Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson (SF Novel, October 2018).
One of the current leaders in ‘hard’ SF, Kim Stanley Robinson turns his eye to our one natural satellite about 30 years in the future. And along with rigorous depictions of various lunar landscapes and how humans react to the moon’s slight gravity, Robinson (as always) creates memorable characters and delves into the social/political/economic conditions they face.
By now the various space-capable nations have established bases on the moon, concentrating on the polar regions (where vitally important water ice is most available in sheltered craters). China dominates the southern polar region, while the United States leads a coterie of other nations with presences up north. As the title indicates, most of the action here centers on the Chinese (still officially a Communist, hence “Red” nation, despite its decades long rise of a now-somewhat-Capitalist economy).
Fred, an American electronics tech, becomes the scapegoat for the murder of an important Chinese official at the lunar colony. The man was actually eliminated by a hardline group in the dauntingly complex and secretive Chinese power structure. It’s just one small part of the ruthless political maneuverings as a Party Congress is about to choose a new leader back on Earth.
Ta Shu, once a famed poet and professor, and now China’s top celebrity travel writer/internet star, happened to meet Fred on their trip to the moon. He likes Fred and wants to help him.
They also encounter Chan Qi. She is the daughter of one of the Chinese Minister of Finance and a defiantly rebellious figure who’s a major figurehead of an underground reform movement.
These three central characters are thrown together by circumstance and find they must work together. Amid economic and political meltdowns threatened in both the US and China, Robinson puts forth a complex yet understandable plot the trio must navigate and survive. Along the way, shady figures with uncertain loyalties and desires come into play. They include various officials, military and intelligence operatives from both countries, and in particular an unnamed Chinese analyst who, along with his personally-programmed AI unit is trying to effect change covertly within the vast Big Brother type state the Chinese think they’ve perfected.
Shifting back and forth between the Moon and Earth, the author moves his plot along briskly, while never forgetting the humanity of those involved. It’s another impressive work from a multiple award-winning and best-selling writer.