Title: Red Moon.
Writer(s): Kim Stanley Robinson.
Format: Parperback – Advance Review Copy.
Release Date: October 23rd 2018.
My Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆.
Many readers will recognize in Kim Stanley Robinson the writer known for thought-provoking science fiction stories, especially for his award-winning Mars trilogy. How he is known to enlighten readers through hard science while having a wonderful grasp on character development is not uncalled for, and rare are the times his books do not spark an interest within the community. After all, everyone has to wonder what new story the man has to tell with each release. In his latest novel, Red Moon, he explores a near-future highlighting the rise of China as a powerhouse in colonization, and this time, the leader in development as the Moon becomes an extension of mankind’s home, while the United States struggles to find a grip on this opportunity.
The story follows American quantum computer technician Fred Fredericks as he’s called onto the Moon to deliver to Chinese governor Chang Yazu a quantum-enabled communication device. Arriving for the first time in his life on this new habitable planetary satellite, he finds himself dumbfounded by the experience until his first encounter with the governor that rapidly turns into a disaster as they both fall unconscious upon shaking hands. Seconds after awakening, he realizes he’s being accused of murder and that being on the run is the only solution left in his situation. This is where he runs into a young pregnant woman who coincidentally is also on the run for being in a condition that is forbidden according to the law on the Moon. While they both struggle together to avoid the law, countless other characters are weaved into the narrative to highlight the political conflict that reigns in this story.
I came into this story thinking that maybe the murder mystery will be the driving force for Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest novel, but instead ran into a different surprise. The narrative is split into multiple story arcs which some might say are also different point of views. From the planetary chase for Fredericks and Qi to the insights offered by an artificial intelligence, the story lingers too long with both those protagonists as they hint and avoid at a potential relationship while tackling incredibly varied topics, sometimes a little too boring, regarding their personal situations or the history of the world in which they grew in. Far too often have I found myself thinking this was going to end up being a story focused on a romance set on the Moon with a plot twist regarding the politics at play, as well as a metaphor of that relationship and the climate in which they live in, but I was wrong. This is a novel with ambitious ideas and it simply struggled to convey it without sacrificing character development.
What Kim Stanley Robinson does wonderfully is extrapolate our current politico-economic climate, especially that of the United States and of China in order to portray a totally plausible future where the Moon serves as a rescue boat to growth, but also the possibility of what the author calls the Chinese Dream. There’s no denying that he does a skillful job at tackling the subject by bringing up some of our most modern technologies and creations, such as cryptocurrency and artificial intelligence, but the execution makes it difficult to indulge in these subjects without feeling like you’re reading a history book with a lot of dots having a hard time being connected from one another by the author. I think the most detrimental element was also the inclusion of a lot of Chinese concepts within the narrative, such as Feng shui, that not only made it near-impossible to follow at times, but incredibly unmemorable even if it was thoroughly researched and cleverly integrated.
While still a solid new novel but Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Moon struggles in its ability to be captivating and drags too much in its cat and mouse game to be able to deliver its ideas with the gravitas he wished to convey them.
Thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for sending me a copy for review!