This novella is set decades before the events in the Luna Series., when the Moon was already on its way to losing its status as a frontier. Cariad Corcorian and her “siblings” are part of an arrangement known as a Chain Marriage. When one parent moves out and another is set to marry their “mother”, the teens and pre-teens decide to give them a wedding gift in the form of a picture next to the first footstep on the Moon. A foolhardy adventure ensues.
The story flirts with Young Adult fiction, but nevertheless displays the hallmarks of Mr. McDonald’s prose. Deep dives into the particularities of character, radical social structures, and a laying bare of the truth behind relationships.
The third and final (?) book in the Luna series sees Lucas Corta fight for the future of the Moon as an entity independent from Earth interests. He also seeks revenge for the destruction of the Corta business empire at the hands of the Mackenzies. His son Lucasinho is severely injured, and the object of a three-way custody battle. The now four remaining dragons rapidly make and break alliances in order to come out on top of a new order which looks more and more contentious.
The world building continues to be fabulous. However, the plot is less focused than in the previous two instalments. That being said, the threads are rather neatly wrapped up in a satisfying conclusion, while leaving room for future novels in the series.
Following after the events of New Moon, the Corta Helio businessÂ empire is shattered, with the remaining family members scattered about the Moon seeking safety, solace, or escape into drug-induced oblivion. The Suns and McKenzies now rule the Moon’s business dealing. But Lucas Corta plans revenge.
Just like the first book, this one is a triumphÂ of storytelling and characterisation. Where the first one was slow to start, this one hits the ground running as there is no need to establish the world. As cataclysmic events continues toÂ unfold, the reader is starkly reminded that business is indeed war. The contrast with Earth also shows in an interesting way how new societies can seem utterly strange to old ones, even after only a few generations.
India one hundred years after nationhood is divided into multiple states. The monsoon has failed in the past several years, heralding an impending war over waterÂ between Bharat andÂ neighbouring Awadh. Bharat is not a signatory to the international Hamilton accords limiting the intelligence of AIs, choosing instead to allow some development and self-police through its Krishna Cops. Bharat is a haven for datacenters but there is always the risk of a rogue AI ruining everyone’s whole day. Meanwhile, AIs are the actors in India’s premiere soap operaÂ Town and Country, which harbours deeper complexities than anyone imagines.
The world of River of Gods is immensely detailed, chaotic and complex. Reading the first third of the book leads the reader into massive culture shock as he is forced to navigate the storylines of multiple complex characters. The characters are many.Â Tal, the “neut”, who has surgically eschewed gender and risks persecution by a mob too easily turned to violence. Mr. Nandha, a Krishna Cop bound to his duty. Lisa Durnau, a cosmologist who researchesÂ the structure of universe, only to find that the reality is far more intriguing and disturbing. Thomas Lull, Durnau’s mentor, who is sought out by a mysterious woman who knows everything about everyone and can control machines with her mind. Vishram Ray, the scion of a powerful family who escaped to be a comedian in Scotland and has now been forced back into the family business. And many more major and minor.
It is sometimes tough going through the first half of the book, as there seems to be no real story, but as the novelÂ progresses the plotlinesÂ become more defined and come together. The underlying theme is the nature and meaningÂ consciousness and intelligence, or “the meaning of life,” if you will.
The final triumph of understanding is deeply rewarding to the reader. Having said that,Â I did feel that the book was overlong and that some of the secondary plotlines could have been culled,Â no matter how muchÂ Mr. McDonald’s dazzling prose is a pleasure to read.
Over several decades, the Moon has developed from harsh frontier to thriving colony.Â The “Five Dragons”, five industrial dynasties, control the Moon under the aegis of the Lunar Development Corporation. There is no criminal law or civil law, only contract law, and everythingÂ is negotiable, including air, water, life and death. It is techno-anarchy or the furthest extreme of capitalism.
New Moon is an intricate tale set on a world that feels vibrant, alive and full of stories. Mr. McDonald’s world-building is spectacular in its detail and vividness. From the technical guts of Lunar cities to the socioeconomic and cultural consequences of the ultra-capitalist negotiation economy; from the cultural backgrounds of the Lunar immigrants and how they have interacted to create a new, uniquely Lunar culture, this storyÂ draws the reader into an immersive environment. The characters behave not simply as peopleÂ from the Earth today who have been dumped into a science fictional setting, but as peopleÂ “of the future”. There are many characters and many, many intrigues, but every scene feels immediate and alive. The tale deftly moves from the intimate to the epic and back again, tying the two scales together withÂ the attitudes and experiences of the characters.