17 Best Science Fiction Books About the Moon

Apparently, one of the biggest problems a lunar colony will have to face (in addition to air and food and water and temperature and cosmic radiation and not enough personal space and getting there and getting back home) is lunar dust, which is so fine that it gets everywhere, is really clingy, and can muck up equipment. Lunar dust feels like soft snow, but at the same time abrasive. It also smells like spent gunpowder.

And as far as moons go, ours is huge. It’s bigger than Pluto, which means that we’re actually orbited by a dwarf planet. But it’s a greedy satellite, sucking up our rotational energy, so that in about 45 billion years, the Earth and the Moon will be tidally locked (the moon will be in the same spot in the sky always) and the Earth day will be about 45 hours long.

17
Griffin's Egg
by Michael Swanwick – 1991

In this very short (101 pages) book, workers and researchers for the high-tech industries controlling the Moon watch helplessly as the Earth hurls toward world war and a cutoff of the Moon’s life-giving supplies.

“Swanwick weaves the story with characteristic verve and style… this is an entertaining and provocative novella.”
— Publishers Weekly

16
Radiance
by Catherynne M. Valente – 2015

The Moon doesn’t play a huge role in this decopunk (science fiction in the art deco age—roughly 1920s and 30s) story, but its gleeful madness makes it worth reading.

Severin Unck’s father is a famous director of Gothic romances in an alternate 1986 in which talking movies are still a daring innovation due to the patent-hoarding Edison family. Rebelling against her father’s films of passion, intrigue, and spirits from beyond, Severin starts making documentaries, traveling through space and investigating the levitator cults of Neptune and the lawless saloons of Mars. For this is not our solar system, but one drawn from classic science fiction in which all the planets are inhabited and we travel through space on beautiful rockets. Severin is a realist in a fantastic universe.

But her latest film, which investigates the disappearance of a diving colony on a watery Venus populated by island-sized alien creatures, might be her last…

15
Life As We Knew It
by Susan Beth Pfeffer – 2006

Life As We Knew It is another entry in the crowded YA Dystopia space, but it’s a strong debut by author Pfeffer.

High school sophomore Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when an asteroid knocks the Moon closer to Earth, like “one marble hits another.” The result is catastrophic. How can her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis are wiping out the coasts, earthquakes are rocking the continents, and volcanic ash is blocking out the sun? As August turns dark and wintery in northeastern Pennsylvania, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.

Told in a year’s worth of journal entries, this heart-pounding story chronicles Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all—hope—in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.

“Absorbing from first page to last.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)

14
Inherit the Stars
by James P. Hogan – 1977

When they found the corpse in a grave on the Moon, wearing a spacesuit of unfamiliar design, his identity was a complete mystery. Analysis showed that the deceased was 50,000 years old—meaning that he had somehow died on the Moon before the human race even existed.

A good yarn, but unfortunately, its depiction of women in science is dated (i.e., they’re secretaries). And for a book published in 1977, there’s not much excuse for that.

13
The Gods Themselves
by Isaac Asimov – 1972

Another classic by the grandmaster.

In the twenty-second century, Earth obtains limitless, free energy from a source science little understands: an exchange between Earth and a parallel universe, using a process devised by the aliens. But even free energy has a price. The transference process itself will eventually lead to the destruction of the Earth’s Sun—and of Earth itself.

Only a few know the terrifying truth—an outcast Earth scientist, a rebellious alien inhabitant of a dying planet, a lunar-born human intuitionist who senses the imminent annihilation of the Sun. They know the truth—but who will listen? They have foreseen the cost of abundant energy—but who will believe? These few beings, human and alien, hold the key to Earth’s survival.

(The Moon makes an appearance the third part of the novel.)

12
Moonfall
by Jack McDevitt – 1998

Vice President Charlie Haskell, who will travel anywhere for a photo op, is about to cut the ribbon for the just-completed American Moonbase. The first Mars voyage is about to leave high orbit, with a woman at the helm. Below, the world is marveling at a rare solar eclipse.

But then an amateur astronomer discovers a new comet. Named for its discover, Tomikois a “sun-grazer,” an interstellar wanderer with a hundred times the mass and ten times the speed of other comets. And in less than five days Tomiko will crash into the Moon, shattering it into a cloud of superheated gas, dust, and huge chunks of rock that will rain down on the earth, causing chaos and killer storms, possible tidal waves inundating entire cities…or worse: a single apocalyptic worldwide “extinction event.”

In the meantime, the population of Moonbase must be evacuated by a hastily assembled fleet of shuttle rockets. There isn’t enough room or time for everyone. And the vice president, who rashly promised to be last off, is trying to figure out how to get onboard without eating his words.

“McDevitt’s scrupulous research and ability to bring the arcane intricacies of space engineering within the grasp of the earthbound make this a fine-tuned disaster to remember.”
— Publishers Weekly

11
The Ceres Solution
by Bob Shaw – 1981

Two civilizations collide: one is Earth in the early 21st century, rushing toward self-inflicted nuclear doom. The other is the distant world of Mollan, whose inhabitants have achieved great longevity and the power to transport themselves instantly from star to star.

On Earth’s side, there is Denny Hargate, whose indomitable courage drives him to alter the course of history. On their side is Gretana ty Iltha, working on Earth as a secret observer, who dreams of returning to the delights of her world’s high society, but who gets caught up in a cosmic train of events leading to an explosive climax.

Revealing the Moon’s involvement in this story would be a bit of a spoiler, so I’ll leave you to find out for yourself.

