Luna: New Moon (Luna (1)) Paperback – September 13, 2016
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Praise for Luna: New Moon
“McDonald's never written a bad novel, but [Luna: New Moon] is a great one.” ―Cory Doctorow
"With an action narrative driving this political commentary, Luna is actually a fantastically fun read as well as an important one. " ―Los Angeles Review of Books
“McDonald creates a complex and fascinating civilization featuring believable technology, and the characters are fully developed, with individually gripping stories.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review
"An engaging thriller... McDonald's portrait of a cutthroat society trying to survive in the deadliest of environments also make it one of the strongest science fiction novels of the year." ―The Chicago Tribune
"It’s a great scenario, lovingly detailed, and curiously attractive despite its current of unforgiving violence." ―The Wall Street Journal
"The best moon novel I’ve seen in many years. . . McDonald’s novel has some formidable SF stingers not far beneath its densely textured surface." ―Locus
"The story is innovative and fresh...has a feel of The Godfather meets A Song of Ice and Firemeets Ender’s Game." ―Portland Book Review
Praise for Luna: Wolf Moon
"Spare, simple, elegant when he needs to be...deep and meaty when he wants to be...[Mcdonald] does his work like an artisan pulling a sculpture from stone. " ―NPR
"Each of McDonald’s viewpoint characters is made human in fascinating and occasionally disturbing detail, and the solar system of the 22nd century is wonderfully delineated." ―Publishers Weekly, starred review
"The fights and vengeance that follow are more vicious and intricate than anything in Game of Thrones, full of great acts of self-sacrifice and viciousness alike, brave cavalry charges and last stands, cowardice and avarice." ―Boing Boing
"For all the enjoyable intrigue he concocts, McDonald never lets us forget that the Moon is a frontier that basically just wants to kill us." ―Chicago Tribune
About the Author
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Where this book really falls short, however, is the editing. Or, perhaps, the utter lack thereof. It is replete with grammatical errors, misspellings, continuity of detail flaws, and the full run of editing mistakes. There is at least one error per page, and that is inexcusable in a mass market work from the world's foremost publisher in the genre, Tor. It reads as though it wasn't edited at all before publication. The purpose of good editing is, first and foremost, to make the words disappear, so that the reader can be transported into this world. Any error jarringly brings the reader back into the present, makes the reader think about the form rather than the content. And that is a shame, because it detracts from the experience of the story.
Mr. McDonald, I salute your storytelling, but get a better editor.
Large chunks of Luna reminded me, in a very good way, of the first Dune book. There is that tight our-family-vs-their-family paranoia, scheming and dynastic maneuvering. There is the evil nemesis equivalent to Baron Harkonnen. The knife duels. The lunar environment is quite as deadly as Dune deserts.
None of this should be thought of as a copy, Luna runs with its own ideas and has its own vibe. But Dune, part 1, was an amazing story of feudal dynastic warfare and Luna follows the same logic because that logic makes sense. Luna layers its own capitalistic/libertarian/Brazilian sensibilities onto it and channels 21st century cyberpunk. I especially liked the "familiars", basically a personal AI that seems to be pretty much a logical evolution of a smartphone/digital assistant.
Outside of family ninja-ing, the culture is richly developed, with POV characters a la GoT ("the McKenzies always pay back, three times"). Like GoT, characters are richly developed and not all will survive. There are lots of references to sex, with occasional slightly graphic scenes (btw, a fair bit of those references concern gay sex) .
One thing I did miss, slightly, is that the initial down-at-heels dystopian thread merges into the mainline fairly early on. There is a fascinating subtheme to Luna, that of oxygen and water being strictly on a use-if-you-can-pay basis and what happens to the poor who can't. But that fades when the action mostly shifts to the rich feudal families. Seems like it might pop back up in book 2.
Speaking of which, this is book 1 and while it stops at a good spot, it is not a standalone story. Really looking forward to book 2.
p.s. Ian McDonald is a really good longtime SF author, but relatively unknown. A bit like GRRM before GoT - people in the know mostly love him, but his are not the SF books you're gonna find at the airport bookstall. I don't want to pigeonhole him, but, at a guess, I think that his being from Belfast is one of the reasons he lavishes so much attention on cultural details in conflicts, certainly that has been a major theme in many of his books.
I’ve seen several reviews which label it a mixture of The Godfather, Game of Thrones and Dune, set on the Moon. I really can’t improve on that. Five predominant families (The Five Dragons) relentlessly compete for economic and political supremacy in habitats on and under the lunar surface. There are some good “hard” science fiction concepts related to the intricacies involved with life in space and on the Moon, but the gist of the novel deals with interpersonal and family dynamics.
The major characters are a part of the Brazilian Corta family and the novel is filled with Portuguese terms and cultural references, which is a little bit overdone and inconvenient. Also, this is the first book of a two part series, so don’t expect any resolution at the end of the novel.
