- Hardcover: 400 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books (7 February 2036)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0765375532
- ISBN-13: 978-0765375537
- Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.8 x 24.4 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 581 g
- Customer Reviews: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 226,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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WOLF MOON Hardcover – 1 Jan 1900
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Praise for Luna: Wolf Moon
"Spare, simple, elegant when he needs to be...deep and meaty when he wants to be...[Mcdonald] does his work like an artisan pulling a sculpture from stone. " --NPR
"Each of McDonald's viewpoint characters is made human in fascinating and occasionally disturbing detail, and the solar system of the 22nd century is wonderfully delineated." --Publishers Weekly, starred review
"The fights and vengeance that follow are more vicious and intricate than anything in Game of Thrones, full of great acts of self-sacrifice and viciousness alike, brave cavalry charges and last stands, cowardice and avarice." --Boing Boing
"For all the enjoyable intrigue he concocts, McDonald never lets us forget that the Moon is a frontier that basically just wants to kill us." --Chicago Tribune
Praise for Luna: New Moon
"McDonald's never written a bad novel, but [Luna: New Moon] is a great one." --Cory Doctorow
"With an action narrative driving this political commentary, Luna is actually a fantastically fun read as well as an important one. " --Los Angeles Review of Books
"McDonald creates a complex and fascinating civilization featuring believable technology, and the characters are fully developed, with individually gripping stories." --Publishers Weekly, starred review
"An engaging thriller... McDonald's portrait of a cutthroat society trying to survive in the deadliest of environments also make it one of the strongest science fiction novels of the year." --The Chicago Tribune
"It's a great scenario, lovingly detailed, and curiously attractive despite its current of unforgiving violence." --The Wall Street Journal
"The best moon novel I've seen in many years. . . McDon-ald's novel has some formidable SF stingers not far beneath its densely textured surface." --Locus
"The story is innovative and fresh...has a feel of The Godfather meets A Song of Ice and Fire meets Ender's Game." --Portland Book Review
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Top international reviews
Fortunately, there are superb SciFi authors like Ian McDonald who can bring a fully realised and developed moon colony to life – even if only in our minds.
Ian McDonald is probably the most accomplished world builder in the SciFi genre. So much research goes into every one of his books – taking known facts, present day cultures, languages and political systems, translating them into the near future and then reflecting back on our society (in mathematics, a glide reflection transformation). In his Luna books, the Moon comes to life. The photos taken by Apollo 11 are populated with ingenious purpose-driven cities, mines and factories, filled with varied, but fully developed and believable characters and communities.
The society on Luna is a complex interweaving of Australian mining (MacKenzie), Ghana horticulture (Asamoah), Russian space transport (Vrontsov), Chinese (Sun) and Brazillian (Corta) cultures. The five ruling families form dynastic marriages, plot against each other, and rule Luna as a Capitalist enterprise in its purist form. Ariel Corta explains to Abena Asamoah “We’re not a state; we’re an economic colony. … The problem with democracy … is free-riding. There will always be those who don’t want to participate, yet they share the benefits of those who engage. … You can’t compel people to engage politically – that’s tyranny. In a society with low benefits to participation you end up with a majority of free-riders and a small engaged political caste. Leave democracy to those who wish to practise it and you always end up with a political class. … Right now, we have a system of accountability that engages every single person on the moon. Our legal system makes every human responsible for their life, security and wealth. It is individualistic and it’s atomising and it’s harsh but it is understood. And the limits are clear. No one makes decisions or assumes responsibility for anyone else. It doesn’t recognise groups or religions or factions or political parties. There are individuals, there are families, there are corporations. Academics come up from Earth and tut … about us being cut-throat individualists with no concept of solidarity. But we do have what they would call a civil society. We just believe it’s best left to negotiation not legislation. We are unsophisticated grudge-bearing barbarians”.
At the end of the previous book, the Corta family was almost entirely wiped out by the MacKenzies. Now, we discover that several Cortas still live, and at least Lucas wants to take back what he deems his. The other Cortas (Robson, Ariel, Luna, Wagner and Lucasinho) are just trying to survive.
Soon, it is not only the Corta family that is endangered. The Mackenzies are riven with internecine feuding, leading to Ironfall. It took me a while to fully comprehend the horror of Ironfall. Then there the robotic blades slicing through anyone they meet on the surface, the bulldozers suffocating the Asamoah city of Twé, and the complete shut-down of communications and transport on Luna. Time and oxygen are running out: “The fighters that went down beneath the blades weren’t fighting for shareholder value. They weren’t fighting out of personal loyalty to rich, remote Dragons. No one could fight for such things. They fought for their world, their life, their culture, their right to not be told what to do by aliens”. It is not clear who is responsible – if indeed it is only one person or even one family. But, eventually one thing is certain: Luna has lost its independence.
The language in the book is richly inventive, using vocabulary from Chinese, Portuguese, Russian, Yoruba and others. Thankfully, a glossary is provided. But the author goes even further. All LGBTQIA identities are accepted and present on Luna – and many have distinct pronouns. Additionally, there are the Wolf Packs where people (such as Wagner Corta) with potential bipolar disorder or schizophrenia are able to create a supportive tribe, with their light and dark phases ruled by the appearance of Earth in the Luna sky (cf. Werewolves at full moon/dark moon).
