In Review: Gunpowder Moon

This novel brings reality back to space fiction with a tense mystery that has explosive results on Earth's sole satellite.

Gunpowder Moon by David Pedreira

Published by Harper Voyager, February 13, 2018. Paperback of 294 pages at $14.99. 

The cover: At the top is the tagline “The Moon’s first murder is just the beginning.” This is followed by the book’s title, with the first word in orange. This leads to an image of the surface of the Moon that shows a helmet with a gunshot in its visor. Within the visor one can see an astronaut leaning in. Below the helmet is the author’s name. This is an effective cover designed by Owen Corrigan. Each element of this cover is credited on the back to their source. This cover perfectly teases the murder that’s to come. I must state that the cover used for this review is from a scan that I created. The actual cover is much darker, and better, than the one I created. Overall grade: A-

The premise: From the back cover, “Every lunar walker since Apollo 11 has noticed it: a burnt-metal scent that reminds them of war. Caden Dechert, chief of U.S. mining operations on the edge of the Sea of Serenity, thinks the smell is just a trick of the mind — a flashback to his harrowing days as a marine in the war-torn Middle East back on Earth. It’s 2072, and lunar helium-3 mining is powering the fusion reactors bringing Earth back from environmental disaster. But competing for the richest prize in the history of the world has destroyed the oldest rule in space: safety for all. When a bomb kills one of Dechert’s diggers on Mare Serenitatis, the haunted veteran goes on a hunt to expose the culprit before more blood is spilled. As he races to solve the first murder in the history of the Moon, Dechert gets caught in the crosshairs of two global powers spoiling for a fight. Reluctant to be the match that lights this powder deg, Dechert knows his life and those of his crew are meaningless to the politicians. Even worse, he knows the killer is still out there, hunting. In his desperate attempts to prevent the catastrophe he sees coming, Dechert uncovers a conspiracy that, with one spark, can ignite a full lunar war, wipe out his team…and perhaps plunge Earth back into darkness.” I’m looking forward to this mystery on the Moon that looks to handle the scientific aspects of living on such a sphere more realistically that I’ve encountered in other novels I’ve recently read. Overall grade: A

The characters: Caden Dechert is the book’s protagonist. He’s done with Earth after surviving a war and just wants to contribute to society far from it. The book opens with him investigating a failed mechanical unit in a suit that contains some new tech. It’s the perfect introduction to the character, allowing the reader to get a solid handle on him quickly. His relationship with each member of his team is good and when things get dicey, he’s the one you want supporting you. When some new characters enter the story halfway through the book, he shows he’s smarter than they are, though it could result in his own death. Jonthan Quarles and Lane Briggs are the best supporting characters of the book. They’re always near one another, though each would be happier without the other. Quarles is the science officer with Briggs on communications. Both become vital when the tension increases. Vernon Waters is the flight officer responsible for their ships. Cole Benson and Thatch are the diggers that get the helium-3 out of the Moon. All of these characters just want to do their jobs, but they soon become embroiled in a blossoming planetary war. The competition with this American base is the Chinese one, mirroring the competition for power on Earth. The commander of that base makes contact with Dechert, but discussing what’s said would spoil much. The same goes for the new characters that arrive on this base. Their presence makes everyone uncomfortable and increases the tension for something bad building. All of these characters were very believable and I’d love to see the survivors in another book. Overall grade: A

The settings: The Moon is not a hospitable environment. From the beginning of the book, the reader is more than aware that any error, no matter how slight, could result in death. I love the emptiness of the environment and how distant the Americans are from the Chinese, enhancing the tension between the two, since neither knows what the other is doing. The dust on the Moon is brilliantly portrayed as something that’s inescapable as it’s in everything and it, too, could result in death. This setting was entirely believable. Overall grade: A

The action: This book is a slow burn. The characters are introduced, followed by a questionable death, Earth is contacted, and from there it’s a free fall into growing chaos. I was really impressed with this aspect of the book, with Chapter 18 kicking the story into overdrive. I could picture the action clearly and I couldn’t read fast enough to see what happened next. Outstanding. Overall grade: A+

The conclusion: My hat’s off to Pedreira for this conclusion. When the, literal, world seems on the verge of destruction, for a hero to find his way out is impressive. The way in which this story wraps up is extremely believable. I also was impressed with Chapter 26: that was a terrific inclusion. There is a hint of possibly continuing one character’s exploits. Sign me up for that mission, Mr. Pedreira. Overall grade: A

The final line: If this is Pedreira’s debut novel, one can only hope that he continues to write. This novel brings reality back to space fiction with a tense mystery that has explosive results on Earth’s sole satellite. Bravo, Mr. Pedreira. Overall grade: A

To purchase a print or digital copy of this book go to

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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