Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Review: Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson, at Strange Horizons

My review of Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Moon appears today at Strange Horizons.  I was excited to finally get a chance to write at length about Robinson, whose recent writing has plugged into ideas about economics, government, and our response to climate change in a way that almost no other writer in the genre is doing.  New York 2140, for example, felt to me like an utterly vital novel, combining fury and optimism in its depiction of a damaged, post-climate-catastrophe future in which humans nevertheless manage to build a new, perhaps better way of life in the ruins of the old world.

It was a disappointment, then, to find Red Moon so comparatively muddled and unconvincing.  The novel, which starts on the moon but then slingshots back to Earth to discuss a future China and its role in creating a more equitable role for all people, juggles too many ideas and isn't terribly persuasive about any of them (at one point it's suggested that the problems with unrepresentative democracy might be solved using, I kid you not, blockchain).  Add to that the obvious hurdle of a white American like Robinson writing a novel that purports to give readers an in-depth look at China's history, culture, and national character, and you've got a work that leaves a reader feeling more dubious than invigorated.

This is also an opportunity for me to mention that Strange Horizons is running its annual fund drive, which is now about halfway to its goal.  Strange Horizons continues to be one of the top venues for in-depth, multifaceted reviews and criticism of SFF both new and old.  Some highlights of the magazine's non-fiction publishing in the last year include: Gautam Bhatia's thoughtful examination of Marlon James's Black Leopard, Red Wolf; Mazin Saleem's funny and smart evisceration of Netflix's anthology show Love, Death & Robots; the fantastic roundtable I participated in, along with Zen Cho and Charlotte Geater, discussing Sylvia Townsend Warner's Kingdoms of Elfin.  And, of course, Erin Horakova's gargantuan, wide-ranging "Erin Groans: A Gormenvast Review of Every Adaptation of Mervyn Peake's Titus Books".  That last one is a reminder of the unique service Strange Horizons provides to the genre community, and why it's important to continue supporting it.  And, of course, the magazine also publishes fiction, poetry, articles, and its ongoing project 100 African Writers of SFF.  If you can, please consider supporting it.

Finally, we are now just three weeks from the deadline to vote for this year's Hugo awards, in which Strange Horizons has been nominated for the semiprozine award.  This is the magazine's ninth or tenth nomination, but amazingly, it has never once won the award.  I'd like 2019 to be the year that changes, so if you're voting for the Hugos, please consider placing Strange Horizons first in this category.

2 comments:

Adam Roberts said...

Perceptive review. Like you, I was unimpressed with Red Moon, and I count myself a pretty hard-core KSR fanboy.

Jacob Glicklich said...

Agree with this. I was really looking forward to this, and it fell very flat, Robinson's weakest book in years.

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