Review -- Luna: New Moon
After getting a taste of all of the excitement surrounding the SyFy production of The Expanse, it came as no real surprise to me that other TV networks might want to try and jump on the proverbial band wagon. CBS recently announced that they are going to be producing a new TV series based on this novel, and thus I was more than a little intrigued to read this one and see just what kind of “competition” CBS would be trying to bring to the table.
LUNA: NEW MOON (Amazon) is the first of a new series by Ian McDonald about a brewing war between two of the five ruling families, or Dragons, of the moon. The two families of note are the Cortas and the Mackenzies, though the book mostly focuses on the Cortas, headed by their elderly matriarch Adriana Corta, who are the most recent family to join the ranks of the Dragons with their corner on the Helium-3 market.
The opening scene of the book is brilliant. One of the young Cortas, Lucashino, is sitting in a crowded pod, naked as the day he was born, with a handful of other teenagers waiting for the moment when the the pod door will open and they will launch themselves out across the bare surface of the moon to the adjacent pod and thus earn the coveted title of moon runner. Sounds exactly like something a bunch of carefree teenagers would come up with. After that scene, however, stuff really starts to jump around.
The first difficulty that arises is the sheer number of very similar POV characters that start cropping up. Although I never went back and counted, there has to be at least seven that come from the Corta family itself, a couple from the Mackenzie family, and then there’s Marina Calzaghe. Marina was the easiest one for me to grasp onto as I read, because hers was the only one where I consistently knew who the character was. She’s newly up from the surface of Earth and has come to make money after her resources down planet-side dried up. Her circumstances lead her to getting hired by the Cortas after she saves one of the brothers (Adriana’s sons) from assassination by poisoned bio-mechanical fly. The problem is that the book hardly spends any time with her, as it jumps from one character to the next in a near-omniscient style.
The second difficulty I found with this book is the decidedly strong lack of a congruous story. Instead, what we get is a mishmash of what each of the POV characters is doing, a large majority of which completely avoids the main issue: conflict with the Mackenzies. Lucashino runs away from home and jumps from one friend’s home to the next, partying all the way. His father spends his time wooing a talented musician. His aunt finds her way into the secret ruling class of the moon, and spends time talking about what political machinations are occurring between the Dragons. His grandmother is dying, and thus she spends time talking to a nun about her life and where she’s come from and what she’s accomplished. One of Lucashino’s uncles does actually spend some time searching down the origination of the assassination fly, but very little of the book is actually involved in that.
And because these kinds of things always come in threes… the details of the living conditions and surroundings of the people living on the moon was decidedly lacking. In fact, apart form the opening scene, there were only a few instances in which I noted even a passing treatment of some way in which the character’s environment might be different than if this story had happened on Earth. Thus, it never really feels like this story takes place on the moon, and the fact that it IS supposed to be taking place on the moon kind of ruined the whole setting thing for me.
So how is it possible that CBS wanted to pick this story up then? What was good about it? The writing was pretty good. Though it was pretty sparse on detail when I felt like I needed detail. There are lots of mangled foreign words that I had no context for, and that got kind of annoying. I mean, there is a character list at the front and a glossary at the back of the book, so I guess I can’t complain too heartily (groan). There were also a lot of cool ideas, which I guess is what Science Fiction is supposed to be about. So, I guess this was a good Science Fiction book. Ruling families on the moon, old-school mobster style. Printable clothing. A really long track where people run all the time, getting on and jumping off, but always having people running it. Wands that emit hallucinogenic mist that you inhale while partying. Stratified living conditions based on wealth. Estates excavated out of the moon’s crust. Teenagers running naked across the surface of the moon. Breathable air being restricted by what you can pay for. Assassination flies. Accurate prediction algorithms for large-scale populations. Yelling sessions of court in which trial by combat is a valid method of ultimate resolution.
There’s also a lot of sex in it. And, you know, sex sells and all that jazz.
Honestly, the TV writers are going to have a whole lot of leeway on this one. The story, as it is, is more just a method of idea introduction. No honest-to-goodness story to be had anywhere. Well, the life-dumps of Adriana Corta were pretty good for story, but they have nothing to do with the current timeline. It’s all unrelated backstory. So it doesn’t really count. Actually, I can see this book re-written using those three massive chapters as story material for a pretty good book. Shame, really.
In summation: a book to completely avoid. Although, you might want to check out the TV series when it comes out because you never know. Give this setting and bunch of ideas to some actually talented story-writers and you just might get something worth spending your time (and even money) on.
- Recommended Age: 18+ for sexual content
- Language: Fairly frequent, pretty strong
- Violence: A couple people die violently.
- Sex: Lots. Like, whoa lots.