Space Case: Moon Base Alpha, Book 1

Book review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Space Case: Moon Base Alpha, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Whip-smart space whodunit touts research, brains over brawn.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Space Case offers positive messages about space travel, scientific research, intelligence, creativity, and the importance of family and friends. It treats kids as seriously as adults, regarding them as valuable contributors. It also treats the possibility of alien life forms as ultimately positive and benevolent.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Parents are portrayed as engaged, present, positive, and heavily invested in the development and well-being of their children and others. Other adults run the gamut from intelligent and morally guided to petty or self-motivated. Kids are both bratty and well-intentioned, demonstrating a realistic range of intelligence, maturity, and curiosity but also age-appropriate emotional limitations. Although most characters are ethical and compassionate, others make mistakes but work to amend them publicly and honorably. Some characters resort to fighting to deal with frustrations of life on the moon, whereas others commit murder. 


Space Case opens with the acknowledgement that a murder has been committed, though it's not described graphically. A teen is chased by a robot intent on killing him. Elsewhere, two men throw punches, and one man's head is slammed into a wall. A few men come to fisticuffs over limited resources. Two teens slam into each other in low gravity; one gets a bloody nose, the other a fat lip. There's a brief choking scene, but the character being choked survives. The peril of life on the moon and the many related threats is pervasive. A woman is described as a violent person who previously stabbed someone in the leg with a fork and bit off someone's ear.


Very minor and brief suggestiveness when a teen boy on the toilet with his pants around his ankles perceives a female computer voice as sexy. A hacker offers a teen boy footage of a woman getting ready to shower.


Very minor insulting language such as "loser" and "jerks." Explicit language regarding vomit, such as "blow chunks," and lots of light toilet humor. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Space Case is an engaging murder mystery from Stuart Gibbs (Belly Up, Spy School) that's set on the moon in the year 2040 with a 12-year-old boy at the center. There's a dead body, some light toilet humor, the potential perils of space travel, and a couple of low-gravity scuffles. But, overall, this series start is a spirited whodunit that praises scientific research, ethics, clever troubleshooting, outsmarting grown-ups, and brains over brawn, with a particular emphasis on diversity and gender equality.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bybeekeepers May 29, 2020


Written by a 6th grader. It's really good! The plot is very interesting and the mystery is intriguing and hard to solve prematurely. Lots of suspects and i... Continue reading
Parent Written byBookworm mom September 11, 2017

Way more violent than the scorecard suggests - should be a 4

This book gave my 10 yr old daughter nightmares. She loved the other books by Stuart Gibbs but she said this book was "different." I just read the Vi... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byKemmline May 27, 2020

Great book!

Great book by a great author!
Kid, 9 years old December 5, 2017

Awesome book

I think the book has powers because I can not take my eyes of it!

What's the story?

Twelve-year-old Dashiell Gibson, his scientist parents, and his sister, Violet, are among the first inhabitants on Moon Base Alpha, which is nowhere near as exciting as it sounds, until the well-liked Dr. Holtz turns up dead. Problem is, base commander Nina the Machina proclaims the murder an accident and forbids Dashiell or anyone to talk about it or investigate it as otherwise. But with clues mounting and a long list of possible suspects who had a motive, Dashiell can't resist exploring his conspiracy theory. New arrival Kira is in on it, as is a mysterious new friend, Zan Perfonic. Can Dashiell solve the murder mystery and stay out of trouble to avenge Dr. Holtz's death, or will he risk getting shipped back to Earth on the first rocket home?

Is it any good?

Stuart Gibbs' books often follow similar formulas, but they are exceptionally well-written, rewarding reads -- and SPACE CASE is no different. It even ups the ante with a heavily researched and imaginative setting: the first human outpost on the moon, inhabited by a team of scientists and their families acting as researchers and willing guinea pigs. The same fast pace, clever quips, and twists and turns are here, but Gibbs takes extra care to paint a picture of equally talented men and women, with girl hackers, racially diverse scientists, and kids often taken as seriously as adults, all done in a matter-of-fact way that feels natural.

Overall, it's a fun read that manages to have it both ways. It praises smarts and education and still has a lot of action-packed, suspense-filled fun. There's a murder, a dead body, and a few scuffles as well as Gibb's trademark teen-boy toilet humor, but nothing is explicit or disturbing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about space travel. Would you live on the moon if you could? Why, or why not?

  • Do you think the book portrays alien life forms realistically? Why, or why not?

  • Things are very diverse and equal on the space colony. How about your school? What grade would you get for diversity and gender equality?

Book details

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