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A Game of Moons: Ian McDonald’s Luna Trilogy

Monday, November 25th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Luna New Moon-small Luna Wolf Moon-small Luna Moon Rising-small

Covers by Victor Mosquera

Ian McDonald has had a heck of a career, and I’ve managed to miss all of it. He won the Locus Award for Best First Novel for Desolation Road (1989), the Philip K. Dick Award for King of Morning, Queen of Day (1991), and has been nominated for a Hugo so many time I’ve lost count, including for his novels River of Gods (2005), Brasyl (2008), and The Dervish House (2011). I haven’t read any of those. I suck.

But redemption beckons. We’re heading into the holiday season, with its vacation days and reading time, and I’m casting around for a good, crunchy, science fiction epic. And McDonald just happens to have completed his widely acclaimed Luna series with Luna: Moon Rising in March of this year. The Guardian calls it “Splendid, space-age Game of Thrones-style entertainment. A Game of Moons, if you will. Play it to win, or die.” Boy, I like the sound of that. I just ordered the entire series, and I’m looking forward to long hours in my big green chair.

While I wait for the books to arrive, I’ve been heightening my anticipation by re-reading the reviews. Here’s a snippet from the full review by Adam Roberts.

McDonald’s world of lunar colonists is dog-eat-dog, or indeed dog-push-dog-out-of-airlock. Rival families compete to exploit lunar resources: the rich prosper and the majority poor go to the wall. Helium-3 is plentiful, and mining it provides cheap energy for Moon and Earth both. Five family-owned corporations, or “dragons”, dominate, and although they operate within the law, they are all mafia-style organisations… The story largely concerns the powerful Corta family, originally from Brazil, ruled by the fierce but dying matriarch Adriana Corta. Her first-born son and heir, Rafa Corta, is a hothead, the Sonny Corleone of the novel; his younger brother Lucas, calmer and a better tactician, is more Michael Corleone. The Cortas are effectively at war with the “Mackenzie Metals” family, originally from New Zealand. After somebody tries to assassinate Rafa with a cyberengineered fly, and when the Cortas snatch a lucrative new mining property from under the noses of the Mackenzies, matters heat up fast…

Once the reader has oriented herself, she will shoot through the rest of the book – pages flying, hurtling towards a brilliantly tense and readable denouement. I turned the last page gasping to read the second volume of McDonald’s dyad, out next year… Luna argues that any realistic future colonisation of the moon will be much more The Sopranos than The Waltons. Luna is as gripping as it is colourful, and as colourful as it is nasty. As I was reading it, news came through that CBS are developing it for TV. I really hope this comes off: it would make splendid, space-age Game of Thrones-style entertainment. A Game of Moons, if you will. Play it to win, or die.

In addition to the three novels , there are also a handful of short stories, if you’re the kind of reader who likes to ease into a series that way. The stories include “The Fifth Dragon” from Jonathan Strahan’s anthology Reach for Infinity (2014), and “The Falls” from Meeting Infinity (2015).

There’s also the long novella The Menace from Farside, just published this month by Tor.com, which might make a splendid way to try the series out.

The Menace from Farside-small The Menace from Farside-back-small

Cover by Richard Anderson

Here’s the complete publishing details for the series.

Luna: New Moon (412 pages, $27.99 hardcover/$16.99 trade paperback/$9.99 digital, September 2015) — cover by Victor Mosquera
Luna: Wolf Moon (382 pages, $27.99 hardcover/$18.99 trade paperback/$9.99 digital, March 2017) — cover by Victor Mosquera
Luna: Moon Rising (437 pages, $29.99 hardcover/$14.99 digital, March 2019) — cover by Victor Mosquera
The Menace from Farside (160 pages, $14.99 trade paperback/$3.99 digital, November 2019) — cover by Richard Anderson

All four books were published by Tor.

Our previous coverage of Ian McDonald includes:

King of Morning, Queen of Day

See all our recent coverage of the best new science fiction and fantasy series here.

2 Comments »

  1. Long time lurker, first time poster. Would it be possible to add a content warning for child sex abuse to the first book at least? Admittedly it’s something I’m sensitive to, but I’m probably not the only one.

    (It was… unpleasant encountering CSA without warning or any expectation of it when I read the first book.)

    Comment by Kayemae - November 27, 2019 5:17 am

  2. Kayemae,

    Yikes! Thanks for letting me know. And you are most definitely NOT the only one sensitive to CSA in their entertainment reading (at least, I profoundly hope not.)

    I wish it had been mentioned in at least one of the reviews I read while researching the series.

    Comment by John ONeill - November 27, 2019 10:31 pm


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