REVIEW: The Oxygen Farmer by Colin Holmes
Sabotage, murder, cover-ups. Just another day on the Moon.
After 35 years of living on the Moon, cranky old oxygen farmer Millennium Harrison has stumbled onto a hidden facility in the shadows of the Slayton Ridge Exclusion Zone with a radiation leak and a deadly secret. Mil’s discovery leads to the death of a young astronaut, sabotage, murder, and cover-ups that may go all the way to the Chief Administrator of the space agency. Unfortunately, she happens to be Mil’s estranged daughter, busy trying to secure her own legacy—the first international mission to Mars.
With time ticking down to a limited launch window, enemies, friends, and even family may do anything to ensure the truth doesn’t come out. Or will history finally catch up with a deadly scheme that has the potential to destroy the moon and eradicate all life on Earth? It seems the planet’s only hope is a cantankerous guy who never really liked those people in the first place.
Dear Mr. Holmes,
The part of the blurb that mentioned a “cranky old oxygen farmer” is what caught my attention. I seem to be veering towards reading about curmudgeons lately. Perhaps I’m secretly a curmudgeon-wanna-be? Anyway, I enjoyed watching Mil surprise and awe the younger characters in this book. He might be near 80 but he’s still got a few tricks up his sleeve.
I can just hear Millenium Harrison shaking his fist and yelling for people to get off his moon! Except he wouldn’t do that as the work that he and his beloved wife (he makes sure people know that she was the brains of the marriage) did and he continues to do is what made life on the Moon possible. It’s now also helping in the quest to finally launch humanity towards a settlement on Mars. But first there’s this pesky hidden and top secret thing that Mil has found which really could, based on what a scientist who seemingly knows his stuff says, destroy the Moon which would then make life on Earth a nightmare and/or probably end life as we know it.
Some of the plot points were easy to guess. As the book charged towards the end, politics and family stuff reared their ugly heads and I heaved a sigh or two. But the rest of the story held together so well that I was more than willing to keep reading.
Mil is a cranky old guy, he knows it and freely admits it. It has been his stubborn determination to keep going and stay on the Moon to make it livable for others that caused him to compartmentalize his greatest loss and unfortunately cause one almost as bad with his only child. Mil likes to tinker with stuff and I can see his outpost barn being filled with tiny jars of nails and screws along with lots of junk that he’s going to get to “one of these days.” He does have a relationship with the station doctor that makes his granddaughter think “eww” and makes me think that yes, a man wrote this doctor’s character. But Emma isn’t that bad – just far too forgiving. Mil does eventually apologize to her which I give him points for doing.
The thing that Mil finds, and which could cause all kinds of hells to break loose, is something that I can partly believe based exactly on what the characters themselves mention was going on in the 1980s. And yeah, there was a lot of leftover stuff from the space program. And leftover other things as well. Some moron with high level clearance just might have decided to try what is in the book though I doubt that something of this magnitude could have gone unnoticed. Or at least I hope it wouldn’t.
There are parts of the story that just have to be taken at face value. Other sections have stuff that I don’t know enough about to be sure that they wouldn’t work. Some things are a stretch to swallow. But the whole is cleverly knit together and the pacing and characterizations are good enough that I inhaled the story in less than two days. I wanted to know what was going to happen next and I was cheering cantankerous Mil along the whole way. There’s history, science, double crosses, (and to borrow from another reviewer) a cheesy Hollywood ending plus family drama along with an old guy who just might save humanity. B