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The Best Novel You Likely Never Heard Of

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It's by David S. Michaels.

And you never heard of him, right?

He published a novel, in the year 2000, entitled Red Moon (not to be confused with Michael Cassutt's novel of same name published around the same time). Cassutt's novel is good. Dave Michael's is among the best three or four novels I've ever read, period.

The background of the novel: I've always been fascinated by the collapse of the Soviet space program in the 1960s. The Soviets jump-started the space age with Sputnik in 1957. They got the first animals and then the first people up into space. They sent spacecraft — with no people — to the moon. They were on the verge of getting people there.

They inspired John F. Kennedy — in the names of both wonder and security — to put the U.S. on a course to send a man to the moon and safely return him by the end of the decade. Which we did.

But the Soviets never made it. Their move into space hit a strange stone wall. And the lack of continuing competition between the Soviets and us was likely the most significant factor in the fizzling of our own efforts in space. Forty years later, and we have yet to set foot on the moon again, or anywhere beyond our space station.

What happened to the Soviet space program? The death of its mastermind, Sergei Korolev in 1966, no doubt was a grievous blow. But… I don't know… there were a lot of other talented people working in the Soviet space program. The death of one man, however important, should not have led to the crash of the entire program.

Red Moon provides some breath-taking science fiction answers.

How I found out about the novel: It was at a reading I was giving at a science fiction convention – Balticon (in Baltimore) in the Spring of 2001. David S. Michaels came up to me after the reading, with a copy of my novel, The Silk Code, for me to autograph. Then he pulled a 600-page book out of his backpack, and asked me to please accept it, as a gift.

I wasn't sure what to say. First, traveling back from Baltimore to New York by train (I love driving, but trains even more) is no fun with a heavy bag of books, which I already had. Second, as a writer, I find I don't read as much fiction as I would like – if I'm writing a novel, which I usually am, reading someone else's can throw me off course. But…

There was something about Dave, and I was already keenly interested in the subject, so I thanked him for the present and added it to my bag (it was filled with non-fiction books, by the way, which I do read when I can).

It was well into June before I had a chance to open Red Moon. And when I did – well, I couldn't put it down. It might as well have been a new Foundation or Harry Potter novel. The subject, the plot, the characters, the writing was brilliant. I contacted Dave right away, told him how much I enjoyed the novel. It had been published by a very small press. I told him I would try to get it to the attention of a bigger publisher.

Which I did… But all of this was right before September 11, 2001, when lots of things changed in the publishing world (most of which is headquartered in New York City). And in the aftermath, at least the publishers that I had been in contact with were doing other things, cutting back their acquisition lists.

And so, nothing more happened with Dave Michaels' Red Moon. I listed it as my #1 favorite first science fiction novel on a list I started on Amazon. (It's a pretty exclusive list. I'd highly recommend Bob Katz's Edward Maret, which is #2 on the list. Wen Spencer's Alien Taste and Larry Ketchersid's Dusk Before Dawn are there, too.)

Amazon now has an "out of print" sign on Dave Michaels' Red Moon page. (I also have a reader review of the novel there.)

Now that I'm thinking about the book again, I'm going to do once more what I can — in a hopefully more successful attempt — to help get it published.

In the meantime, if you're at all interested in the space race, what could have been, why what happened — and didn't happen — happened, the extraordinary human struggle to reach the cosmos, give yourself a treat, and see if you can score a second-hand copy of this novel somewhere. Trust me – you'll be caught up in an adventure, in an intrigue of alternate and real history, that you'll never forget.

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About Paul Levinson

  • Mark

    Got me interested in reading the book, shame it is out of print. Please let us know if you manage to get it reprinted (would be great if it could be also be bought in the UK).

  • Geez, I’m really itching to read it now.

  • I see there a few copies for sale on Amazon – from its affiliates – we’ll worth getting, if you want to go that route. Just click on the book cover above.

  • Worth getting…but worth 40 bucks?

  • It’s more than 10 times better than any book you’d pay 4 or even 20 bucks for … but, I know, $40 is a lot of money …

  • Possibly some libraries have it. But I just checked the NY Public Library’s online catalog, no luck. BTW, there is a third novel called Red Moon, ‘a Howard Moon Deer mystery’ by Robert Westbrook, also copyright 2000.

    Is this the same David Michaels who has written for Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell series?

  • I’m not sure. The author of Red Moon is David S. Michaels. So it can probably be discovered pretty easily if this is the same as the Splinter Cell Michaels. I check around and be back with what I find a little later.

  • Ok, back with info on Splinter Cell Michaels – it’s a pseudonym for Raymond Benson (2 books) and for a second author for the third book. David S. Michaels of Red Moon is his real name, as far as I know.

  • Dan

    Why don’t you ask the author to simply release it on the internet as a pdf?

    Now, before you say “WHAT? We do this for MONEY!”, hear me out…

    I download a lot of books online, both free books and “pirated” books. You know what I do when I read one that strikes me as great? I go out and buy it so that I can finish it in the comfort of my bed/couch/lay-z-boy.

    From what I understand, there exist many small publishers and even one-off book printers on the web. Simply include a url in the pdf so that readers will know where to go to order their hard copy.

  • I think that’s a good idea – but I’ve been out of touch with Dave since late 2001. He moved from Lancaster, PA to somewhere near Los Angeles, and last time I checked – a few years ago – the e-mail I had for him wasn’t working.

    But if I can get in touch with him, I’ll certainly suggest his putting the novel online – at this point, he would have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

  • I wish I had the time to read novels like this…

  • mark

    Michael could use Lulu where you can get you novel published and people like me can buy it.

  • To all —

    Red Moon has in fact been republished (the “official” date was 10/14) by a small house, Breakneck Books. I am “up close and personal” with this book, because I am the co-author (the new edition has my name in the byline, unlike the prior edition which was actually published not by Dave, but by his former agent). The new edition is a trade paperback, and won’t cost you an arm and a leg. (I was seeing $90 at one point for the out-of-print edition — I’ve only got one copy of the original, personally — and wondered how anyone could get away with selling it at that price…)

    I set up the website http://www.luna15.com, which is focused on Red Moon and will be used for any future projects Dave and I may undertake. There’s lots about the book and the folks who helped us put it together there, and lots of background information.

    Feel free to contact us through the website.

    Paul, thank you for the support. I’m very pleased you feel so strongly about the book. I think Dave did a hell of a job on it (he really was the driving force) though I will say I am proud of my contribution.


  • And, just bopping back here to say Dave and I had a great conversation about Red Moon a few days ago … it’s all here, about 20 or so minutes into this webcast