Luna: New Moon

Ian McDonald

Luna: New Moon is the first in a three part series about five dynastic families who have built new lives on the moon, making themselves rich in the process. The sequels are Luna: Wolf Moon and Luna: Moon Rising. The families, known as the Dragons, are portrayed in the style of an old gangster movie or media empire. They have a strong family matriarch or patriarch dictating proceedings at the top and a number of children scheming to be honoured with the title of heir to the family business. Ian McDonald has mentioned the Godfather movies being an inspiration in this interview at Clarkes World.

The Dragons are in a desperate fight for control of the Moons resources which often leads to open fighting in a world that resembles the wild west for its lack of security and governance. They maintain a primitive form of law where you can ask for a trial by fight using the weapon of choice on the moon; knives. It’s a brutal and lawless place. Competing royal families may be a more fitting analogy as marriages are arranged between families for political benefits and to keep the peace. Will you attack another family if your son or daughter are effectively a hostage? It’s also a libertarian and multicultural place with a relaxed view on the rules around sex and drugs which means anything goes.

The first colony settled on the Moon fifty years previous to the start of the story and is now 1.5m strong. It is a divided world, perhaps mirroring Earth, with huge inequality. The novel hints at the coring out of the Earth’s middle class as robots and automation took the jobs. On the Moon the rich live in deep underground chambers, safe from the cosmic rays, solar flairs and charged particles that bombard the moon whilst the poorer you are the higher to the surface you live.

The five competing families are:

Corta Helio, through which the core of the story is told, has economic power. They keep the lights on across Earth after discovering helium-3. They are regarded as upstarts, crooks made good or new money. They are led by Adriana Corta, a Brazilian, who came to the Moon at year five to work for Mackenzie Metals and attracted their ire after going behind their backs to set up her own company after spotting an opportunity to mine helium-3.

The Mackenzies are ruthless and nakedly ambitious for political power. They were one of the original colonisers and therefore demand respect from all the families. They have built a huge smelter to melt the precious metals they find that travels the Moon on railways tracks, always in direct sunlight. They want full lunar independence, free from the paternal influence of Earth.

The Suns, of Chinese descent, were one of the first settlers with the Mackenzie’s, they consider themselves old stock, true lunar aristocracy and also want full lunar independence. They appear natural bedfellows with the Mackenzie’s with shared ambitions but none of the families play nicely together.

The other two families have a minor role to play but still are still able to influence events. The Asamoah are a neutral family then end up sheltering Adriana’s grandson when he is promised to a Mackenzie for marriage as an attempt to build bridges across the families. The Vorontsov manage the transportation to and from Earth though their company VTO. Their founder, Valery Vorontsov, has spent 50 years in freefall aboard the cycler ship with it five habitat rings.

The LDC (Lunar Development Council) run the Moon on Earths behalf, handing out licenses to mine but there are  also more clandestine groups that control political decisions such as the secretive Pavilion of the White Hare, The Lunarian Society or the Lunar-Afro-Brazilian religious order, The Sisterhood of the Lords of Now.

The experience of the moon as a new arrival is shown by the experience of Marina, a character with her own sub-plot. She arrives on the moon to help pay for her mother’s medicines, starting off in lowly jobs and ending up working for the Corta’s after she saves Rafa Corta from a bot fly assassin. As soon as a newbie lands they are given an AR lens that sits in their eye and an AI familiar that connects to the network. The AR displays status bars for the four elements that must be paid for and cause anxiety when running low and you have no job! These are air, water, space and data. Oxygen is a constant worry on the Moon. It’s capitalism as it’s extreme. One quote that catches the essence of living on the Moon well is:

“The moon was not a world, it was a submarine. Outside was death”

The story itself cuts from character to character at huge speed which can be a little jarring at times.  I found it difficult to follow a coherent plot as I adjusted to the new character, their situation and what they were attempting to achieve in the scene. There is a huge cast to go through which is helpfully detailed at the start of the novel to refer back to.

The main narrative follows the Corta Helio family starting with an attempted assassination of Rafa Corta, their CEO. This causes anxiety and distrust within the family and they must find the right response to survive. All the time Adriana is sharing her back story whilst she winds down to retirement and ultimately the families destruction at the hands of the Mackenzie’s and the Sun’s. This isn’t the end for the Corta’s though and sets up a revenge story to be enacted in the sequels.

The interview I referenced at the start has a lot of interesting insight into the thoughts and ideas that went into this novel as well as how the author approaches writing in general.

Rating 68%

More Info

Publisher: Gollancz

Year Published: 2015

Pages: 392

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