Luna: Wolf Moon by Ian McDonald (Luna 2)

Gollancz | 2017 (23 March) | 400p | Review copy | Buy the book

Luna: Wolf Moon by Ian McDonaldWolf Moon follows directly on the heels of its predecessor New Moon, and is the middle book of what is probably a trilogy. You really need to have read New Moon first. This review assumes that you have and also that you don’t mind hearing a little about the repercussions of the events of the first novel. Because they have been huge.

Five family corporations rule the Moon – five dragons. They are instinctively competitive and suspicious of each other, despite (perhaps even because of) the inter-marrying among these immensely powerful families. The Moon they control is a harsh place, its citizens living underground and undercover, the poorest in the stinking lower levels, and every one must pay for the air they breathe, however poor its quality. Everything about the Moon is hostile to mankind. It does all it can to kill the people who dare to live on, in or under it. But anyone who has lived there for two years or more has no choice but to risk it. Returning to Earth is not an option. The body has been so transformed by living on the Moon that the gravity of the Earth would be agonising and fatal. So people scramble to scratch a living. Except for the five dragon families who have it all. Or so they thought.

One of the five dragons is dead. The Corta Helio family has been destroyed, several of its members killed, its children scattered and its leader, Lucas, lost in space, presumed dead. Eighteen months have passed since the slaughter and the remaining dragons are jostling for supremacy and power, the Mackenzies mercilessly close to winning. But it isn’t that simple, there are divisions within the families, the Corta children are wriggling their way free from control, and it appears Lucas isn’t dead at all. Far from it, and there are things that he and his surviving children and nephews and nieces will do to survive that beggar belief. War is inevitable. It’s already here.

Luna: New Moon was one of the science fiction highlights of 2015 and I couldn’t wait to dive into Wolf Moon. It’s been eighteen months but New Moon remains as vivid as ever and Wolf Moon picks it up at full speed. It’s great to see some of these characters again, notably crotchety old Ariel Corta, the food- and sex-loving beauty Lucasinho, the fearless Robson (known for spectacular reasons as the boy who fell to Earth – although it was the surface of the Moon, not the Earth to which Robson fell), and then there’s Wagner, the moon wolf, possibly the most memorable of them all. But to counteract the warmth of some characters, others emanate cold evil, not least the revolting and predatory Bryce Mackenzie.

Amongst all the intrigue and plotting, there are some fantastic set pieces within Luna: Wolf Moon – there is the drama of some major catastrophes, there are nail biting scenes played out on the hostile surface of the Moon, on which life can be measured in seconds, there is Lucas’s almost suicidal determination to endure a journey to Earth that should kill him. And there are moments of great tenderness. In this society, where marriage is often a political or business tool, affection still survives and we see it here at its most kind, as well as as its worst. I did find it difficult to keep up with some of the novel’s more complicated developments, but knowing that another great scene or moment was just around the corner, around every corner, ensured I paid close attention.

There are a couple of things that I had issue with, mostly involving Lucasinho. At one stage he reels off a monologue about cake that seems to go on forever and I could have done without hearing all the explicit details of his sex life. This is a society in which attitudes towards gender, love and sex are fluid and that I found fascinating and sensitively handled, but Lucasinho did test my patience, despite my affection for him. His transformation is a particular strength of the novel. The book closes with a full dramatis personae and I found this very useful indeed, so much so that I copied it out and stuffed it in my kindle case. It is hard keeping track of the family members and their ties to the other families. This list helped with that enormously.

Luna: Wolf Moon is a fabulous, richly-layered vision of life on the Moon in the not too distant future. This is worldbuilding at its finest and the locations, whether in the Moon habitants, or on the surface of the Moon, or travelling to and from Earth, are drawn so well. It’s immersive and very rewarding. Although Wolf Moon is a middle novel, it didn’t really feel like that, possibly thanks to its strong ending, which allows for more storytelling but doesn’t insist on it. But knowing that there is more on the way is a very good thing indeed.

Other review
Luna: New Moon

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