Gary Lucas (character)

Gary Lucas (character)

"Gary Lucas" is a fictional character in the novel ""'Ice by Shane Johnson.

Character introduction

Astronaut Gary Lucas, stranded on the Moon after his LM ascent engine fails to fire, makes a discovery that at once saves, and changes, his life.

Explanation of the character's name

Gary Lucas' surname may or may not be a play on the name of the Evangelist Saint Luke.

Character sketch


Adventure, service to his country, providing for his family, and friendship with his fellows.


To lead a successful mission, and ultimately to save his own life and that of his friend.


* With nature--stranded on the Moon with a limited air supply, and then apparently tele-transported to an alien world in the throes of a profound social upheaval, a world ultimately destroyed by a geothermal cataclysm.
* With various hostile natives on the world he is "visiting."

Minor irritation(s)

His friend and colleague wants to persuade him to be a Christian, and he feels that Christianity lacks adequate supporting evidence.


* He cannot deny the reality of God any longer.
* What he believed was an adventure on an alien world was actually a humbling lesson in very early earth history.

Biographical summary

Prior story

Gary Lucas became an astronaut in 1965. During his training, he met and married his wife, Diane, in Cocoa Beach, Florida. They have one son, Jeff, who is ten years old at the time in which the novel takes place.

Actions in "Ice"

Apollo 19 and its Disastrous Turn

Gary Lucas, Mission Commander of "Apollo 19", lands near the Moon's south pole, near the Marlow Basin (this is the Aitken Basin in real life). He and his friend, LM Pilot Charles Shepherd, intend to explore this basin, which they believe is a massive meteoric impact crater that might contain fragments of lunar bedrock. Indeed, they find a large quantity of precious and semiprecious stones, the most colorful and valuable yet found on the Moon.

Then the two astronauts prepare to lift off from the Moon and make rendezvous with their Command Module. But the LM ascent engine fails to fire. Repeated attempts to restart it all end in failure. Realizing that they are permanently stranded, Lucas and Shepherd decide to retrieve their discarded life-support backpacks and use their special heavy Lunar rover to strike out on their own. Lucas peremptorily orders his Command Module Pilot to execute trans-Earth injection and return home. His last communication with Mission Control is a plea to his fellow astronauts on Earth to make sure that his returning friend does not blame himself for a disaster not of his making, which no one could remedy.

Lucas and Shepherd set out directly for the Marlow Basin, passing the precious-stone deposit they had discovered earlier. As they enter the basin itself, they suddenly find themselves traveling on flat ground--and not merely flat but optically flat, enough to reflect the very stars. They stop and break off a sample of the impossibly flat ground. To their astonishment, what they took for ground is actually water ice--a vast quantity, somehow frozen over. Unable to account for their find, they drive on--until at last the rover's battery cannot move the rover any further. But before they stop, Lucas sees a glint of an apparent metal object as it catches the light from the rover's headlamps.

He sets out alone to investigate, leaving his friend in the rover. As he moves off the ice sheet, he discovers what is surely an artifact--a machine whose purpose he cannot explain. He makes one circuit of it, and then must activate his Oxygen Purge System. He now has thirty minutes of air remaining to him. Rather than waste any of it by walking back to the rover, he follows what appear to be conduits leading from the artifact to an unknown point down the edge of the ice sheet. The conduit leads to a grim discovery: a long-dead astronaut, who must have stood eight feet tall or taller, who committed suicide by taking off his suit glove--how long ago, Lucas cannot tell. He is about to follow the footprints left by the dead man when his suit light dies.

He waits fifteen minutes more, until Astronaut Shepherd rejoins him. Together they follow the footprints for ten minutes more--and then Lucas can go no further. His air is now spent, and he loses consciousness. When he regains it, he finds himself inside a vast airlock, into which his friend says that he has dragged him. Lucas asks what has become of the rover, and his friend answers that the ice has melted, leaving the rover submerged. Shepherd apparently abandoned the rover just in time to avoid drowning.

The Lunar Base

The two realize that they are in an abandoned but functioning Lunar base--but who built it becomes a minor source of contention between the two. Lucas believes that extrasolar visitors built it; Shepherd refuses to admit the possibility, saying that the Bible mentions no such thing. The two agree, however, that they must explore the base more fully before they slowly starve. Realizing that the doors on the base have light-activated locks, they search for and find personal light keys, which they use to escape the airlock.

