Ian McDonald’s Luna series was originally conceived as a trilogy. But even by the end of the first book Luna: New Moon, it was clear that there were too many characters and too much going on to restrain this story. The end of book 3, Luna: Moon Rising could be seen as a natural stopping point, but it also leaves a plenty of plot threads and characters dangling, just waiting for further resolution. And while lack of resolution of everything is fine, the amount of potential left at the end of this book is such that it does not feel like the last book of a trilogy.
The Luna books have to be read in order and for those who have not read the first two books in this series beware: some minor spoilers ahead. Luna: Wolf Moon ended with the successful revenge mission of Lucas Corta against the four other families that run the Moon. However, he managed this with the help of Earth-based backers, a situation which has thrown out the already unstable balance of power. The five families still squabble, intermarry and kill each other, but in the slowly dawning knowledge that they may be facing an enemy that they will have to face united. But there is too much bad blood for this to happen easily.
Much like the previous two books in the series, Moon Rising is a thrill ride of action, political manoeuvring, sex and violence which hardly pauses for a valuable breath. But the action all starts to feel a little samey after a while. The outcomes may be different but the methods (gangs of fighters duking it out on the lunar surface, or sudden assassinations, kidnapping, blackmail or dynastic weddings) remain the same as previous volumes.
Even with major characters being killed off left right and centre, there are almost too many point of view characters. And while there is a recap and a list of characters, keeping track of all of the players and their machinations is tricky. While the characters are distinct, many of the smaller character moments get lost in the action or in the feeling that some of the plot lines have been cribbed from the telenovelas that the Brazilian characters reminisce about. This is possibly not surprising as even McDonald has described the series as a cross between Game of Thrones and Dallas but on the Moon.
McDonald’s realisation of the Moon continues to be a highlight of this series. This is a frontier world with its own set of rules, a place which is actively inimical to human existence and where every breath and every drop of water has a value. And yet it is a world full of wonders and bursting with irrepressible life. Lunar life as depicted by McDonald is a fascinating melange of a number of Earth cultures, with permissive rules that are justified in the environment in which they have developed.
Luna: Moon Rising is still a great read in a fascinating milieu from one of the best writers in modern science fiction. There is plenty of action leading to plenty of change and by the end McDonald has once again thrown over the order that he established in previous volumes. And many of the characters feel like they have just been set on completely new paths. So while this was supposedly a trilogy it feels like there is much more to explore in potential future volumes.