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Book cover for Luna: New Moon

Luna: New Moon

Author: Ian McDonald

Rating: ★★★★★

Genre: Sci-fi

Themes: Moon colonization, Technology, Contractual Law, Culture

Format: Kindle

Finished: January 5, 2017

Purchase link

Luna: New Moon is a new book from sci-fi pioneer Ian McDonald, all about the families controlling the five main industries on the moon. Everything, EVERYTHING is contract based, out of which evolves interesting social norms.

It is part of the genre that I like to call “plausible sci-fi”, meaning that it extrapolates tech trends out into the future but does not employ any magic or aliens.

This book has a strange subplot about people who think they are wolves, which I don’t understand and can’t get in to. There is also a pretty big emphasis on challenging cultural norms of sexual relationships, gender affiliations, and marriage. Most seems forced and contradictory if followed to logical conclusions.

Another thing that troubles me about this book is people getting vengeance at all costs. It is a romantic notion, but given the rest of the profit-driven motive in the book, it seems pretty unrealistic.

The sequel is coming out in mid 2017. I’m on the fence about reading it.

Reading Notes

  • About the Corta family, one of the 5 families who control industry on the moon. They run Helium collection.
  • The 5 families (or 5 dragons)
    • Australian Mackenzies dominate mineral extraction
    • Asamoahs of Ghana control a vast underground agricultural industry
    • the Russian Vorontsovs run the transportation systems
    • Suns of China are masters of technology
    • Brazilian Cortas (newest family on the scene) mine helium to power Earth’s fusion reactors.
  • The political situation on the moon is all about contracts and negotiations.
  • One company, the Luna Development Corporation, owns all air, space, bandwidth, and water on the moon. Everyone has to pay for these 4 things. If you are running low on funds you can disconnect from the network, dial down your breathing, collect water, etc.
  • Each person has a “chib” in the corner of their eye that projects useful information like air/water/bandwith/space levels, who is around, etc. It can also control their “familiar”, which is a digital assistant projected overtop someone’s shoulder. Can’t see the familiars without the chib.
  • The only weapons on the moon seem to be knives.
  • Sexuality on the moon seem to be different from here on earth. Lots of promiscuity and everyone seems to be bisexual.
  • The matriarch of the Corta family, Adriana, seems to be dying. There was also an attempt on her heir Rafa’s life.
  • The book uses a lot of words borrowed from Russian, Chinese, and Portuguese. Sometimes a weird made-up conglomeration of these words, too. Kind of annoying to flip to the glossary
  • Adriana Corta, the matriarch, grew up poor in Brazil, was a middle child, didn’t fit in while growing up, and became an engineer. To pay her bills, she went to the moon to work for the Mackenzie company.
  • People seem to wear 1950s reprint clothing on the moon, though it is present day. All clothing is “printed” i.e. Made from a machine in their house.
  • About 1/3 of the book is Adriana Corta’s recollections.

Kindle Highlights

Lunar law stands on three legs. The first leg is that there is no criminal law, only contract law: everything is negotiable. The second is that more law is bad law. The third leg is that a fly move, a smart turn, a dashing risk is as powerful as reasoned argument and cross-examination.

All trials are theatre.

The machines made you bid against them.

We always thought the robot apocalypse would be fleets of killer drones and war mecha the size of apartment blocks and terminators with red eyes. Not a row of mechanised checkouts in the local Extra and the alco station; online banking; self-driving taxis; an automated triage system in the hospital. One by one, the bots came and replaced us.


Coffee is more expensive than gold. Gold is cheap on the moon, valued only for its beauty. Coffee is more precious than alkaloids and diamorphines. Printers can synthesise narcotics; no printer has ever produced a coffee that tasted of anything other than shit.

Born without shadows, the Mackenzies have taken darkness inside them.

Lunar Globo doesn’t even have words for straight or gay. Everyone is on the spectrum somewhere.

There is a level of political and social life where constant connectivity is a liability.

Rafa has explained Rao forwards several times – too many times. They are financial instruments, a variant of a futures contract that exploits the 1.26 second communications gap between Earth and moon: the time it takes any signal, travelling at the speed of light, to cross 384,000 kilometres. Time enough for price differentials to open between terrestrial and lunar markets: differentials traders can exploit.

The Rao forward is a short-term contract to buy or sell on the LMX exchange at a set price. If the lunar price drops, you are in the money. If it rises, you are out. Like all futures trading, it is a guessing game; a good one, adjudicated by the iron law of the speed of light.

Not wearing a familiar is like not wearing clothes. Or skin.

The touch of vat-grown leather has always made Ariel’s flesh crawl. She can’t forget its provenance: human skin.

For the past seven years I have been developing algorithms to model the markets. In effect, I have created shadow markets running on quantum computers, from which it is possible to make educated guesses as to the movements of the real markets. The accuracy is surprising, though we find it’s a less useful tool than we had imagined – acting on that information shows our hand, so to speak, and the market moves against us, abolishing any advantage Whitacre Goddard might enjoy.’

Lucas Corta realised young that he lives in hell. The only way to transform hell, to even survive it, is to rule it.

There is no law on the moon, only consensus, and the consensus outlaws projectile weapons. Bullets are incompatible with pressurised environments and complex machinery. Knives, bludgeons, garrottes, subtle machines and slow poisons, the Asamoah’s fancy of small, biological assassins: these are the tools of violence. Wars are small and eyeball close.

Never let go, her father had said. Use their weapons against them.

By ancient tradition – ancient by lunar standards – the Vorontsovs must stop a train for anyone who flashes it down from the trackside. Everything after that is negotiable, but the tradition of support and rescue endures.

‘The …’ Lucasinho catches himself before the conversation descends into asking parrot-questions to his madrinha’s every statement.

asking parrot-questions

clocks are the knives of time, slicing the Great Now into finer and finer divisions: hours, minutes, seconds.

Since the age of thirteen Ariel Corta has been joyously, enthusiastically, monogamously autosexual.

She’s pouring the water on to the stuff, from a height. What’s that about? Oxygenation, says Paulo. She’ll stir it too: the flavour develops fully through an oxidation reaction.

Smell is the sense of memory. Each coffee would recall countless memories, boundless memories.

She was Syrian. Syriac. That one letter was a universe of difference.

She was Syrian. Syriac. That one letter was a universe of difference. Her family were Syrian Christians who had fled the civil war.

Her darkest ghost was the ghost of atonement. She could not change the place or order of her birth, but she could apologise for it by being useful.

The Meridian pack are agriculturalists, dusters, roboticists, nail artists, bartenders, sports performers, musicians, masseurs, lawyers, club owners, track-engineers, families great and small; a diversity of skills and learning; yet, when they come together, when they focus on one task, something marvellous happens. The pack seems to share knowledge, to instinctively complement each other, to form a perfect team; a unity of purpose: almost a gestalt.

An idiot would tell you to use that anger but idiots die in the School of Seven Bells.

Agency is a comforting fairy story. Life is a series of doors that only open one way.

The rejections, the realisation that a quick no is better than a long maybe.

People say the moon is hard; no, people are hard. Always people.

The present is an illusion. He had read that as a child. Human consciousness lags half a second behind every decision and experience. The finger moves unconsciously, the mind approves the action and imagines it initiates.