Fiction Reviews

Luna: Moon Rising

(2019) Ian McDonald, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk, viii + 437pp, ISBN 978-1-473-21675-4


I always feel a tinge of sadness when a series I’ve been enjoying comes to an end, so it is a pity Moon Rising is (allegedly) the last part of a trilogy. I say allegedly because there are plenty of loose threads and hints at future plot developments to keep this series going, but at the same time Ian McDonald has brought all his primary storylines together for a satisfying conclusion, with all the twists, turns and misdirects you’d expect from aeries that’s been delivering from page one of book one.

The series is set on the Moon in the near future. Luna now houses millions of people in self-sufficient habitats below the surface, working for family companies such as the Cortas, who like the Starks in Game of Thrones are our point of view family. Families intermarry for dynastic reasons, key members are assassinated, power plays are made. At this point in fictional history, Earth is in decline and the Moon is ascendant – its minerals and power (helium) drive the Earth’s economy and Earth is gradually losing influence and control.

We’ve reviewed both of the earlier novels in this series, Luna: New Moon and Luna: Wolf Moon.  I would strongly recommend reading those books first. Many series are written so readers can jump right in at any point, but doing that with Moon Rising would lead to a great deal of confusion, because it depends on a rich mix of characters painstakingly developed in the earlier episodes. There is a character list and description at the end of this book and with good reason – remembering the difference between, say, Duncan Mackenzie Denny Mackenzie and Darius Mackenzie is hard enough even if you have read the other books (and they have been published, spaced, two years apart, which certainly stretched my memory).

All very Game of Thrones, which this series has frequently been compared to. It has certainly an epic sweep and lots of warring families. There may not be an Iron Throne but there is an Iron Hand, so I’m guessing the author wrote with more than a nod to George Martin. The ultimate position on the Moon is the Eagle of the Moon, and all the feuding families running the Moon’s infrastructure whirl and position around it. At the end of book two Lucas Corta became the Eagle of the Moon, but he’s not the main power broker. The Sun family had engineered a fight between the Cortas and the Mackenzies, leading to the destruction of habitats and the drawing up of battle lines, and Book Three sees those tensions boil.

This story is told from multiple points of view and it’s hard to pick up a lead point of view character, but all the (surviving) lead characters from the earlier novels are here though, as you’d expect, there’s no guarantee they’ll be around for any possible future novels in the series. One character whose future is very much in doubt early in the novel is Lucasinho Corta, injured in book two and placed in a survival pod, trapped by the Mackenzies and accompanied by his nine year old cousin, Luna, being carried across the Sea of Fecundity in a casket by the Sisters of the Lords of Now who are prepared to protect him with their deaths if necessary. Swords are drawn…

I like the nod to retro-weaponry, which adds to the heroic fantasy feel. The Moon is a close-quarters environment, so fighting with blades, not guns, makes sense and certainly adds to the atmospherics. McDonald’s Moon is not a sterile, scientific place but an active, seething pool of passion and intrigue, suspicion and treachery. And just credible enough to be chilling.  Highly recommended.

Mark Bilsborough


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