IT IS THIRTY YEARS FROM NOW, AND WE HAVE COLONIZED THE MOON.
American Fred Fredericks is making his first trip, his purpose to install a communications system for China’s Lunar Science Foundation. But hours after his arrival he witnesses a murder and is forced into hiding.
It is also the first visit for celebrity travel reporter Ta Shu. He has contacts and influence, but he too will find that the moon can be a perilous place for any traveler.
Finally, there is Chan Qi. She is the daughter of the Minister of Finance, and without doubt a person of interest to those in power. She is on the moon for reasons of her own, but when she attempts to return to China, in secret, the events that unfold will change everything – on the moon, and on Earth.
Red Moon is an interesting, ambitious, and very political book.
Set in the year 2047, Chinese and American space agencies have established bases on the moon for scientific research; the Chinese with a large colony on the south pole, and the Americans with a smaller colony on the north pole. Two of our main characters — communications engineer Fred Fredericks and travel reporter Ta Shu — are travelling to the moon for the first time, and we get to experience the wonder of that visit through their eyes. Kim Stanley Robinson is able to paint quite a picture of this new world, with centrifugal sleeping quarters, spacesuits, rovers, and even a small colony of gibbons that can quite literally fly within their cages, free from the shackles of earthen gravity.
But this isn’t really a book that focuses on “wonder”. Honestly, it’s not really a book that focuses on character or plot either. It’s more an exploration of a concept. A look at how our world could be, somewhat realistically, in 30 years time. And these moon colonies are just a part of that.
Red Moon takes a look at the political structures on our world — particularly that of China. It explores a left-wing uprising in a country which supposedly already has a left-wing government. Should the party be above the law, or should the law be above the party? Is the latter an inherently western idea, not applicable to China? There are 1 Billion urban Chinese facing various degrees of oppression under the current system, will these people ever have their voices heard?
These are the questions that Red Moon asks, and those which it attempts to (at least partially) answer.
Kim Stanley Robinson has clearly done his research here. There are many scientifically-heavy and politically-heavy passages, a lot of which are very interesting (and to my knowledge, relatively accurate), but the volume of these made for some pretty dry reading at times. There are mini-lectures on the formation of the Earth and Moon, quantum-key encryption, and Chinese political uprisings in centuries gone by.
Character-wise, I have to admit that I was a little disappointed. There were some promising signs in the early stages as the main characters were introduced — including Chan Qi, a woman juggling the organisation of a political movement, trying to stay one step ahead of a group of people trying to kill her, and carrying her unborn baby (seriously, what a badass) — but these seemed to take a backseat to the exploration of the political concepts as the story moved on.
The plot, too, grew a little repetitive. The characters moved from place to place, but somewhat paradoxically, I never really felt that there was any sense of movement.
But I don’t want to judge Red Moon on what it isn’t. It’s not a character-study, and it’s not a thriller (despite the murder mystery). It’s an exploration of how society could change in the future, on a global scale. There’s a lot to think about in these pages, and for those for whom the above sounds interesting, I encourage you to check it out.