Gollancz | 2019 (21 March) | 437p | Review copy | Buy the book
About a hundred years from now, the Moon is the home of several massive industries which help fuel Earth, giving the diminished homeworld a reprieve. Until recently that industry, and the Moon itself, was controlled by five families, each headed by a Dragon, with the Eagle, drawn from one of these families, the nominal head of them all. But civil war has changed all of that. For this is a society that has separated itself from Earth’s laws. Despite its veneer of civilisation and legal niceties, on Luna a legal conflict can be decided by combat. This is a place in which the workers must pay for every breath of air they take, for every drop of water they drink. If they cannot pay, then these ‘benefits’ are taken away at a mortal cost. Some on Luna have become like wolves, living in a pack and, whenever the Earth is full in the sky, they run naked and howl into the darkness. War between the Dragons has had catastrophic repercussions.
Lucas Corte is now the Eagle of the Moon, having survived against all expectations. But the remaining Dragons want vengeance. Any member of the Corte family is now a potential and valuable hostage. Some are more vulnerable than others – the young Lucashino is particularly tempting. The families want control of the Moon’s future. There is nothing more lucrative and nothing will stand in their way. Or so they believe.
The Luna trilogy is a masterpiece of worldbuilding. Ian McDonald has created an incredibly developed, complex and astonishingly plausible future for the Moon. The scramble for the Moon’s priceless resources has resulted in a society that is almost a blend of the Wild West and 1930s’ gangsters, with technology thrown in as well as the most staggering descriptions of the Moon itself. What a setting for this tale of feuding families, greedy industrialists, clever lawyers and innocent children!
The story in Moon Rising picks up where Wolf Moon left off and I am grateful for the brief synopsis that begins this third novel. Despite the useful summary and the dramatis personae at the end, I do think that Moon Rising ideally should be read very soon after Wolf Moon. This is a complicated story, with a cast of many, and I did have some difficulties remembering what’s what. There were some elements of the story that were so easy to pick up, especially those involving Lucasinho, Luna, Ariel and Marina (my favourites), but there were other strands that did lose me a little. This, though, is entirely my fault as I have a dreadful memory.
What stands out, though, are its threads of gorgeous storytelling. I loved Alexia and her efforts to help the poorest of the Moon by ‘stealing’ rain for them. I love Wagner Corta, the moon-wolf, and the boy he protects, Robson. Luncasinho has enchanted since the beginning and he continues to do that here. No matter what happens to him, he will never lose his love for cake! And his relationship with Luna is very special. I also enjoyed the chapters spent with Marina back on Earth. She looks up and can see a Moon shining with lights. Half glad to be away from it, half wishing she’d never left.
While I did prefer the two earlier books – their story of war and conflict was more immediately accessible with some truly wonderful scenes as well as intense thrills – as a whole, this is an extraordinary trilogy. Ian McDonald always writes beautifully. I love what he has to say. I’ll always remember his vision of the Moon, which at times is horrifying and violent and yet at others is so heartwarming and wondrous.