I took this photo of the moon last week and it was actually a first for me to capture photos of the moon with my camera mounted on a tripod. I normally rely on my camera’s inbuilt stablisation software to rescue my moon shots. And if you think that is crazy there are people who have shot the milky way handheld thanks to Olympus’ incredible five-axis stabilisation.
Anyway I digress, just a couple of days before I took this photograph of the moon I had finished reading sci-fi author Kim Stanley Robinson’s (KSR) latest book ‘Red Moon’. Set in the near future (still in the 21st Century), the book’s plot unfolds in parts on the Moon and on the Earth.
KSR is an author I immensely respect and Red Moon goes to prove how wide his writing repertoire actually is. The book concerns itself mainly with China, as the country that has supposedly taken the lead on Lunar occupation. The two protagonists are American and Chinese and these two countries have a hegemonic lead over the rest of the countries in the world.
Reading through the book it felt almost like the sci-fi was merely a background, that this was more a political thriller and really you could have substituted the moon with any other remote place on the earth (say Antarctica although the author has already written a book set in the White continent). That being said it was not that the science was absent. There was everything from a detailed description of how the Earth and the Moon actually came to be billions of years ago to communication devices that use quantum entanglement.
Anybody who has read some of his other works can recognise the few familiar themes- the AI being trained to reach its full capacity by the mysterious analyst is akin to Devi teaching Ship, the AI onboard the generational starship Aurora in the book of the same name; the protagonists nearly getting irradiated by solar flares on the moon brought memories of Swan and Wahram nearly getting cooked on the surface of Mercury in 2312.
However, if I had to be completely true to myself I have to say that Red Moon does not reach quite the same level of awesomeness as 2312 or Aurora leave alone Shaman, which I consider to be the author’s best work (incidentally set about 30,000 years in the past). It is not a bad book by any measure but maybe it is an interesting blend of the political/ environmental (another genre KSR excels in with his Science in the Capital series) and the hard core space science sci-fi. There is also a Murakamiesque touch to the book as it ends quite abruptly leaving you with more questions than answers (unless there is going to be a sequel of which I have heard nothing).
Or maybe the book is a tribute to the amazing science fiction that is coming out of China these days. Cixin Liu being the leader of the pack.
KSR is a prolific writer and I am happy to say that I still have loads of books by the author to savour in the coming months and years. His writings have a strong leaning towards environmental themes- he is extremely concerned about climate change and the pressures that mankind is exerting on the environment (2140 is one of his books set in a partly underwater New York). His knowledge base is vase and Red Moon references not only ancient and contemporary Chinese poetry and political philosophy in scenes where two people trade verses at each other but also includes scenes where characters swing around in lunar gravity in a massive and chaotic production of Philip Glass’ opera ‘Satyagraha’.
Thankfully there’s almost one new book out from KSR every two or so years so I look forward to reading his next work (and not fear running out of books to read from him).