Top international reviews
The world building felt like a first draft, there were some good ideas but they weren't explored. Supposedly there is no law, only contracts, but there was no exploration of how society would function under this. At the beginning, it looked like we would get a view of life for the poor, but this was quickly dropped and never mentioned again. The non-English words didn't add depth, they just felt disorientating, probably because I don't know Portuguese (but why would a Brazilian family use Korean management titles?).
Also, was all the sex really necessary? Was there any point to that very long and very detailed masturbation scene? Would it have been possible for even a single person to talk to a non-relative without sleeping with them?
Anyway, the good news is that the whole series is fantastic. Each time I read New Moon, it has seems to get better, probably because I picked up on things I missed the previous time. Its like Game of Thrones on the moon. It even has dragons, though not the fire breathing type.
CBS are supposed to be making a TV series based on the books, but unfortunately there hasn’t been an update on the internet since 2015 that I can find. It would make great TV if it was done as well as GOT.
As usual, Ian McDonald has created an environment set in the not so distant future, that is not too far removed from Earth society today. His creations are always recognisable – on the surface – but have tweaks that make you re-evaluate your own way of living and the current world around you. This is a vision of a possible future – dystopian or not depends on your politics (and bank balance).
This book is set on the moon about 60 – 100 years after the moon is first colonised. Its society is a plutocracy run by 5 family corporations, or Dragons, each originating from a different corner of Earth: Mackenzie Metals from Australia; Corta Helio from Brazil; Taiyang (Sun) from China; VTO (Vorontsov) from Central Asia/Russia; and AKA (Asamoah) from Ghana. So, Ghanaian but no USA or EU Dragons! The widespread origins of the families are reflected in the polyglot nature of Lune society.
On the moon, everything has a price. Things such as breathable air, which we take for granted, costs. If you have no money, you cannot breathe, and die. No money – no water, no food, no safe accommodation. The cheapest accommodation is on the surface, where dangerous radiation levels are highest. The rich live well below. Each human has an eye implant registering their available wealth, which ticks down as they breathe, drink, eat, live. On the upside (!), you can sell your urine for money. In death, your body is recycled – no waste.
There is no welfare state. The rich lead charmed lives, and the poor are wretched: “Poverty stretches time. And poverty is an avalanche. One tiny slippage knocks on another, knocks loose yet others and everything is sliding, rushing away”, “The might and magic of money is not what it allows you to own; it is what it allows you to be. Money is freedom”. Money doesn’t just buy comestibles, it buys protection and justice. Everything is determined by negotiation and contracts. There are no laws, no morals.
The book revolves around the Corta family, and the poor Jo Moonbeam (recent arrival from Earth), Marina, whose life becomes entangled with the Cortas. The history of the Cortas is told through the confession of their matriarch, Adriana, as she prepares for death. Her descendants are in a continual battle for supremacy with the other Dragons. Outright war is only kept in check by marriages of state between the families, and their binding Nikahs (marriage contracts). However, a marriage contract does not guarantee allegiance. Where the marriage is tactical rather than a love match, both parties remain suspicious of each other, and children become bargaining chips. It appears a society heading for disaster – but the reasons behind the eventual meltdown are not quite what they appear to be.
Because the book focusses on the Corta family, you see them as the good guys, and the Mackenzies as the bad: “The Mackenzies scorn their affectations. They are the dwellers in endless light. Light bathes them, soaks them, enriches them; leaches and bleaches them. Born without shadows, the Mackenzies have taken darkness inside them”. But, each character exhibits positive and negative traits, making them real, believable and developing with the story line.
The lunar society and its customs are so vividly and intricately drawn, that it almost ceases to feel like fiction. Everything is perfectly thought through – take an Earth custom and extend it, shrink it, change it. There is the full spectrum of sexuality, and people do not define themselves by their birth gender or preferred sexuality. Relationships need not be monogamous, nor exclusive. Fashions come and go rapidly, nothing is static. The gravity of the moon alters the human physique through a lifetime, through generations. Spend too long on the moon and you can never return to Earth.
The language of the book is wonderful and the imagery gifted: “The riding lights of drones and pedicopters, the sparkle of fliers, the jewelled abacus of the elevator cars and cable gondolas: she is immersed in light, breathing it as a fish breathes water. Bubbles of exhaled light”; “The changes fell like micrometeors, like hundreds of tiny impacts”.
I cannot recommend this book – and anything of Ian McDonald – highly enough. Read this and become a fan forever.
I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Luna was quite a page turner, generally easy to follow even without easy access to the glossary (thanks Kindle). It's part one of two though, so don't expect a tidy ending. This was my first novel by Ian McDonald. I expect I'll have read another before the sequel to Luna arrives.
Yes there are a lot of characters and a lot of POVs, but like most McDonald books, the reader is kept engrossed enough that after a while it all fits into place.
It's a brilliant imagining of a possible lunar future, which all the sociological thought we've come to expect from McDonald and a driving plot. I didn't find the characters quite as engaging as in his recent books, but that's a small distinction. Very much worth reading.