Every Ian McDonald adult title I've read since the creation of the Hotlist ended up in my top reads for that year. Hence, you can understand my excitement when I learned that he was taking a break from his foray into the YA market to return to the more hardcore science fiction works that made him an award-winning author. Luna: New Moon is the first installment in a two-book cycle that promises to be memorable.
Not sure exactly what is going to happen with the Everness YA series. A few years back, McDonald told me that he was under contract for three books and that Lou Anders had plans for more. But with three novels published and now that Lou has left Pyr, I don't know if there are future volumes in the works, or if the author will concentrate on adult material for the time being. . . Considering that at his best, Ian McDonald is as good or better than any other science fiction writers out there, I wouldn't mind seeing him spin quality yarns such as River of Gods, Brasyl, and The Dervish House for a while yet.
Here's the blurb:
The Moon wants to kill you. Whether it's being unable to pay your per diem for your allotted food, water, and air, or you just get caught up in a fight between the Moon's ruling corporations, the Five Dragons. You must fight for every inch you want to gain in the Moon's near feudal society. 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, at the twilight of her life, Adriana finds her corporation, Corta Helio, surrounded 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.
Tor Books has been marketing this title as Game of Thrones on the moon, and I have to admit that it is an apt description. The rivalries between the families/corporations are at the heart of the tale that is Luna: New Moon, yet there's more to it than that. Think more of rival mafia families than competing corporate entities, so it has more to do with The Godfather than Game of Thrones. But you get the gist of it. It's an extremely devious and cutthroat environment. There is no law on the moon. Everything can be negotiated.
Speaking on the moon as the backdrop for this story, McDonald's worldbuilding is nothing short of superb. Seemingly effortlessly (with every new novel, McDonald somehow always makes this look easy), the author manages to capture the essence of what existing and thriving in such harsh conditions entail. As is usually his wont, the author's prose brings the moon and its inhabiants to life in vivid fashion. His undeniable eye for details creates an imagery and an atmosphere that will once again delight and impress readers in myriad ways. His narrative always makes you feel as though you're part of the action, and it's no different in this one.
The majority of past novels by McDonald took some time to get into, as the author habitually uses the early parts of each of his work to build the groundwork for what's to come. The casts of characters are always comprised of disparate protagonists and you can never tell how those multilayered plotlines will come together at the end. And yet, those previous works were all stand-alone books and were thus self-contained stories. As a two-volume series, this new tale moves a lot more slowly than what McDonald has accustomed us to in the past. There is the usual confusion of not really understanding where the author is taking the plot, which was expected. What wasn't was the fact that the ending doesn't offer as much in terms of resolution. Don't get me wrong. It sets the stage for what should be an awesome second installment. But I was expecting Luna: New Moon to stand a little better on its own.
The scope of the multi-perspective narrative in impressive, yet one has to wonder if there was need for so many POV characters. Time will tell, of course, but at times it does feel that some scenes and/or points of view feel like somewhat extraneous material. The graphic masturbation scene comes to mind as something that felt totally unnecessary. Although the cast is huge, the POVs focus on three generations of the Corta family, from Adriana Corta, the fifth Dragon and the founder of Corta Hélio, down to little Luna, her eight-year-old granddaughter. Like the mafia, family is everything to the Cortas. Which is why it was also interesting to get the perspective of Marina Calzaghe, an unrelated surface worker who unexpectedly gets sucked into the the Cortas' web of intrigue. As a matter of course, some POVs are more interesting than others, yet taken as a whole they give you a good understanding of how the rise of Corta Hélio was orchestrated and how their family/corporation fits in the greater scheme of things.
The pace is relatively slow for the better part of the first 300 pages or so. And then, when the endgame is in sight, things pick up and the proverbial shit hits the fan. If anything, I felt that the endgame was a bit rushed considering how slow the earlier portions of the book turned out to be. A more balanced rhythm may have made the novel more enjoyable. But as I mentioned, the ending makes it well nigh impossible not to want to read the sequel the moment it becomes available!
So how does Luna: New Moon stack up against Ian McDonald's previous masterpieces? Well, with the pacing issues and the fact that it's not a self-contained tale, it's hard to say. However, given the way it ends and with the potential it shows as far as what the second volume will bring to the dance, taken together the two installments could be as good, or even better, than anything McDonald has written to date. Time will tell, but it bodes well.
The final verdict: 7.75/10
Follow this link to read an excerpt from the book.