There are acts of unadulterated heroism performed by the most unlikely heroes. There is love, hate, indominable will. No character is safe, and you just will your favourites to survive – against all the odds.
There is also some ‘retro’ 1980’s fashion and philosophising. Playboy and master baker, Lucasinho, talks about the value of gifts: “even to make a simple kilo-cake, you are using things and skills that are rarer and more precious than jewels. When you taste cake, you are tasting all of our lives. And that’s why, when anyone can print anything; cake is the perfect gift”. Watching Ariel in her wheelchair ruling the room: “Darius tries to understand the will that choses disability and authority over ability and anonymity”.
This is SciFi at its brilliant best, taking the genre to the heights of great literature. I recommend it unreservedly to anyone who loves an enthralling, intricate plot line – of any genre.
PS: you need to start with book 1 “Luna: New Moon”
To recap: the moon has been colonised. It's a Wild West of sorts, a dog-eat-dog, cut-throat outpost, run by the Lunar Development Corporation and four/five family business dynasties, each of whom has effective monopolies on specific lunar industries. Transport is run by the Vorontsovs, rare earth mining is run by the Mackenzies, Food production is in the hands of the Asamoahs, energy production is in the hands of the Suns, and Helium3 harvesting was run by the Corta family. Except, the Corta family have fallen. Their empire has been destroyed and scavenged by the Mackenzies. Remaining Cortas are rare and isolated from each other. Some shelter under the protection of factions with some power, some are effectively hostages, and one is plotting his revenge...
The Luna series combines Ian McDonald's strengths with a new direction. As usual, he creates a convincing, credible future, populated with people from non-Western cultures. Luna, however, is a world much more similar to Game of Thrones than to other recent Ian McDonald novels. Dynastic families jostling for power, happy to spill blood and without any fear of repercussions? Outright battles and small wars? Betrayals, conspiracies, greed? It's hard to read Luna novels without thinking of GRRM's magnum opus. Ian McDonald differs from many GRRM derivative writers in that he is himself a stellar talent, producing an epic that is easily on a par with Song of Ice and Fire. Also, the family rivalries in Luna aren't focused on getting an iron throne / power over everything. Rather, they compete and battle for wealth, territory, income, and the occasional longstanding feud. Still, there are enough similarities for his books to have been picked up by TV companies, soon to be a major TV show...
I first heard of Luna at a convention, where Ian McDonald talked about the books, and the fundamental premise: that the moon has no law but contract law. The basis of the society he predicts is therefore not "feudal dark ages", but "hyper-capitalist, libertarian utopia". There is no government on the moon, only a corporation with a local figurehead who doesn't actually wield all that much executive power. There is a court, but it's a court of arbitration above all, since there isn't a criminal law system. Rich family dynasties have their private security forces, but there is no standing army or police force. What Luna illustrates, if you read it with all that in mind, is that there is actually no systemic difference between libertarian utopia and feudalism. The only difference is the absence of the Black Death / disease and the presence of higher levels of technology. Everything else is pretty much the same: borderline slavery, warlords, feudal society etc. However, this aspect of the premise is quite subtly interwoven into the plot. It's not staring you in the face, and I think it's almost too hidden in the background of the Lunar world. Had I not heard the talk, I would probably have missed it entirely.
With a huge cast of characters, Luna: Wolf Moon was a bit bewildering at times, because I had forgotten much of the detail of Luna: New Moon. The things and characters I did remember (Adriana Corta, Marina) were much less central in Wolf Moon than the characters I had forgotten. Marina, for example, is absent for the first quarter of the book, and her story had been my favourite in the first novel because she wasn't born rich with a silver spoon in her mouth, unlike every other character. This is perhaps Luna's biggest flaw, that almost everyone is rich and powerful. Sure, there are falls from power and rises, but it's a stark contrast to Ian McDonald's other novels, where most characters are hustling a little corner for themselves from positions near the bottom of the power structures. Luna, instead, focuses on the very top. The hoi polloi are pawns and footsoldiers.
Unsurprisingly, Wolf Moon is well written, with good prose, compelling settings, authentic and believable science. However, it doesn't quite rise over the shadows cast by Song of Ice and Fire's influence. And, filled with characters too highborn to be easy to empathise with, the novel lacks some of the heart and soul and drive that Ian McDonald is capable of. It's a good book, well worth reading if you've read Luna: New Moon, but it's not the first book or series I would recommend to a reader new to Ian McDonald.
Wolf Moon takes up shortly after the end of the first book, after whose climactic events, the Corta dynasty have lost position. Teenage Robson is a hostage of the Mackenzies. Lucasinho, whose exploits opened New Moon is under the protection of the Asamoahs. Lawyer, Ariel is living in reduced circumstances with family bodyguard Marina. Major player Lucas has disappeared. Taking a more leading role in this instalment is rogue family member, Wagner, who lives with the cult like wolves. One interesting development in Wolf Moon is a revelation about the true nature of the wolves.
