In the conclusion to this epic interstellar adventure by Nebula Award nominee Wil McCarthy, humanity stands at a crossroads as the heroes who fashioned a man-made heaven must rescue their descendants from eternal damnation.... TO CRUSH THE MOON Once the Queendom of Sol was a glowing monument to humankind's loftiest dreams. Ageless and immortal, its citizens lived in peaceful splendor. But as Sol buckled under the swell of an immorbid population, space itself literally ran out.... Conrad Mursk has returned to Sol on the crippled starship Newhope. His crew are the frozen refugees of a failed colony known as Barnard's Star. A thousand years older, Mursk finds Sol on the brink of rebellion, while a fanatic necro cult is reviving death itself. Now Mursk and his lover, Captain Xiomara "Xmary" Li Weng, are sent on a final, desperate mission by King Bruno de Towaji-one of the greatest terraformers of the ages-to literally crush the moon. If they succeed, they'll save billions of lost souls.
- Philip K. Dick Award
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May 30, 2005
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Excerpt from To Crush the Moon by Wil McCarthy
in which a city's gates are breached
The skirmish at Timoch's gate is little recorded by conventional history--a minor engagement of Silver and Yellow and Stealth Gray, lost in the shuffle of much larger events. But a great deal of subsequent chaos turns on it, as an avalanche is said to turn on a single pebble. Regard it, then, as a moment of critical change which makes all the rest of it possible. It begins like this:
In the two hundred and first decade of the death of the Queendom of Sol, an ancient man finds himself trudging across the plains of a strange world. His escort--half a dozen armed men nearly as ancient as he--have already led him from the base of a bluff called Aden very nearly to the walls of a city called Timoch. And although the man has been to this world before--has lived here, wept here, bled and sweated here--he's never seen either of these places. Indeed, he's not even sure they existed when last his bootheels trod this gray, powdery soil, for he has spent a great many years . . . away. Asleep. Ensorcelled.
The world's name is Lune, although it was once called Luna. The man's name is Bruno de Towaji; he was once called "King." See him now in your mind's eye: a body incapable of frailty, wrapped round an ancient soul. His frayed, yellow-white hair extends to his shoulders in a kind of fan shape--very thin on top. His teeth are chalky nubs in a jaw as sturdy as ever. His skin--liver-spotted and yet still flushed with youth--is not so much wrinkled as creased. As if he's been folded up in a drawer somewhere.
Which is not far from the truth. Not nearly as far as Bruno would like.
"In decades past, the oldest towers were still enlivened. Programmable--faced with wellstone," says Bruno's primary companion, Conrad Mursk, pointing at the city with young-old fingers as the group crests a hill and looks down upon it. "They had diamond cores and deep foundations. Survivors of the Shattering, yes, very old and very grand. But twenty years ago there were some strange malfunctions, and Imbrians can be painfully superstitious about things like that. So, in the Year of the Lamb the buildings were torn down at great cost. The high towers which remain are of poured concrete over an iron lattice--a technique dating back to the Old Moderns of pre-Queendom Earth."
And that seems a strange thing to say, for Mursk is no architect. Hasn't been for a long, long time. Instead, he has passed himself down through the ages as a kind of soldier. Indeed, the guards accompanying the two--five men-at-arms as frizzed and ancient as Mursk and Bruno themselves--call him "General Radmer" when they call him anything at all.
"Let's not tarry here, shall we?" says one of them.
The men are angry, for this old leader of theirs--whom they clearly adore--has dragged them through one battle already, and is urging them now to Timoch, where they were once--and perhaps still are--considered criminals.
"Too much metal down there," says Sidney Lyman, the nominal leader of this ancient band. His tone is disapproving as he glowers down at the city. "How can the glints resist? There aren't soldiers enough--nor walls, nor glue--to hold them at bay forever."
Ah, and that's the other problem: this war of theirs. Not of these men--these Olders--in particular, but a war belonging to the entire world of Lune. And it's going badly, and as near as Bruno can determine, this places the entire human race at risk.