Luna: New Moon clearly had strong influence on me because it forced me to do something that I never do: write a blog without being 100% forced to do so. There were elements that didn’t work for me at all, but in the end it was still able to invoke a powerful emotional response, which puts it in good company.
At its best, Luna feels like a near-future version of the first half of Dune. The reader is dropped face-first into the political machinations of rival space houses and forced to figure out what’s happening on the fly. When the narrative is focused on business, high-level politics, and society building it’s pretty compelling. When it gets into nitty-gritty personal politics, it didn’t work all that well for me. I’d agree with Ian McDonald when he liked the dynastic politics to “Dallas,” and while that might work for some readers, I was pretty turned off by stories of pre-nups, strategic marriages, and baby mommas and wives not getting along.
There were moments that the petty dramas and odd sexual detours made me want to put the book down. While I have no issue with giving characters some sexual space to explore, and even when the characters’ kinks don’t match my own, I’m still down to watch the lunar lander descend into the sea of fecundity, if you know what I mean. The thing is, much of it felt hollow and forced. You mean to tell me that the #2 man at Corto Hélio wants to have gay sex WITH A MAN? No way! Also, who cares?!?
Sex is fine. Straight sex. Gay sex. Group sex. Self sex. It’s all good. All I ask is that it advances the character somewhat. There are times in Luna where it does. There are also times where we are treated to an entire CAD/CAM (Computer Aided Dildo/Computer Aided Masturbation) sex scene where there is nothing being said other than “she doesn’t like to share things with other people. That’s just not good enough to justify the fact that I just read a graphic description of multi-haptic power tools being applied to raw genitals. I’m stuck with that. I can’t get rid of it. By the time it got to the furries, I was pretty much checked out. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to pick on furries. You’re great. Keep doing you. It just felt like a hollow, tokenized Power Rangers squad of unique sexual orientations that were shoehorned together to form an Ultramegapowerzord of Narrative Irrelevancy.
That probably sounds angrier than I was. I’m not grinding an ideological ax, I was just bored by it. My bigger problem with the book is that there wasn’t much actual story there. Don’t get me wrong, the writing, the characterization, the world, the social commentary… these were are great. But, in terms of a narrative problem that the characters deal with, it felt pushed off to the next book. If I had to give a micro-summary of the book, it would be “a bunch of kinky moon millionaires have moderate business and personal problems until they are brutally murdered.
As fascinating as the history of the Cortos is (with the high point being Adriana’s autobiographical explanation of how she created the company), they just don’t have any present say in their ultimate fate. The Suns set them up years in advance and the Cortos… with a few exceptions, their participation was limited to dying a lot. That’s a compelling inciting event, but it’s not really a story. Dune did largely the same thing, but unlike Luna, it happened in the first half of the book. Much like Dune’s Paul Atreides, Lucasinho Corta is a dipshit teenager. Unlike Paul, we’ll have to wait for a sequel to see if he gets his head out of his ass.
If that sounds harsh, let me balance it out by saying that despite a bunch of narrative detours and a lack of plot that matters (in this installment anyway), by the end I almost loved Luna. The last act of Corto Hélio was moving solely because the characterization was so good. It hurt to watch Carlinhos be cut down after fighting so bravely, even though I had no idea what he cared about beyond stabbing people for his family. Ariel nearly making it to the top of lunar politics only to have it snatched away was emotionally powerful, despite that entire arc meaning essentially nothing to this installment. I wanted to know what happened to little Luna, even though she pretty much disappears in the second half. I legitimately wanted to know if Lucasinho would ever stop being such an enormous tool.
It takes some pretty skillful characterization on the part of the author to get the reader to care even when there’s not much of a narrative reason to do so. With a bit more story, and a bit less furious masturbation, I think Luna might have landed on my “best SF” shelf. Instead, it felt like a powerful, if maybe a bit flawed novel that I expect to stick with me for quite a while.
Still, I’ll give it my highest rating for a series starter:
“I’ll probably read the next one” out of five stars.