Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Megadungeons of 'Rogue Moon' By Algis Budrys

File:Rogue Moon 1960.jpg
Rogue Moon is a short science fiction novel by Algis Budrys, published in 1960. 

Introduction according to Wiki: 
Rogue Moon is largely about the discovery and investigation of a large alien artifact found on the surface of the Moon. The object eventually kills its explorers in various ways—more specifically, investigators "die in their effort to penetrate an alien-built labyrinth where one wrong turn means instant death"

Dr. Edward Hawks runs a top-secret project for the U.S. Navy, using the facilities of Continental Electronics to investigate a large, deadly alien artifact found on the Moon. Volunteers enter and explore it, but are inevitably killed for violating the unknown alien rules in force within the structure. Hawks "must continue to send duplicates into the artifact, however, because each one moves a little closer to finding a way through the alien labyrinth"[3] and, thus, closer to understanding what it is.
Vincent "Connie" Connington, Continental's head of personnel, tells Hawks that he has found the perfect candidate for the next mission. Connington is amoral and manipulative, openly testing Hawks and anyone else he meets for weaknesses. He takes Hawks to see Al Barker, an adventurer and thrill-seeker. Hawks also meets Claire Pack, a sociopath of a different kind. Where Connington covets power, and Barker seems to love death, Claire enjoys using sex, or the prospect of sex, to manipulate men. Connington wants her, but she stays with Barker because he has no weaknesses in her eyes. Hawks has to appeal to Barker's dark side to persuade him to join the project. Claire tries to get under Hawks' skin while simultaneously playing Connington off against Barker.
Hawks has created a matter transmitter, one which scans a person or object to make a copy at the receivers on the Moon. The earthbound copy is placed in a state of sensory deprivation which allows him to share the experiences of the doppelgänger. However, none of the participants have been able to stay sane after experiencing death second hand.
Barker is the first to retain his sanity, but even he is deeply affected the first time, exclaiming, "...it didn't care! I was nothing to it!" He returns again and again to the challenge, advancing a little further each time. Meanwhile, his relationship to Claire deteriorates, even as Connington continues his disastrous attempts to win her, at one point receiving a severe beating from Barker. Eventually, Connington announces he is quitting, and Claire leaves with him.
Meanwhile, Hawks starts a relationship with a young artist, Elizabeth Cummings, and expresses his torment over the project to her. Finally, Barker announces that he is almost finished finding a way through the artifact. Hawks takes Elizabeth to a romantic location and declares his love for her, then returns to the project. He transmits himself as well as Barker to the Moon, where his duplicate joins Barker's on the final run.
Together, the two weave their way through a series of bizarre landscapes containing death traps. Emerging from the other side, Hawks tells Barker that they cannot return to Earth. The equipment on the Moon is too crude to transmit a man back safely, and even if it were possible, there are already people living their lives. All the men working on the Moon are duplicates, mostly Navy men, all volunteers. Hawks elects to remain outside the base until his air runs out. Barker returns to try to be transmitted back anyway.
Back on Earth, Hawks removes his isolation suit and finds a note in his hand, which he knew would be there. It reads simply, "Remember me to her."
The Megadungeons Of Rogue Moon 
"There's only one entrance into the thing... it is a place where the nature of this formation permits entrance by a human being, either by design or accident. It cannot be explained in more precise terms, and it can't be encompassed by the eye or, we suspect, the human brain... Other men have died to tell us the following things about its interior: "A man inside it can be seen, very dimly, if we know where to look. No one knows, except in the most incoherent terms, what he sees. No one has ever come out; no one has ever been able to find an exit; the entrance cannot be used for that purpose. Nonliving matter, such as a photograph or a corpse, can be passed out from inside. But the act of passing it out is invariably fatal to the man doing it..." (Chapter 5)"

Rogue Moon was written in 1960 and its not a book to be taken lightly, The idea of all of those death traps and mysterious devices in OD&D games and their science fantasy cousins and why they exist. This is one option for a game like Metamorphosis Alpha, Gamma World, Mutant Future and beyond. 

'The machine maze' would fit right into the world of Carcosa easily and even now might be humming away.  An alien rite of passage quietly taking out another tribe of fools passing through its halls!
 The reason for the maze and its purpose according to wiki can be found here:
Science fiction scholar Jeff King wrote that the novel's major themes are "the meaning of life and humanity's yearning to transcend death. Algis Budrys uses the trip through the alien labyrinth as a metaphor for life." Therefore, "Barker's discovery when he makes it completely through the alien structure" is that "a person must create himself or herself." King adds that a secondary theme is: "Human beings are possessed of more than the ability to reason and to function in the physical universe. They also feel, and development of that quality is as important as development of any other."

 Who would construct such an artifact with its truly alien purpose? A race who likes to watch, to test, and serves others. A race who already has a representive on the Moon watching, waiting, and testing but this is only one such candidate for such a device. There might be thousands of such devices scattered across the planes even now dealing death to the curious and foolish. 
'Rogue Moon' By Algis Budrys is a classic and mostly forgotten today. Too bad It was a1961 Hugo Award nominee, losing to Walter M. Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz.
 Suddenly all those death traps might make a whole lot more sense and what their purpose really is. Who can say but they sure are a lot of fun! 

Wiki entry right over HERE 
 Complete review of the book right over HERE 

Budrys dedicated the book to Larry Shaw.
The novel begins with an epigraph:
Halt, Passenger!
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, so shall you be.
Prepare for Death, and follow me.
--New England gravestone motto

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