Review: Tycho, by William Woodall


Tycho is a young geneticist who stumbles upon a chilling secret. A disease in the wild, the Orion Strain, is poised to devastate the planet. Unlike other virulent diseases, it can easily infect almost any warm-blooded animal on earth, and his projections give only about two weeks till it strikes Tampa, where he lives.

There’s only one hope to survive; steal an older sub-orbital transport and flee to the Moon.

You see, the Moon once was the subject of a terraforming project, and it should be habitable enough to survive on at least temporarily. So Tycho gather up as many people as he can find, and flees to the stars. But life on the Moon has its own dangers, and it’s not guaranteed any of them will survive.


Three stars out of five. Gave it one full star because it’s actual science fiction that speculates.

What’s good:

  •  Actually speculates instead of being space fantasy or space YA. The bad thing about Christian science fiction is that it too often tends to be reskinning space opera or romance as science fantasy. But Tycho actually speculates, postulating a terraformed Moon that is habitable for human kind, but only barely as the project was abandoned. It’s not the hardest SF, but it adds a lot to the tale.
  • The Moon is an eerie place. It’s not just earth dollied up with a new paint job. It’s deserted, still at only one-sixth gravity of the earth, only halfway filled with new species, and is partly uninhabitable. There’s a constant sense of danger from being there, and even when they adjust to life, things like boredom and the need to scavenge reinforce that they are surviving just barely.
  • Surprisingly dark. This could have devolved very easily into a cozy catastrophe, and at times it does become a soft apocalypse. But there’s a lot of death, angst, and danger in the book, and it takes some chances by not being a walk in the park for its characters. If you’ve ever had “end of the world” dreams as a kid where you had to flee to some improbable place or do some improbable thing to survive, this book feels more like one of those.

What’s bad:

  •  Too many coincidences and too much abandoned equipment. It makes the book feel a bit first-draftish at times because it seems implausible that they could find or salvage enough to do what they do. Especially since few of them are trained techs. It’s not enough to torpedo the book, but you notice towards the end.
  • Needs to be longer. I don’t say this about a lot of books, but Tycho has a rich setting and ample fodder for drama. However it ends too soon, and focuses too narrowly on Tycho. A subplot about one of the doctor’s descent into madness needed to be shown, not told, as the ramifications of this are vital. Also, the ending chapters really could have been the start of their own book, with the big revelation about the Moon ending it. It was good, but it felt a little too sped up when it should have taken its time.
  • Sequel hook. The way this book ended and its subject really makes one unnecessary.  Well, without even more coincidences that probably would grate more than the ones in the book. I could be wrong on this, depending on how it goes.

My thoughts:

It’s a decent book, but having actual speculative fiction raises it up from being okay to being likable. The terraformed moon is an exotic setting, and the sense of danger is palpable. It’s good to have a young adult book that evokes older Asimov or Heinlein as opposed to the soft paranormal or fantasy the genre seems to consist of today. It isn’t the hardest SF, but it’s a lot harder than 90% of CSF, which is good.

It also avoids a lot of bad tropes. There’s a romance, but it’s done nicely and isn’t the main focus of the book. While Tycho is smart, he isn’t that nerdy or geeky otherwise. It focuses on survival, and isn’t afraid to show how easy you can die in an unfamiliar place. A good book to give to a teenaged boy who likes SF but remains unconnected to Christian spec fic.

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