Gunpowder Moon

David Pedreira. Harper Voyager, $14.99 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-267608-5

Former journalist Pedreira’s debut novel is an excellent sci-fi thriller set on the moon during a seething international crisis. Caden Dechert, chief of a U.S. mining station on the moon, just cares about doing his job and keeping his crew alive in Luna’s unforgiving environment; the commander of a rival Chinese base feels the same way. Governments back on Earth, however, are edging toward war, and Dechert watches as minor poaching and sabotage escalate into murder. Many begin to question whether humans can learn to control themselves well enough to survive in space. As more people die violently, Dechert tries to find the murderer and talk sense to the people in power. Pedreira is very good at drawing characters and showing the terrible limits within which they must function. The tension is especially strong in the novel’s last pages, leading to a conclusion that manages to be simultaneously cynical and hopeful. This is an exciting story with an unexpected depth—a solid winner. Agent: David Fugate, LaunchBooks Literary. (Feb.)