortune of landing in a crater full of moon-dust, and had almost completely sunk.

  • 1
    Had to be written long before the Apollo 11 mission -- Blue Streak was canceled in 1960. – Zeiss Ikon Mar 12 at 13:21
  • i hate to jeopardize my first shiny new checkmark, but i think this may actually be two different books meshed together. I found a synopsis of my answer, The Master of the Moon, and it fits some of the description very well, but doesn't mention the Soviets at all. – SteveV Mar 12 at 14:34
  • That synopsis is very different to the plot I remember - absolutely no spiders were involved. The cover art was very similar though. Sorry, but I think I'll have to open the question again. – Clara Diaz Sanchez Mar 12 at 14:37
10

I think this could be 'The Moonwinners' by James Muirden, published in 1965 - very rare book these days !

The lead character is 19 year old Eric Kendall and his friend Jock Murphy. They mount a rescue mission from Woomera when contact with the US moon mission is lost just after landing. Unknown to anyone the Russians had landed first. It is the second book in the series, the first being 'Space Intruder'

The link below is to my gallery of James Muirden book covers on Facebook, including the synopsis

Gallery of James Muirden book covers

| improve this answer | |
  • Available for $1 + shipping at abebooks – Organic Marble Mar 12 at 21:24
  • 1
    That's it, as soon as I read "James Muirden" I remembered the name. The sf-encyclopedia says "UK author [of] the two-volume Eric Kendall series of Young Adult sf tales comprising Space Intruder (1965) and The Moon-Winners (1965). Young Eric, after halting a rogue planet from striking Earth in the first volume, again must fight the obduracy of the British defense establishment in the second after responding to an emergency, as the Americans, who seem to have been first to reach the Moon, have fallen ominously silent." 1965 is later than I expected. Thanks! – Clara Diaz Sanchez Mar 12 at 23:38
  • 3
    "Jock Murphy" is an auspicious name. Everything that can go wrong, will. And do so in a really hard and manly way. I want that guy in my capsule. – David Tonhofer Mar 13 at 6:36
7

I think this is The Master of the Moon (1952) by Patrick Moore, as you suspected.

My reasoning is that on the author page of isfdb, it shows two books in the series Grenfell & Wright. The first is The Master of the Moon, which I can find no synopsis of, other than saying that this is one of Patrick Moore's rarest and most sought after book. But for the second, The Island of Fear, there is this blurb:

Once again, Jock and Noel - the heroes of Master of the Moon - are involved in a weird and thrilling adventure with their two scientist friends.

Since it mentions Jock, it sounds like this may be the right series.

Here is one of the covers... it matches the tone of the synopsis the OP gave

enter image description here

| improve this answer | |
  • It looks like I was too quick. The cover art is very similar to what I remember, but the plot is very different. – Clara Diaz Sanchez Mar 12 at 14:44
5

This sounds like it is probably the Chris Godfrey of U.N.E.X.A. Series.

The child who goes into space would be Chris Godfrey, though he initially goes up alone not with someone else. It does involve Americans and Russians along the way but I can't really find detailed summaries of the later books. The first one is summarised on Wikipedia:

Strange objects have been sighted on the Moon near Mons Pico. Suspecting a communist plot, the British Government hurriedly plans a mission to photograph the domes from above closer range. The rocket is not large enough to send a man - enter Chris Godfrey, a 17-year-old science whiz with an interest in rocketry and crucially less than 5 feet tall!

The launch site is Woomera Rocket Research Station in South Australia, but there may be a Soviet traitor amongst the ground crew..

The review on this Amazon page has a brief description of each book in the series with book 3, Operation Columbus, looking promising:

The brash Americans and the sneaky Soviets hate losing out to the Brits on being the first to do everything in space. Both nations are determined to plant their flag on the moon. As the Soviets are secretive, Chris goes to America to explain space travel. But with slimy cosmonaut Serge Smyslov ready to blast off first, the Americans fast track astronaut Morrison Kant, but he falls over and breaks an arm. Tragically, despite spending several billion dollars on the space program, nobody thought to train a second astronaut. With failure looming, an ingenious Brit come up with a solution: send Chris up in the American spaceship...


Found with the Google query "books" Woomera astronaut.

| improve this answer | |
  • There are certainly points of similarity between the Chris Godfrey series and the books I remember, but I don't think they quite match up. – Clara Diaz Sanchez Mar 12 at 15:47
3

I suspect that you might possibly remember details from two or more different novels which might not be in the same series.

I remember another old science fiction novel with teenage astronauts on the Moon, by Hal Clement, which should probably be The Ranger boys in Space, 1957.

I remember that in that novel it was discovered that adults were incapable of tolerating the feeling of weightlessness in space but kids could. The rockets used steam - they heated up water to steam to be the propellant. I also remember a scene with spies attacking a house on Earth early in the plot, about the time when the boy protagonists are recruited as astronauts. And a scene on the moon where one of the boys falls into a pit. Since gravity on the Moon is only one sixth that on the Earth the boy calculates that he should be able to jump out of the pit. But he can't. He finally realizes that his calculation was wrong because he divided by six two times, once for the height and once for his weight, and he should have divided only one of those factors by six.