10
Steel Beach
by John Varley – 1992

Fleeing Earth after an alien invasion, the human race stands on the threshold of evolution. Their new home is Luna, a moon colony blessed with creature comforts, prolonged lifespans, digital memories, and instant sex changes.

But the people of Luna are bored, restless, suicidal—and so is the computer that monitors their existence…

“Varley’s tight, clean writing, full of wit and good humor, evokes despair, joy, anger and delight. His Luna is packed with wild inventions, intriguing characters and stunning scenery.”
— Publishers Weekly

9
From the Earth to the Moon
by Jules Verne – 1865

Written almost a century before humans started exploring space, Jules Verne’s prophetic novel of man’s race to the stars is a classic adventure tale enlivened by broad satire and scientific acumen.

When the members of the elite Baltimore Gun Club find themselves lacking any urgent assignments at the close of the Civil War, their president, Impey Barbicane, proposes that they build a gun big enough to launch a rocket to the moon. But when Barbicane’s adversary places a huge wager that the project will fail and a daring volunteer elevates the mission to a “manned” flight, one man’s dream turns into an international space race.

8
The Man in the Moone
by Francis Godwin – 1638

Despite my love for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, The Man in the Moone might be counted as one of science fiction’s first stories, along with astronomer Johannes Kepler’s Somnium.

After killing a man in a duel, Gonsales is forced to flee Spain. He ends up riding giant swans to the Moon, where he discovers a tall Christian people living in a Utopia. This book was well-known in the 1600s, and even inspired several parodies.

(Frankenstein is better, though.)

7
Luna: New Moon
by Ian McDonald – 2015

The Moon wants to kill you.

Maybe it will kill you when the per diem for your allotted food, water, and air runs out, just before you hit paydirt. Maybe it will kill you when you are trapped between the reigning corporations—the Five Dragons—in a foolish gamble against a futuristic feudal society. On the Moon, you must fight for every inch you want to gain. And that is just what Adriana Corta did.

As the leader of the Moon’s newest “dragon,” Adriana has wrested control of the Moon’s Helium-3 industry from the Mackenzie Metal corporation and fought to earn her family’s new status. Now, in the twilight of her life, Adriana finds her corporation—Corta Helio—confronted by the many enemies she made during her meteoric rise. If the Corta family is to survive, Adriana’s five children must defend their mother’s empire from her many enemies… and each other.

“McDonald creates a complex and fascinating civilization featuring believable technology, and the characters are fully developed, with individually gripping stories.”
― Publishers Weekly (starred review)

6
The First Men in the Moon
by H. G. Wells – 1901

H.G. Wells’s “first men in the moon” are the eccentric Mr. Cavor and his traveling companion, Mr. Bedford, who navigate a gravity-defying sphere (filled with ritzy, high-end crackers) through space before executing a rough landing on the Moon. As castaways from Earth, they practice lunar locomotion, get lost in the wilds of a moon jungle, and confront intelligent life forms living in lunar caverns.

5
A Fall of Moondust
by Arthur C. Clarke – 1961

Expanding the Moon’s population hinges on building a thriving tourist industry. But when a prototype tourist craft called the Selene encounters a moonquake, the ship plummets under a vast body of liquid-fine moondust called the Sea of Thirst.

Time is running out for the passengers and crew of the tourist cruiser Selene, incarcerated in a sea of choking lunar dust. Will human ingenuity triumph over the mercilessly unpredictable conditions of a totally alien environment?

4
Ware Tetralogy
by Rudy Rucker – 1982-2000

After finishing most books, I’ll put them down and think something like, “That was a good book,” or “The ending was terrible,” or “I’m hungry.”

But with The Ware Tetralogy, I put the big book down and wondered what the hell just happened to me.

My horizons got expanded in weird directions and there’s a little more odd joy in my life.

The four Ware novels (Software, Wetware, Freeware, and Realware) explore consciousness as an information pattern in a fearlessly absurd, awesomely readable way. All together, they’re a Dadaist cyberpunk tour de force that’ll make your brain feel like it’s in a bath of seltzer water. The books all move like a bat out of hell, are packed with enough ideas for forty normal science fictions books, and you can feel beat poetry in the background as you read them.

The Moon doesn’t show up until the latter books, but to say more would spoil the surprise.

3
Seveneves
by Neal Stephenson – 2015

Like most Stephenson books, reading Seveneves (palindrome!) is a commitment, but one that pays off. It’s long, but an easier read, than, say, Cryptonimoconocicomicon (spelling may be off a bit?).

A catastrophic event renders the Earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.

But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain.

Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown, to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.

(The Moon has a starring role in the story, but saying more would reveal too much.)

“No slim fables or nerdy novellas for Stephenson: his visions are epic, and he requires whole worlds—and, in this case, solar systems—to accommodate them…Wise, witty, utterly well-crafted science fiction.”
— Kirkus Reviews

2
Artemis
by Andy Weir – 2017

Artemis isn’t as good as The Martian, but it’s pretty close. Author Andy Weir kept what was great about The Martian: hard science, humor, and a charmingly sarcastic protagonist.

It takes a little while for the story to get going, but it’s the best depiction of a lunar colony I’ve ever read.

Artemis is about a young, super-smart but lazy criminal on the Moon who goes for a major score and immediately gets in way over her head. Clever scheming, problem-solving, and the occasional explosion keep this book entertaining.

1
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
by Robert A. Heinlein – 1966

This book is widely considered to be Heinlein’s crowning achievement and one of the most important science fiction novels ever written. The plot centers around a lunar colony’s revolt against rule from Earth, but is packed with politics, questionable behavior, and a fully-imagined future human society that must deal with being on two worlds.

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