Luna: Wolf Moon
by Ian McDonald
Cover Artist: Victor Mosquera
Review by Benjamin Wald
Tor Books Hardcover / eBook ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765375537
Date: 28 March 2017 List Price $27.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The moon seems to be coming back into fashion in SF. Stories of moon colonies were once a staple of the genre, but have been thin on the ground for some time now. Now, however, John Kessel and Kim Stanley Robertson are both coming out with stories of moon colonization, while Ian McDonald delivers the second in his moon trilogy, Luna: Wolf Moon. Luna: New Moon, the first in the series, introduced us to a moon society of cut throat corporate competition.
The five dragons, powerful industrial families, run the anarcho-capitalist lunar society. Every breath of air is monitored and charged for, and anyone who spends too long on the moon, or is born there, is forced to stay forever, as bones atrophy too much to survive return to earth. The sequel replaces the joy of exploring McDonald's imagined society with a deeper exploration of the webs of relationships and ambitions of the many richly imagined characters. It manages to one-up the explosive plot of the first novel, while laying the groundwork for what is sure to be a fascinating conclusion in the next novel.
The plot centers around the Corta family, a Brazilian family and one of the five dragons, who made their fortune mining helium-3 for use in fusion reactors. Scattered and vulnerable after the events of the first novel, the surviving Cortas turn to their own agendas. The heir of the Corta business, Lucas, makes the hazardous journey to earth, hoping to survive the crushing gravity long enough to find allies to help him retake his place as a dragon. Wagner, the black sheep (or wolf) of the family, tries to protect the young Robson from the vengeful Mackenzies. Lucasinho and Luna, still children, are sheltered by the Asamoahs', another of the dragons, but how long can that protection last? And Ariel Corta, sister to Lucas, is forced to choose between her loyalty to her family and to Lunar society as a whole.
McDonald keeps his plot moving briskly despite the number of point of view characters, even as they become more widely separated. He never falls into the trap that plagues many epic fantasy novels of slowing the plot to a crawl while we catch up on the doings of innumerable characters. He also avoids making this feel too much like a middle volume of a trilogy--there is a definite climax to the novel, and it never feels like it is marking time until the finale.
This is a richly peopled novel, and McDonald excels at giving each character a distinct voice and individual concerns. This makes it surprisingly easy to track the complex plot, and even more importantly, to care about each of its many strands. His Lunar society remains complex, fascinating and just plausible enough to pull us in, but it's the characters that make us long to visit his lunar colonies.
McDonald has been one of my favorite authors since River of Gods, and his lunar trilogy is shaping up to be some of his best work yet. I enthusiastically recommend this novel, and this series, to every SF fan. And three cheers for SF's return to the moon--a trend I am pleased to see come around, and which I hope continues.