Fiction Reviews


Red Moon

(2018) Kim Stanley Robinson, Orbit, £18.99, hrdbk, vii + 446p, ISBN 978-0-356-50879-5

 

Kim Stanley Robinson has been around for years, and Iíve had a copy of his 1992 novel, Red Mars, largely unread on my shelf for so long the paperís gone brown. But, as the Sunday Times calls him on the dust jacket of Red Moon Ďone of science fictionís greatsí, I thought it would be remiss of me to continue to overlook this well-known and highly respected writer. So I dived into Red Moon with some enthusiasm, expecting some quality hard SF.

Well, the cover looks nice, which is a start. The Ďredí bit of the title refers to the effect of a solar eclipse, moon style (with the Earth covering the sun), but also obliquely to the communist China shenanigans running through the plot, so thatís a nice play on words.

Ah, the plot.  Briefly, American scientist Fred Fredericks flies to the Moon to deliver a quantum communication device to one of the Chinese factions that bicker over the ownership of Moon assets (China won the moon settlement race leaving the rest of the world to catch up). Things, of course, go wrong and Fredericks is arrested, accused of murder. He escapes to the Earth with the pregnant daughter (Qi) of the man heís accused of killing (though no one believes he did) and gets chased (frequently) by bad people before heading back to the Moon leaving political turmoil behind him in China.  Happy ever after?  Depends if those missiles hitÖ

ĎFredí is a brave choice of name for a protagonist in a 21st century novel and hints at the throwback feel of this story Ė indeed, it will appeal to those who like their science fiction old-school.  The plot lingers rather than paces, choosing to reflect on new tech and old political ideologies (Qi is the heroine of the downtrodden masses Ė uprising is in the air), though it picks up nicely at the end. As far as worldbuilding goes I found Robinsonís vision of the near future entirely credible, but I wasnít pulled along by the story. I finished with a greater understanding of why I never completed Red Mars all those years ago, but thatís not to say Red Moon wonít find favour with others. I found the plot clunky and the characterisation weak, but my main issue was that it is all too sciencey for me Ė by which I mean Robinson feels the need to explain everything in minute detail, to the detriment of the plot.  Now, I know some people like that sort of thing, but when I buy a car I want to know how fast it goes, not how many pistons are in the engine. So I found it dull, with characters I couldnít relate to and a plot I didnít find engaging.  But maybe thatís just me.

Mark Bilsborough

 


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