(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Moon Is Hell!, one of John W. Campbell, Jr.’s last novels, demonstrates the dedication to superscientific realism that characterized his editorship of Astounding Stories. Campbell obtained academic training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Duke University in physics and chemistry. His personal interests and optimism about the role of science helped shape the technological optimism of science fiction during the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Famous as a veritable fountain of fascinating scientific ideas for fiction—which he generously shared with developing young writers—Campbell fills The Moon Is Hell! with remarkably accurate speculations about conditions and circumstances related to extended survival on a lunar base. His concern for realism, however, was selective. Although the solutions to survival problems are plausible, they are solved much too quickly and with little sense of trial and error. In addition, readers’ willing suspension of disbelief is sorely tried with the deus ex machina convenience of so many handy ore and gem deposits near the Castle.

Character development is sacrificed almost completely to the plot’s focus on survival technology. Except for the food thief, revealed at the novel’s end, the characters have identically generic personalities, enduring every manner of privation, discomfort, and danger without the slightest breach of expedition etiquette. Everyone is...

(The entire section is 459 words.)