They discover an apparent war room, where Shepherd activates a map display showing a solar system very similar to the one they remember--except that it has five rocky inner planets, not four; does not contain the planet Pluto; and has rings around all the gas giants, not Saturn alone. Gary Lucas' prime worries, however, are twofold: that the base "has never seen the hands of man," and that the builders of the base command a technology that would allow them to conquer Earth easily if they so desired. This raises the question of why the base builders never "did" attack Earth, a question Lucas will not be able to answer until much later.

The two astronauts explore the base further, searching for a mess hall where they can relieve their hunger. They make two more grim discoveries: a storage room containing the remains of several giant-sized uniformed human-like creatures who apparently fought each other to the death in that room; and living quarters with a dead occupant inside, apparently a suicide. Lucas takes for himself the outsized and very ornate knife with which the suicide ended his life, and the two continue their explorations.

Lucas' Adventures on the Builders' Home World

The next morning, however, Lucas takes a wrong turn, and finds himself on a most unwelcome adventure. At first he relives the landing of the LM and the unpacking of the heavy rover that they would later use. Then he finds himself on an Earth-like planet, except that it is nighttime and he is in the middle of a riot in a burning town. Architectural clues tell him that he is now on the home world of the builders of the base--though how he came to be on that world, he cannot explain. He ducks into a dwelling, steals some food, and is almost discovered by the tenant of the dwelling, himself a drunken giant carrying a bag of looted goods. Venturing outside, he spots a woman who from a distance resembles his wife. A man, carrying an outsized sword, is assaulting her. Lucas rushes to save her, realizing at the last moment that both man and woman are giants, as is everyone on this world. Lucas manages to kill the assailant but then is pinned beneath his body. The woman cannot free him, and at Lucas' insistent urging, flees into the nearby forest.

Lucas himself is taken captive. He awakens inside an obvious prison, and all his fellow inmates are giants, who fight each other viciously over every scrap of food that a guard tosses into the cell. As Lucas watches, prisoners are periodically taken from the cell and offered on a sacrificial altar. When the cell door opens one final time, Lucas believes that his turn at the altar has come--but then two masked men carry him "away" from the altar.

He loses consciousness again, and awakens in a very comfortable but outsized bed, in a house whose decorations show none of the stylized cruelty that he has seen reflected anywhere else. He soon learns that the woman he rescued is a part of that household, and that her husband and one of his two brothers rescued him from the sacrificial prison. The elder patriarch of the family offers him as much food as he can eat. In gratitude, Lucas offers to assist the household with the completion of a grand construction project--a six-hundred-foot storehouse, apparently being stocked with grain. During his involvement with the project, the oldest member of the household, apparently the grandfather of the actual head, dies. Lucas briefly joins the family in grieving for their loved one, and then returns to work--only to be knocked off the scaffold where he is standing. Regaining consciousness yet again, he finds himself the subject of an argument among the family. Realizing that he is being asked to leave, he resigns himself, believing that this family had already shown him more kindness than he could ever repay.

Again he sleeps, and upon awakening finds himself alone in the house, which is not only abandoned but largely stripped of its foodstuffs and library. Outside, the storehouse is sealed shut, but Lucas finds the ground around it severely trampled. Then he hears the sound of rushing water in the distance--and sees a wall of water heading straight toward him, destroying everything in its path. Frantically he climbs a tall tower next to the storehouse, barely staying above the hot floodwaters. The waters break around the storehouse--and then lift it off its foundations, carrying it toward the tower where Lucas is clinging. The storehouse knocks the tower over, and Lucas falls into the turbulent waters.

Lucas on the Base--and in the Past

Then, just as suddenly, he finds himself lying on a stone floor, in the room he has claimed aboard the Lunar base. Immediately he searches for his fellow astronaut--but then hears voices speaking the same language as those on the home world spoke. Horrified, he realizes that the base is now occupied. With his memory of the grotesque practices he saw on the home world, he dares not let anyone find him.

But he soon realizes that the base crew are far too distracted to care about him--because they are watching the very geothermal cataclysm that he barely survived. As it becomes readily apparent that their home world is suffering total destruction, dissension grows in the ranks, leading to desertion, mutiny--and a reenactment of the scene of mass murder that Lucas had discovered before his adventures began. After witnessing that scene, Lucas realizes for the first time that he has traveled thousands of years into the past. Desperately searching for his friend, he enters another room, and witnesses a remnant of the base crew sacrificing one of their own crewmates on an altar. He runs and hides, and then searches further, finally realizing that he is in the past and his fellow astronaut is not.

