Luna - New Moon: A Fascinating, Yet Cruel World of the Moon
Luna: New Moon By Ian McDonald
A few years ago I read a short story called Tenaldo’s Tale and it was one of the best pieces of scifi I ever read. It was about an alien ecosystem stretching cross Africa and follows a family as they try to survive in this new world. And it was amazing. It was different, unique, and imaginative. So I made a note of the author. I looked into his other work and much of it I found seemed so daunting. They focused on themes such as space time continuums or quantum computing. I like scifi, but I like grounded scifi not space opera wild scifi, so I wanted to find something no so intimidating that wouldn't throw me down a rabbit hole too quickly. Then I found one about a colony on the moon. It sounded like book that could be an easy access point to his work, for new readers. So here is my reviews of Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald.
The story takes place on the moon at an undefined date in the future. The moon has an expansive colony made up of over a million people. The colony is divided into five districts. Each is a different corporation, controlled by a single hierarchy family. The story follows the Corta family, who control a whole corporation that turns helium 3 to energy to power Earth. At a social gathering, there is an attempted assassination that puts everyone on edge, creating wedge and eventual conflict between the Corta and Mackenzie families. As the book goes on, it follows all five Corta siblings, their aging mother and new comer, Earth born Marina who becomes closer to the family than expected.
So the good and bad? Let’s start with good. This is a fully realized world the author built. The moon is a beautiful multi-cultural world pacrked with so much vivid detail, that the simplest things are striking There will be a scene where a character talks to a woman in a bar. The unique scenery will have the neon lights against a cross between Brazillian and Japanesse décor as Earth shines through the window. You can just see it in your head when you read it. Then there’s a scene where there’s a moon sport that is a form of paint ball, where the pain is laced with drugs where the losing team gets higher and higher. It’s all so imaginative and depicted well. The world is also complex as well. The society is a very multicultural world, where nearly everyone is mix raced, bi-sexual, atheist, and seem to be constantly participating in drugs, parties, and sex. But as you read on, its easy to see much more of this care free lifestyle where anything goes is an escape from the harsh world on the moon. The common folk below the five families are suffering. They are not being paid enough and they must pay for every breath they take. They can’t afford food. They overcharge so much, many can’t even shower. They are trapped in a cycle of slavery. And they can’t escape to Earth because their bones will crush with Earth’s gravity. And along with all of this, there is no law, but corporate law. The only laws that exist, exist for alliances between the families and to be sure that common folk are paying their bills. And for God’s sake folks are selling their pee on the black market to pay their bills to breathe. There’s no law other than that. So Ian built a very fascinating and cruel world. Beyond that, the mother of the family has a fascinating story about how she rose to the heights of power on the moon. And this book uses science a lot in this story, which I appreciate.
So onto the bad? First off, other than Marina, these characters are unlikable. They are rich cooperate bad guys, who don’t understand they're bad guys. They are running this place in as a corporate dictatorship and care only about their own family and profit. And there is not an arc where they became better people. Up until the very end they don’t get it. There’s a scene where Marina is trying to explain the cruelty of the world to one of the siblings, and the sibling can’t grasp the concept of it. It’s not a big part of the story, but that scene alone re enforces the shallowness of the characters.. They don’t show the common folk too much, and the focus is only on the Corta Family. It can be forgotten, and overlooked by some readers. But to me, it just added to the of cruelty to this family. They are out of touch with the harsh realities of their doing. I didn’t like it. I don’t like reading about bad guys.
Also there is a hint of revolution brewing, but never takes place. In fact, the story meanders quite a lot until the very end. It seems to have no real direction jumping back and forth between the lives of these seven characters. If not for the fully realized crazy world, this would be boring. Also you know how it was mentioned earlier, that there are no real laws. This mean pedophilia is also legal. And there is this awful scene where a bright eyed adorable innocent little eleven year old boy is legally married off to a thirty something year old man by his grandfather for the sake of the company. Thankfully nothing happens and he escapes with his mother. But it is shocking scene that shows some of the darkest corners of a world like this. And it may serve purpose, proving a point in case for the revolution and overthrowing the powers later on. This is being hinted at, but that scene made me squirm and feel gross. I almost put the book down for good and am surprised I finally decided to return to it to trust the author that he must have a reason for including something so disgusting in this book. But I feel a lot of people will not proceed once this plot element is revealed. It is very a very sickening element, I think a lot of people will not be able to look past.
Overall, this book centers on a cruel and fascinating world. The imagination alone makes it worth reading. But unfortunately the story is pulled down by unlikable characters and the darker layers of this world may be too dark for many readers. Some of it was too dark for me. To be honest, by the end I was ready to board a rocket and leave the moon for good. But I won’t regret reading it and I can’t tell others not to read it. There are things in this book so unique and imaginative that you can’t find anywhere else. So I recommend it, but be prepared for what other elements to expect out of this novel. It’s a mix of good and bad and I feel the good outweighs the bad. So if this sounds like your thing, you know who you are, then check it out.
2 smoothies out of four.
Overall Rating: A Fascinating Yet Cruel World of the Moon.