Review of Luna: New Moon – Book 1 of Luna by Ian McDonald

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I read Desolation Road, Chaga and Kirinya longer ago than I care to recall, so when I kept seeing reports of Luna on the book blogs I frequent, I decided to get hold of it, to see if the McDonald magic was still as formidably effective as I hazily remembered…

The Moon wants to kill you. She has a thousand ways to do it. The bitter cold of vacuum. The lethal sleetluna of radiation. Choking dust as old as the Earth. Your weakening bones… Or you could run out of money for water. Or air. Or simply run foul of one of the Five Dragons: the corporations that rule the Moon and control its vast resources. But you stay, because the Moon can make you richer than you can imagine. Adriana Corta is eighty. Her family run Corta Helio. They have survived the vicious corporate wars and the dangerous peace that followed. But now that peace is fracturing. Adriana may have to die but she will not be killed by her rivals, or the Moon. And whatever happens to her, Corta Helio will not die.

This is capitalism, red in tooth and claw. We follow the fortunes of various Corta family members, from the founding matriarch, Adriana and her children and grandchildren, as well as one particular newcomer – a Jo Moonbeam as Earth immigrants are dubbed – Marina Calzaghe. Think of Game of Thrones set in space – indeed, McDonald himself apparently named this duology ‘Game of Domes’.

The depiction of life on the Moon, with all its burgeoning opportunities set against an intensely hostile environment where every breath you draw has to be paid for, is vividly realised. We also get a ringside seat at the dynamics within the Corta clan – their ambitions, their strengths, flaws and loves. My particular favourite is the first person recollection by Adriana of her early days on the Moon, but all the family members are characterised by a streak of recklessness and striving to grab hold of life with both hands. Not that they are remotely cosy or even all that likeable – Rafa, Lucas and Ariel are all unpleasantly arrogant and entitled, however that doesn’t prevent them being engrossing. As with the Game of Thrones, things don’t necessarily go all that well for the main protagonists.

There are a number of assassination attempts and dynastic marriages are not sufficient to paper over the cracks steadily growing amongst the Five Dragons – what then happens to the subsequent offspring is that they become another resource to be fought over. McDonald’s evocation of a freebooting society teetering on the edge of utter lawlessness is beautifully portrayed.

So, does the story come to a satisfactory conclusion? Nope. Not remotely. It all kicks off near the end, so I put the rest of my life on hold to discover what happened to these characters I have come to know well throughout the book – only to get to the last page with no resolution whatsoever. This is the ultimate ‘to be continued…’ I wouldn’t have minded quite so much – but this is March 2016 and the sequel isn’t scheduled for publication until September. I have no idea what those who read this book back when it was first published back last September felt when they realised they would have to wait a whole year for any kind of resolution, but I am a tad fed up.
8/10

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