Luna: new moon; same human story

LunaThis sprawling family saga began brilliantly, with an immense, imaginative introduction to the near future, and the corporate colony on the Moon. It’s a coherent, cohesive future history, told through the development of one family which started with a single engineer. She travelled to the Moon to escape desperate poverty on Earth, saw an opportunity and exploited it. The major thread of the story is told near the end of her life, when several generations of her offspring now rival the first four families of the Moon for power and status. We meet her children and their children; the lawyers and engineers and CEOs of the family business, and through their situations we discover a scenario which feels grittily, nastily, humanly possible.

The family are magnificently rich after exploiting the Moon’s resources to best effect. But their business is still hard-fought and cut-throat. Literally: guns may be outlawed but court cases can still be settled by knife fights to the death. At the other end of the scale are the newbie workers, the Earthborn immigrants – physically chunky where their lunar counterparts are delicate and slender. So poor they can barely afford to breathe the O2 which is one of four paid-for elements, along with water, data and carbon. In death, bodies are recycled into the system. And if you stay too long on the Moon then there’s no returning to Earth; bones simply cannot stand the gravitational changes.

The first half of Luna held me utterly entranced, marvelling at the myriad concepts and the deft way they’re tangled together. It’s a masterclass in future fiction, in creating a credible world populated with believable characters. However… there are an awful lot of them. At the start of the novel you’re greeted with a sprawling cast of characters, many with similar names, and it’s a daunting array. There’s also a slew of slang and foreign terms jumbled into the text. You can skip to the glossary or glean the meaning from the context, but it can make the going a little tough at times. This is a weighty, extensive tome, and if you skip-read then you’ll miss not only the back story but vital plot points.

The second half, and particularly the final chapters, were less satisfying for me. As the overall story barrels to its conclusion, many of the individual character arcs are left unresolved. Some remain somewhat mysterious throughout (I loved the wolves, but never quite got a handle on them). As the story shifted from the personal and the speculative science, to the political and the corporate shenanigans, so it lost some of its impact.

By the end of Luna, I felt less than satisfied; frustrated not to be able to spend more time with the core characters, with their weird sex lives, their brutal philosophies, their intriguing tech and their relationships with the Moon itself, a place with a thousand ways to kill you…

Luna is an astonishing vision, brilliantly written. But the scenario, for me, was more fulfilling than the story.

7/10

 

Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason

Luna by Ian McDonald is available as an ebook or paperback

2 thoughts on “Luna: new moon; same human story

  1. Given the concerns you voice at the end of your review, you’ll be glad to know that this is the first book of a duology. The sequel, Luna: Wolf Moon, should come out early 2017.

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