Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review: Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald

Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald
Published: Gollancz/Tor, 2015
Series: Book 1 of Luna
Awards Nominated: BSFA Award

The Book:

The Moon wants to kill you. Maybe it will kill you when the per diem for your allotted food, water, and air runs out, just before you hit paydirt. Maybe it will kill you when you are trapped between the reigning corporations--the Five Dragons--in a foolish gamble against a futuristic feudal society. On the Moon, you must fight for every inch you want to gain. And that is just what Adriana Corta did.

As the leader of the Moon's newest "dragon," Adriana has wrested control of the Moon's Helium-3 industry from the Mackenzie Metal corporation and fought to earn her family's new status. Now, in the twilight of her life, Adriana finds her corporation--Corta Helio--confronted by the many enemies she made during her meteoric rise. If the Corta family is to survive, Adriana's five children must defend their mother's empire from her many enemies... and each other.”

Surprise, I do actually still write book reviews!  One of Ian McDonald’s other novels that I have read is The Dervish House, which made me want to visit Istanbul. I still hope I can one day, since it sounds like a beautiful city, rich in culture and history.  Anyway, though it also had a very vivid setting, Luna most definitely did not make me want to visit the moon!

My Thoughts:

I’ve heard this book often described as Game of Thrones on the moon, but it seems to me to be closer to a multicultural, lunar Godfather (even to the extent of featuring five families). The original lunar colonists did not set about to shape a new society, but instead allowed their new world to be shaped by market forces and corporations that form around, essentially, mafia families.  The end result is a society with no criminal justice system, where charisma, money, physical violence and connections can get one out of any tough spot.  The only form of law is contract law--which contributes to making lunar relationships strangely businesslike--and contract conflicts seem to be resolved primarily by razzle-dazzle and single combat.  This all makes for one of the more unusual societies I’ve seen fiction, but it’s also one I would never want to live in.  

My favorite character in this novel was, by far, the elderly Adriana Corta.  I loved the chapters where she narrated her extraordinary life: her immigration to the moon, her romantic entanglements, and the building of her empire.  It was fascinating to see lunar society in these early stages, and Adriana’s story was full of intense risk, loss, and success.  Her children, on the other hand, seemed petty and overly fond of posturing.  Unfortunately, the younger generation makes up most of the story’s viewpoint characters.  This did not help me to become emotionally engaged. On the positive side, I enjoyed how the five families represented such different cultures, with origins from Ghana, Australia, Russia, China and Brazil. I enjoyed reading about Adriana’s childhood in Brazil, and in seeing the ways the younger generations, which can never physically return to Earth, hold to their cultural heritage.  We spend most of the time with the Brazilian family in this first novel, but it would also have been fun to get more insight into the other families.

The story built up very slowly, and seemed sometimes to not have much focus.  It seemed to bounce from one subplot to another--Adriana’s amazing life story, Lucasinho’s teenage rebellion and sexual conquests, Rafa’s relationship problems, Ariel’s career, and so on.  However, the story eventually comes together into a climactic final act.  It was an exciting conclusion, which both resolves this novel and points the reader toward what to expect in future novels.  On the other hand, I felt that the way some of the characters resorted to violence diminished the meaning of the maneuvering that had taken place earlier in the novel.  At least, it was very effective in showing how close to the surface chaos and violence lies in the kind of society the five families have created.  Though I did enjoy aspects of Luna: New Moon, I doubt I’ll be continuing on to the rest of the series.

My Rating: 3/5

Luna: New Moon is a family drama about essentially mafia on the moon.  It takes place after the moon has been colonized by humans, and a society dominated by five crime families/corporations has been established. The five families represent interesting selection of different Earth cultures, with the main focus on a family originating from Brazil.  For me, the history of the colonization of the moon, as related through the matriarch Adriana Corta’s life story, was the most fascinating part of the novel.  I was less into the family squabbles that engaged the younger generations of Cortas, which took up the bulk of the novel.  The story didn’t seem to have much focus in the beginning, but it did eventually culminate in an exciting conflict between families.  I think this is ultimately not the series for me, but it has a lot to offer readers who have more interest in organized crime stories and family dramas.

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