Thursday, August 22, 2019

Red Moon - Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Moon will be different things to different people. Science Fiction fans will embrace this near future novel because so much of it takes place on the moon in the year 2047 – and because Robinson hits relatively heavily on the scientific aspects of exploring and colonizing the moon. Thriller fans will be equally entertained because of the long, involved chase of the novel’s two central characters by some very powerful and evil people, a chase that sees Fred Fredericks and Chan Qi in great danger whether they are trying to hide on Earth or on the moon. Fans of novels about political infighting are likely to be intrigued by Robinson’s insights into how the Chinese government functions and how tenuously it holds itself together in moments of succession at the top. And those who enjoy learning history via solid historical fiction, are going to be left with a lot to think about when they turn the final page of Red Moon.

Fred Fredericks, to be kind, is a rather shy, naïve young American traveling to the moon to deliver some communications hardware to the Chinese colony there for his Swiss employer. It is Fred’s first trip to the moon, making it easy for him to befriend the elderly Chinese poet/television personality who is also landing on the moon for the first time. The two men bond over their shared fear that their landing craft is approaching the moon’s surface much too rapidly for anyone to survive the looming crash. By the time that a landing so gentle that neither man felt it has been accomplished, the two are fast friends.

But Fred, unbeknownst to him, had more than a lunar landing to worry about because almost immediately he is caught up in a Chinese power struggle that leaves him on the run with Chan Qi, the pregnant daughter of an influential Chinese politician. Fred is accused of a crime he has no memory of, and Chan Qi is believed to be behind the massive political protests taking place on Earth. Now both of them are running for their lives, and neither Earth nor the moon is a big enough place for them to hide. 

Kim Stanley Robinson
Red Moon has a lot going for it. Robinson always takes the “science” part of “Science Fiction” seriously, and among the other aspects of colonial life on the moon he explores, he has particular fun revealing the difficulties of moving around in a gravity only one-sixth of Earth’s – which proves to be a major problem for someone as unathletic as Fred. The book’s plot is certainly thriller-like, but Robinson never gets in a big hurry to move it along. Instead, he spends as much time developing his main characters – especially the budding relationship between Fred and Chan Qi – as he does moving them in and out of danger. The novel is highly atmospheric, even to the point that Robinson is never afraid to slow the action down long enough to describe an earthrise or some exotic lunar location Fred and Chan Qi are traveling through. 

Bottom Line: Red Moon is science fiction with a message. It manages to combine philosophy, politics, and scientific speculation in a manner that remains entertaining from the first page to the last, and it moves along at just the right pace to do that. But if you prefer your thrillers to maintain a frantic pace from beginning to end, Red Moon may not be for you. My one quibble with the book is that it ended before I expected it to end, leaving me with a few unanswered questions to wonder about. 

4 comments:

  1. I love good science fiction and am adding this to my list! Thanks, Sam.

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    1. I hope you enjoy it. These days, most of my SciFi reading is time travel related, but I did enjoy this one a lot. Makes me want to read science fiction again.

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  2. That whole colonizing in space premise is always one I enjoy. :)

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    1. There's a whole lot of realism in this book, and the politics of colonizing a place like the moon is part of that realism. I only hope it happens half as civilly as it happens in Red Moon.

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