Skip to main content

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.

Using these links earns us commission at no cost to you
Review by Brian Clegg


Popular posts from this blog

Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz - Four Way Interview

Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz is Professor of Mammalian Development and Stem Cell Biology at the University of Cambridge, and Bren Professor in Biology and Bioengineering at Caltech. She has published over 150 papers and book chapters in top scientific journals and her work on embryos won the people’s vote for scientific breakthrough of the year in Science magazine.Her new book, co-authored with Roger Highfield, is The Dance of Life: symmetry, cells and how we become human.

Why science?

I fell in love with biology when I was a child because I loved doing experiments and seeing what happened. It was fascinating and enormous fun. I also fell in love with art at the same time. Art and science are both based on experiments and uncovering new paths to understand the world and ourselves. Why do we think the way we think? Where do our feelings come from? Is the 'right' answer always right? Where do we come from? How do parts of our body communicate with each other?  What is the nature of ti…

The Dance of Life - Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz and Roger Highfield ****

There is without doubt a fascination for all of us - even those who can find biology a touch tedious - with the way that a tiny cellular blob develops into the hugely complex thing that is a living organism, especially a human. In this unusual book which I can only describe as a memoir of science, Magalena Zernicka-Goetz, assisted by the Science Museum's Roger Highfield, tells the story of her own career and discoveries.

At the heart of the book, and Zernicka-Goetz's work, is symmetry breaking, a topic very familiar to readers of popular physics titles, but perhaps less so in popular biology. The first real breakthrough from her lab was the discovery of the way that a mouse egg's first division was already asymmetrical - the two new cells were not identical, not equally likely to become embryo and support structure as had always been thought.  As the book progresses, throughout the process of development we see how different symmetries are broken, with a particular focus on…

Meera Senthilingam - Four Way Interview

Meera Senthilingam is currently Content Lead at health start-up Your,MD and was formerly International Health Editor at CNN. She is a journalist, author and public health researcher and has worked with multiple media outlets, such as the BBC, as well as academic institutions, including the LSHTM and Wellcome Trust. She has Masters Degrees in Science Communication and the Control of Infectious Diseases and her interests lie in communicating global health issues to the general public through journalism and working with global health programmes. Her academic research to date has focused on tuberculosis, particularly the burden of drug-resistant tuberculosis and insights into the attitudes and behaviours of the people most affected. Her new book is Outbreaks and Epidemics: battling infection from measles to coronavirus.

Why science?

I have always found science fascinating and have always had a strong passion for it. My friends in high school used to find it amusing to introduce me to people…