Prometheus

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Volume 17, Number 1, Spring, 1999

Project Avalon By B. Alexander Howerton (Space Available Press)

Project Avalon, an apparent first novel by Alexander Howerton, is rife with talk about the future and how to fix the present. The key is space colonization. The narrative of the novel packages the central action around a retrospective look from the year 2101 at the founding of a lunar colony one hundred years previous. Young Gary LaFey (and the reader) is about to learn a history lesson about how his great-great-grandfather helped found the Avalon colony on the moon and how the Earth destroyed itself.

Art LaFey, Gary's ancestor one hundred years ago, is a copy editor at a Seattle alternative newspaper, with dreams of setting the world aflame with his nationally syndicated editorials. He is passionate about space exploration and the space program. Humans must get away from putting all their eggs in one basket. When a shuttle explodes during its launch, the cautious bureaucrats shut down the space program, claiming too many human lives are endangered doing something we know little about. Art is enraged and begins to look for ways to get more involved, to do something about his beliefs. He falls in with some young college environmentalists; they attack technology, while he hopes they will see his views that space colonization will help the environment.

Through his actions in the environmentalist group LaFey befriends a rich industrialist, Merle Lindstrom, who is impressed with LaFey's vision and honesty. Linstrom pulls LaFey into an inner circle of working on the Avalon Project. This project seeks to collect the best of humanity in preparation for the colonization of space and in hopes of starting over again. Unfortunately, a few people in the circle have other plans.

Which group will triumph, and what will happen with Earth relations if a group of colonists set up an independent base on the moon?

Project Avalon is a well-intended novel. Art LaFey is an ardent idealist, and he rarely stops pushing his ideas to anyone he comes across. Herein lie the novel's problems, for even though it is a slim book by today's standards, the plot often fall into didactic gravity wells. Howerton gives us insight into how plans for colonization might form and be driven, and we know from the narrative structure that the colonists succeeded, since it is told from the moon one hundred years after the shuttle explosion that sent LaFey into his activism frenzy.

Howerton certainly has the right motivations and intentions, but as a novel Project Avalon stumbles on plot points and prose style. As a guide on how to get into space and why, it's a good read.

Reviewed by Anders Monsen

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