Two days later, he awakens to a repeated series of moonquakes. In the war room, he discovers the installation commander, now the only other person left alive. The commander is witnessing the wholesale meteoric bombardment of the Moon, which is transforming it into the pockmarked world known to modern man. The commander utters a few words that Lucas cannot translate, but he can guess their meaning: the commander is mourning the total destruction of everything he knew. Finally the commander suits up and heads outside--to become the suicide that Lucas originally discovered. Lucas tries to dissuade the commander from this course, but the commander waves him off and will not listen.

Rescue--and Epiphany

Lucas then suffers one final attack of vertigo and awakens inside a Skylab rescue vehicle. His friend and LM Pilot is anxiously bending over him--and a three-man rescue crew, including Astronauts James Irwin and Donald K. Slayton, are also inquiring after his health. The mission commander remarks that he and Astronaut Irwin had been able to find a radio signal from the base--but Lucas could not have had such a signal to use. Lucas answers that though he and Shepherd couldn't have known where the base was, God did--and God had led them to it.

Shortly thereafter, a bright burst of light fills the windows of the spacecraft. The Lunar base has destroyed itself in an apparent thermonuclear detonation.

Back on Earth, weeks later, Lucas and Shepherd are preparing to testify as to what they have seen before a secret committee. But before they go in to testify, Lucas and Shepherd discuss Lucas' apparent long absence from Shepherd until their rescue. Lucas insists that he was on the base builders' home world, but Shepherd replies that Lucas never left the base, that he was confined to a machine that produced a simulated environment based on input from a base-wide and planet-wide surveillance system that they both had noticed before. Lucas ultimately accepts the proposition that he did in fact enter the machine Shepherd describes--because he had seen the base commander appear from the room the machine was in, just before the base crew mutinied and essentially destroyed one another. Lucas concludes that the base commander had been the last person to use the machine before Lucas himself did, and had never reset it after using it--so that when Lucas inadvertently entered it, it "sent" him where the base commander had "been."

Lucas then reveals that he has begun to study the Bible seriously. His studies, beginning with Genesis, have led him to confess that Shepherd was right the first time: that no extrasolar visitors built the base. Instead, the base was a product of Antediluvian civilization--and furthermore, he, Lucas, was privileged to share a meal with Noah and his sons, and to help apply pitch to Noah's Ark--which was none other than the six-hundred-foot "storehouse" he had worked on. This explains the argument that had broken out in the household of the "storehouse builders" immediately before the geothermal cataclysm--they were not asking him to leave, but were leaving him behind, out of unquestioning obedience to a direct command from God. Lucas also realizes that Noah--or his simulacrum--made the tough decision to leave him behind, a quality of leadership that Lucas admires and respects. Finally, Lucas contends that this explains why the base builders never attacked Earth--because Earth itself was their home world, before the Great Deluge destroyed their civilization.

In response, Shepherd tells Lucas that God has essentially granted them a warning, and that they must not let the nature of the base remain secret. Lucas affirms his determination to communicate the warning to anyone who will listen.

=Relationship with other characters in "Ice" =

* Astronaut Charles Shepherd, Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 19
* Astronaut Victor Kendall, Command Module Pilot, Apollo 19

* Diane "Annie" Lucas, his wife
* Jeffrey "Jeff" Lucas, his son

* Astronaut Bruce Cortney, Mission Commander, Apollo 20
* Astronaut James Irwin, Lunar Module Pilot, Apollo 20
* Astronaut Donald K. Slayton, Command Module Pilot, Apollo 20

* Noah
* Wife of Noah
* Shem, Ham, and Japheth, sons of Noah
* Wives of the sons of Noah, including one whom Lucas rescues from a rioting assailant

* Commander and crew of the Lunar base

Major themes

A journey of faith, and the realization of great blessing.

Literary significance & criticism

This character has not been known long enough to generate a significant body of literary criticism.

Allusions/references from other works

None known.

Film portraits

Gary Lucas has not been portrayed in film.

ources, references, external links, quotations

See the article on the source novel, "Ice"

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