Growing Up Weightless
By John M. Ford
Spectra, Bantam Books, 1993
Growing Up Weightless is a SF novel written in a slice of life manner with a good helping of hard SF. It is a well-developed account of life in established moon settlements, without the extreme futurism of many books centered on that theme.
The story follows the members of the Ronay family, third and fourth generation Lunar settlers. Matthew, the thirteen-year-old son, is the central character. He is a smart kid and hangs out with a good group of friends, but they are obsessed with running cold -- staying out of sight of the computer monitors and parietal controls. And despite being just 13, Matt is already looking for ways to run off on a space trader. However, much of his time is spend playing VR games with his friends...
The father, Albin, is a member of the Luna water-board, struggling with the ever-present limitation on Luna's growth, the water shortage. He finds himself in the center of an odd and confusing bit of intrigue, as it becomes apparent that the Earth-based company trying to sell them lots of water cheap is up to something especially tricky, even for them. Oh... and the mother is just kind of there, the head of exosurgery at the local hospital; present, but not too much going on in her life, other than supporting her family in their problems.
If this sounds just a bit disconnected, well, it is. There is a plot of sorts, but it is hard to follow and secondary to following the Ronays as they live their lives. The story alternates between flurries of oblique references to half-hidden sub-plots and mundane descriptions of everyday life on Luna. Of course, half-hidden subplots aren't all bad, and daily life on Luna can be pretty interesting, but I still felt that I spent most of this book either slightly confused or slightly bored. This is exacerbated by a lot of unnecessary slang and jargon, and a bit too much angst and touchy-feely stuff. There is also no strong tie-up of the sub-plots at the end; while it is not quite a do-it-yourself-mystery, you have to have been paying attention to figure out what is going on. The book would surely benefit from a second reading, although I personally am not motivated to read it again.
While I did not particularly enjoy this book, others have, and it won the 1994 Philip K Dick award. If you enjoy hard SF that is not plot driven, and books that contain more living-life than exciting-plots, you should give it a try.