(2017) Ian McDonald, Gollancz, £16.99, trdpbk, 382pp, ISBN 978-1-473-20226-9
This is the follow up to 2015’s Luna: New Moon that sees a near future battle for power between competing family businesses on the moon. New Moon was Dallas meets Game of Thrones, and Wolf Moon is just the same, but with added teeth and claws. Do not be misled by the fantasy suggestions there though: this is strictly hard-SF, following the fortunes (and misfortunes) of the rival ruling ‘dragon’ families who dominate lunar life. Our point of view family is (primarily) the (Brazilian) Cortas, who first time around ran the Moon’s helium mining operations. That’s a big deal in this future world: Earth depends on regular and cheap supplies of helium to provide its low-emission energy, which prompted (Australian) Mackenzie Metals to destroy Corta habitats and steal their business. The Cortas and the Mackenzies aren’t the only families at war though: the whole feud was stirred up by the (Japanese) technicians, the Suns, and Wolf Moon sees the other two factions: The food providers, the (Ghanaian) Asamoahas and the transport operators, the (Russian) Vorontsovs get more involved in the struggle.
The cast list is so complex that it requires a dramatis personæ (which is provided), and there are so many points of view I lost count. But despite that – and despite this being a sequel – the action is no trouble to pick up even for someone new to the series, thanks to judicious reminders of key details. Only the names confuse: The Cortas have a Lucas, a Luna and a Lucasinho, an Arial, an Amanda and an Alexia; the Mackenzies a Denny, a Danny and a Daruis – oh but he is a Mackenzie-Sun (just to add to the head-scratching). Working out who is who requires some mental gymnastics, but they’re all well drawn and quite individual characters (no mean feat with a cast this large) and they give plenty of satisfying small scale stories to weave into the general mayhem. In Wolf Moon, my favourite is the growth journey of Lucasinho Corta, who goes from the debauched playboy of New Moon into someone else entirely in the new book, as a response to the most testing of circumstances.
Wolf Moon begins with the head of the Corta family, Lucas, on his way to Earth. Lucas is widely presumed dead following the destruction of the Corta habitat and seat of power in New Moon, but he has a plan to wreak his revenge. Meanwhile, the Mackenzies don’t have long to enjoy their triumphant acquisition of Corta Helio as tragedy strikes and an inter-family feud develops. And then things get really messy…
Wolf Moon is articulate, tightly plotted and engaging, full of lurches in pace and touching revelations. The series has apparently been picked up by CBS for a TV adaptation, and it is easy to see why. The cast of characters is rich and diverse and the setting chilling, compelling and entirely credible. On the Moon your every breath is metered and if you dream of a return to Earth your time is strictly limited: leave it too long and your body will not be able to readjust to Earth gravity. That is a great TV set up – and the body and explosion count seems to rise exponentially along with the tension. Highly recommended.
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