On the positive side, Macdonald seems to have more confidence in his own creation. This is a lot less derivative than the previous outing. It is still, in its libertarian lunar society, heavily indebted to Heinlein, a debt which the author fleetingly but explicitly acknowledges, and when Macdonald himself has described it as Game of Domes, the similarities to the work of George Martin are inescapable. However, the direct thefts from Kim Stanley Robinson and Frank Herbert are much less prominent here.
As an exercise in technological world building, these books are also excellent. This genuine hard-SF, with the creation of a credible industrialised society on the moon. I still have some problems with the concept that such a libertarian anarchist society, completely free of Terran control would be allowed to develop.
The major strength of Wolf Moon is as the literary equivalent of an action movie. As a series of action set pieces it is excellent. It starts with Robson in extreme physical danger in a way which replicates Lucasinho at the start of the first book. It continues with the destruction of massive industrial installations, perilous treks across treks across the unforgiving lunar landscape, and bombardments from space. All of this is described in a fluid and dynamic style of prose.
I found the plotting less satisfactory from two perspectives. The first derives from the basic nature of the book. It is one of the middle books of a series (whose length is indeterminate). As such, it feels less like a coherent story, and more like the shifting of games pieces round a board in order to prepare for the next instalment. Secondly, elements of the plot didn't ring true. A character travels to earth. In the super connected society described here, there 't seem to be any real need for him to go. The only purpose of his trip seems to be to introduce a new character who will presumably become significant in future instalments. Also what he achieves on his trip is difficult to swallow. He arrives a busted flush and yet seems able to move mountains.
As I said, this is an improvement on the first book, and is less derivative, but I couldn't get a scurrilous analogy out of my mind. With the cut throat commercial shenanigans, I couldn't help but thinking of this as Dallas in space.
... a twenty-second century riff on Robert Heinlein, with better characterisation, more realistic politics and a lot more (artificial) intelligence.
There were some curiously reserved reviews of Luna: New Moon, and the same about Wolf Moon. I have no reservations at all: this story is exceptional.
Of course few will mourn the passing of an ancient Australian with several unpleasant children (hmmmm modelled on anyone I wonder?) but very few of the members of the various feuding leading families won me over as the reader to care much about them – and I don’t think they were meant to.
Well that is not totally fair, we are as readers pushed into caring more about the Corta family than any other and at least two members, and one servant, of that family (Robson, Marina and Wagner) don’t appear to be complete douche bags. Unsurprisingly these three are all in some way junior or semi discarded members of team Corta so we warm to them more than the others as they triumph against the odds despite their lowly stations in life.
While the characters, and their paths, vary little from what we seen before in science fiction three is great deal else that sets it apart from other SF. Firstly the mix of developing world and first world cultures portrayed in the conflict, secondly the economic and cultural model used to develop the moon, thirdly the authour’s willingness to show just how unsustainable and unstable the model is and watch it crash and burn. It’s just a pity that so many of Ian McDonald's wonderfully imagined feats of engineering get destroyed along the way - however I suspect that more families (and a few ships and more structures) will fall in book three. Oh and watch out for the new Corta plumber lady who may also turn out be a significant and sympathetic character.
Additional note, 16 April 2017:
By the way, I re-read the first novel, New Moon, immediately before Wolf Moon was released. New Moon was just as fun the second time around, whereas Wolf Moon was rather a drag. It felt more like the combined outline of two or three books. (mm)
This time around, we are again treated to a looong setup. Except that we know the characters and we know the society. So why fill the first half of the book with fairly mundane stuff? Especially the excessive focus on Lucasinho's character, whom I totally fail to find engaging. He's cute, not very bright, flakey and has sex, on-page mostly, with anything on 2 legs. Wasn't that the exact same stuff he was up to last time? At some point, I kid you not, he drones on for 4 pages about how to bake cakes. Maybe he's being set up as the Reluctant Hero, but by the end of the book he hasn't really gotten there, though he is a bit more useful than before.
Lots and lots of descriptions of who wears what. And it ends fairly abruptly, setting us up for book 3.
Thankfully, once the action starts up it gets pretty intense. The combat robots rock for example. The writing is, as can be expected, very fluid and elegant. The Cortas seem to be getting some interesting new blood too. And there are lots changes in the characters' loyalties and affiliations near the end that makes it an open guess as to how book 3 will unfold. There's a lot of potential, but some tightening up of storyline, or at least pruning of stuff that doesn't add much to it, would be most welcome.
So not bad overall, but not as good as it could have been. I like McDonald too much to give him 3 stars, but this book is really more of a 3.5/5 than a 4/5.
There is much more to these books. The characters are well deeply imagined with virtues, faults and, in some cases, sexual kinks. This book is a middle book in the dynastic battles between the Lunar commercial clans that started in the first book. No Lunar colony can be separated from influence by Earth, both commercial and political. These power relationships are explored in this book.
I am looking forward to the sequel (sequels?) to this novel that explore the events that unfold in this novel. I'm happy to say that Ian McDonald is turning these books out faster than George R. R. Martin is writing his endless Games of Thrones books.