Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson
I’ve read a good bit of work now by this writer and have been at times awestruck and at other times found myself with a desire to flip pages and be done with whatever it was of his I was reading. This book was somewhere between the two extremes. Like most Robinson novels, these pages demonstrate his deep learning about his subject, in this case a sweeping grasp of China. While a Chinese reader might see it differently, the Chinese protagonist of this book is very convincing, Chan Qi, a woman with the highest government connections but also with deep roots in a revolutionary movement, neither anarchistic or democratic but rather intended to bring the rule of law to future China. The book sweeps back and forth between Chinese settlements on the moon to travels over the face of the moon and long passages that take place on Earth, in Beijing and other locales. The ideas are fast and furious, the shape of the world comprises a struggle to end capitalism in the West at the same moment as the crisis in China. This is a variation of the near future world that Robinson describes in the Mars trilogy and in The Ministry for the Future, which are the books of his that I know. We have once again lava tunnel settlements, self-driving vehicles driving across an alien world, magnificent descriptions of craters, a struggle between new-world identity and Earth interference, carbon-capture-coins, blocks-chained money, deeply described environments that become possible on the colonized world, and more, if I were to bear down. The oddest part of the book for me, though, was that I struggled to keep reading it at times and then, looking backwards at what I had read and learned, felt quite satisfied. This is a book that is better in retrospect than during the experience. What’s new for me in terms of reading Robinson is the depth of the character work that he does on Chan Qi and Fred Fredericks, as two examples. This book does not have a cast of hundreds though its sweeping use of location prevents it having a sense of intimacy. I did find myself scanning pages in a few places; the birth scene, I thought, when on and on, though perhaps that’s simply my squeamishness. The complicated plot was satisfying and the breakthrough of this world into Robinsonian sunrise, when the world appears better at least in terms of its possible heading, served well as an ending. He’s too wise a writer to resolve the future. Despite my average response to the book I’ll keep reading him, because I’m sure there’s more to admire.