Crater is a 2012 young-adult science fiction novel by Homer Hickam, and the first in his Helium-3 trilogy. Crater, a teenage lunar miner, accompanies one of his company’s helium-3 convoys in pursuit of an objective that led to the deaths of two others who tried to obtain it.
Hickam has been a coal miner and a NASA engineer. Not surprisingly, Crater’s lunar mining operations, living conditions, moon physics, and use of helium-3 are well thought out. There are also a lot of good moon facts in here, as well. Hickam’s setup and world-building (of the moon, anyway) are the highlights of the book.
Hickam’s storytelling is less impressive. Crater himself is hard to root for because even though he’s good-hearted and capable, he’s also a clueless, pouty bumpkin with inexplicable low self-esteem. Almost every other character is flat, and many have the reasoning power of small children. The novel has two kinds of villains, crowhoppers and demons, and not only are they exactly the same, they’re also largely incompetent. Plot developments and resolutions are often convenient and unrealistic. The romance is horrendous. The story even stops for two pages near the end so Hickam can get in a quick sermon against government regulation. The overall effect is that the novel feels like a Saturday morning cartoon with a bunch of killing.
Crater features little in the way of suspense, even though Hickam tries desperately to generate some in the final act using one of the cheapest writer’s tricks of all time – hiding from the reader plot information known to all the characters. Nor does the MacGuffin-driven plot attract much interest, nor the cartoon characters that populate Hickam’s moon.
All of this is really too bad, because Crater felt like it had a lot of potential when it got started. In the end, though, it was a disappointment.
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