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Luna: Moon Rising (SF) - Ian McDonald ****

I'm not the natural audience for this book. Game of Thrones leaves me cold - and it's hard not to feel the influence of GoT (and a whole lot of Dune) underneath a veneer of science fiction and the trappings of a South American drug cartel in the cod-medieval family power battles and chivalric details. There are even dragons (of a sort). I'd be really sad if the future did involve this sort of throwback feudalism. However, remarkably, despite this I found Luna: Moon Rising kept me engaged.

The fact is that Ian McDonald can put together a good plot with intricate machinations, which is enough to carry the reader through what can be a bewildering collection of characters. The two page scene-setter saying who did what to whom at the start was useful, but I could have done with family trees for the main family as I was constantly forgetting who was who - especially easy as McDonald endows many families with characters with the same first initial (e.g. Ariel and Alexia Corta; Lucas, Lucasinho and Luna Corta; Darius, Duncan and Denny Mackenzie.)

There is a good mix of adventure and politicking here, but set on a Moon where the laws are effectively that you can do anything as long as you get away with it. Interactions between industries seem to more often involve death squads than negotiations and contracts. To make things even more complex, there's interference from the Earth that could have dire consequences for all. Earth also comes in with an interesting, but irritating side story of a character from Earth who has spent time on the Moon and is now regarded as a traitor by neighbours. This thread is ultimately irritating as it feels like a bridging exercise between two other books. The character featured more in earlier titles and McDonald is clearly setting her up to feature more in future titles - but very little actually happens here.

I can’t say that I like the book's obsession with knives, particularly given the recent level of knife crime in the UK. I was longing for an Indiana Jones moment to overcome the author's apparent reverence for hand-to-hand combat (though the final encounter does, at least, take a useful step in the right direction).

Overall, at the end of the book I was just about on top of who was who and wanted what, but it was a struggle. Even so, McDonald made sure that it was an enjoyable journey with plenty of twists and turns. It was worth the effort.
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Review by Brian Clegg

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