Luna: New Moon (book 1) by Ian McDonald (book review).

October 16, 2019 | By | Reply More

I’ve read Ian McDonald’s short story ‘The Fifth Dragon’ a couple of times, a story set in the early days of moon colonisation that sets the scene for the five big family corporations who dominate the lunar economy. It was intriguing enough that I wanted to read the trilogy of ‘Luna’ novels that follow on from it, starting with ‘Luna: New Moon’.

The tagline for the series is ‘The Moon has a thousand ways to kill you.’ That is made abundantly clear from the start with the two opening scenes. Firstly, there’s a traditional coming-of-age potentially deadly Moon run that scions of rich families take part in. Secondly is the character Marina, who is new to the Moon and unemployed, finding that her air, water, carbon and data credits are stretched thin so that breathing fresh air is not a given, even inside the underground cities that have been bored and carved into the moon rock.

The story that follows on is a mixture of family politics and arguments; intercompany rivalry, a new culture that is still finding its feet and setting new standards and the constant, background threat of death on the Moon’s harsh surface. It’s an uncompromisingly frank account of the personal lives of the Corta family, exploring not only their place in lunar society as a whole, but how each individual fits in with the trends and mores of a new society.

In this world, Ian McDonald has postulated that sexual equality, the blurring of gender boundaries and the diversification of what constitutes ‘normal’ will continue apace. In some ways this creates a more homogenous society, but it also allows room for new differences to emerge.

Those born on the Moon are better adapted to low gravity and confined living conditions and are taller and more slender with each generation, but new immigrants like Joe Moonbeams are stronger and more muscular, taking jobs in security and other physical tasks where they have an advantage. New religions and superstitions have developed, leading to the formation of new cults and lifestyles that are once again fragmenting humanity into various divisions.

The on-going competition and outright feuding between the five Dragons, the five big families, is the most blatant example of the way the Moon has divided people. With a population of only one and a half million, there should be room for all in the rapidly expanding infrastructure, but greed and grudges perpetually interfere with the potential of Lunarian society. The Vorontsovs, Suns, Cortas McKenzies and Asamoahs all control monopolies in various aspects of Lunar business, but it seems that nobody is content to leave it that way.

Interspersed in the narrative, Adriana Corta, founder of Corta Helio, tells the tale of her youth and her start on the Moon and this includes the section published separately as ‘The Fifth Dragon’. Appearing as it does quite a way into the book, it nicely ties various threads and information together, giving that story a deeper meaning from when I read it previously.

There is on-going threat, continued hope and optimism, grand plans for expansion and secret plans for revenge. All these rumble on in the background of this book, leading on to a climax that leaves me impatient for the next volume. Which I fortunately have waiting for me already. It’s a wonderfully intense, provocative and impactful book.

It has a different feel to ‘Brasyl’, ‘The Dervish House’ or ‘River Of Gods’, books that were quintessentially Ian McDonald. In this new series, a new chapter has opened up and so far has proven to be just as intriguing.

Gareth D Jones

October 2019

(pub: Gollancz. 416 page paperback. Price: £ 6.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-47320-224-5)

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Category: Books, Scifi

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