It’s a thriller-type plot but it doesn’t read like a thriller. The pace is slow and the narrative is regularly interspersed with reflections, the characters are thoughtful, shootouts are rare – there is no visceral sense of jeopardy. We learn about the political instability, for instance, mainly through newscasts received on the moon. This is revolution seen as an interesting collision of historical forces, rather than experienced through the rage and fear of people on the streets.
Red Moon could conceivably have been the beginning of something brilliant, but like China according to cloud star Ta Shu—another potentially appealing perspective hobbled in this instance by the author’s insistence on infodumping—it is also its own opposite: at the same time as it is robust and original, as it can be at its best, it is, at its worst, weak and dreadfully derivative. And coming as it does from Kim Stanley Robinson, a visionary voice in the genre if ever there was one, that—that and not its well-intentioned but wasted characters; that and not its ambitious but byzantine narrative—that dearth of delight and insight is Red Moon’s most frustrating facet.
Do not buy Red Moon for its literary merits. It contains sentences such as: “Fred had very definite food preferences.” Or: “Stochastic electrodynamics, which was the current extension of pilot wave theory, postulated and described an electromagnetic zero-point field.” There are great indigestible tracts of expository dialogue. There is a horrible doldrum of narrative drift in the middle as the physicist and the princess fester away in Hong Kong. The ending is abrupt and anticlimactic.
Read this book instead for its thorough and irresistible imagination.