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Cover of 'The Last Disaster'
Cover of 'Die Erde in Gefahr'

The Last Disaster

(DE - Die Erde in Gefahr - lit "The Earth in Peril")


Publishing details:

UK: Faber, 1978, in print until about 1981, h/b. ISBN 0-571-11153-X.
DE: Boje-Verlag (Stuttgart), 1980, h/b. ISBN 3-414-10390-7.

Synopsis:

For unknown reasons, the moon's orbit is contracting. The only hope of averting imminent disaster is an experimental antigravity device - the brainchild of an eccentric, elderly Welsh professor. However, his disillusionment with the world of man makes him refuse his help...

Commentary:

It has to be said, this is not one of the best of the series. No explanation is given for the change in the moon's orbit - nor for the initial failure and miraculous repair of the antigravity device.

The story is mostly told from Chris's point of view, and Tony, Morrey and Serge appear only briefly. The character of the writer who is commissioned by UNEXA to predict the effect of imminent disaster on the world's population is clearly autobiographical - the name Wally Hughes is not a subtle choice!

And unfortunately, as you can see, the UK cover is also somewhat uninspiring.

Reviews:

WALTERS, HUGH. The Last Disaster. Faber, £3.50. 1978. pp. 136.
571 11153 X.

The moon strays from its orbit and threatens humanity with annihilation.
Through world co-operation Chris Godfrey and his friends are able,
racing against time, to build on the moon a massive anti-gravity device
which is based on the researches of an aged Welsh professor who gives
his life to win success. Under the transparent pseudonym of Wally
Hughes the author himself takes part in the story as a popular novelist
engaged to estimate panic reaction. Adults are still pasteboard figures,
but far less reminiscent of cartoon characters than they were in the
earlier stories. Simplifications, such as the failure of astronomers, other
than those involoved with Chris, to detect the aberration of the moon's
orbit are acceptable for ten- to twelve-year-olds, since the overall
picture is valid given the premises from which the story begins.
NORMAN CULPAN
The School Librarian, June 1978

'A solar eclipse happens a few minutes early and astronomers realise that the moon is spiralling in toward the Earth, with collision due in five years. They do not waste time wondering what happened to the principle of conservation of momentum but look wildly about for a plan to save the world. Luckily, an eccentric welshman has been building an antigravity device in his back room. The idea is to build a much bigger one and ship this up to the moon, situating it at the point on the moon's surface which is on the line between the centres of gravity of the Earth and its satellite. There, once activated, it will push the Moon back into a respectable orbit (the device has to be on the Moon because the Moon always keeps the same face towards the Earth, so that the crucial point is a stable geographical location).

'Anyone but a moron will notice immediately that this is a non-starter. The reason that the moon keeps the same face turned to the Earth is that its period of rotation matches its orbital period (i.e. its day is the same as its year). If the Moon were to begin spiralling towards the Earth this would no longer be so. What price saving the world?

'Hugh Walters ..... obviously knows no better, but it is hard to explain why the editor who accepted this book is .... a manifest cretin. Perhaps they just don't care.'

Brian Stableford, Vector Magazine #88, Jul/Aug 1978