Here is a link to a site with reviews and synopsis:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12649051-the-ranger-boys-in-space1

There is also Robert A. Heinlein's first juvenile novel Rocket Ship Galileo, 1947.

A nuclear physicist has invented a new form of atomic energy soon after World War Two. His attempts to promote it get him fired from his job. He recruits high school boys to help him built a rocket ship using his atomic engines. He makes an expedition to the Moon with the boys and they discover that Nazis have secretly built a moon base there and plan to conquer the Earth.

A plot summary is here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocket_Ship_Galileo2

In The Voyage of the Luna 1, David cragie, 1947, two primary school children stowaway in the first unmanned rocket to land on the Moon.

Many plot details are mentioned in my answer here:

Children stow away to the moon

I also remember reading a juvenile novel where an Australian boy goes on the first voyage to the Moon.

I asked a question about it here:

YA Australian based flight to moon from area near meteor craters3

The best answer I got was Moon Ahead, by Leslie greener, 1951.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13351446-moon-ahead4

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/a/leslie-greener/moon-ahead/5

There are 21 novels in the Chris Geoffrey of U.N.E.X.A. series by Hugh Walters. I have read one, in which a teenager goes on a mission to the Moon with adult astronauts. I remember that strange mists moved over the lunar surface.

From the synopsis, I believe it is Moon Base One, 1960. The synopsis says:

Plot summary

Thousands of young people are terminally ill as a result of the radiation produced by the lunar structures destroyed in The Domes of Pico. In an attempt to determine whether the fall-out from the domes can have a curative effect on the disease a joint East-West mission is planned under the auspices of the newly formed United Nations EXploration Agency (UNEXA).

The mission is commanded by Chris Godfrey, accompanied by American, Morrison 'Morrey' Kant and Russian Serge Smyslov. The 'patient' will be Tony Hale, from Aston near Birmingham (who goes on to feature in the rest of the series). The mission starts well, but is soon in trouble when a supply rocket crashes...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_Base_One6

In the first novel in the series, Blast off at Woomera, 1957, Chris Geoffrey is a small for his age teenager, the only persons both qualified and small enough for the mission. The Synopsis says:

Strange objects have been sighted on the Moon near Mons Pico. Suspecting a communist plot, the British Government hurriedly plans a mission to photograph the domes from above closer range. The rocket is not large enough to send a man - enter Chris Godfrey, a 17-year-old science whiz with an interest in rocketry and crucially less than 5 feet tall!

The launch site is Woomera Rocket Research Station in South Australia, but there may be a Soviet traitor amongst the ground crew...

The book pre-dates the first actual usage of satellite imagery by two years, and manned spaceflight by four years.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blast_Off_at_Woomera7

I remember seeing the cover of a paperback novel in which US and USSR spacemen fought on the Moon with sub machine guns. That novel might possibly be the one with the conflict you remember. Unfortunately I don't remember the title of that novel, and there could have been a bunch of other novels with Cold War conflicts on the Moon.

SteveV's suggestion The Master of the Moon, by Patrick Moore, 1952, might also be a book you partially remember.

I have copied SteveV's link to a synopsis:

https://www.sfandfantasy.co.uk/php/details2.php?id=448

There was a company which published a bunch of science fiction novels by various authors.

Winston Science Fiction was a series of 37 American juvenile science fiction books published by the John C. Winston Company of Philadelphia from 1952 to 1960 and by its successor Holt, Rinehart & Winston in 1960 and 1961. It included 35 novels by various writers, including many who became famous in the SF field, such as Poul Anderson, Arthur C. Clarke, Ben Bova, and Lester del Rey. There was also one anthology, The Year After Tomorrow, edited by del Rey and others. There was one non-fiction book Rockets through Space: The Story of Man's Preparations to Explore the Universe by del Rey which details the factual science and technology of rocket flight. Many of the dust jackets became science fiction classics; the artists included Hugo Award winners Ed Emshwiller and Virgil Finlay along with Hugo nominees such as Mel Hunter and Alex Schomburg.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winston_Science_Fiction9

If you read several different Winston Science Fiction books by different authors, you might think that they were part of a fictional series instead of separate stories.

Here is a link to a photo of the endpapers in the Winston books: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winston_Science_Fiction#/media/File:Winston_Endpaper.jpg10

I remember the titles and/or plot details of seven of those books, so I can eliminate those seven - Islands in the Sky, Planet of Light, Vandals of the Void, Trouble on Titan, The Secret of the Martian Moons, The Secret of the Ninth Planet, and Stadium Beyond the Stars, leaving the remaining thirty as possibly being part of your memories.

| improve this answer | |

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.