The 2021 Hugo Nominees: 'The Relentless Moon' by Mary Robinette Kowal, Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

The 2021 Hugo Nominees: 'The Relentless Moon' by Mary Robinette Kowal, Review

Alexander Wallace review the third Lady Astronaut novel from Mary Robinette Kowal.
In 2019, the print science fiction world voted to give Mary Robinette Kowal’s novel The Calculating Stars the Hugo Award for Best Novel. Now, in 2021, that world now has opted to give the third book in the Lady Astronaut series, her 2020 novel The Relentless Moon, a chance at that award.

Those who enjoyed the first two books (the second novel in the series that The Calculating Stars began was 2018’s The Fated Sky) will notice a strange, initially jarring difference: Elma York is no longer the narrator. During the course of this novel, Elma is on the mission she ventures on in The Fated Sky. Instead, The Relentless Moon is narrated from the perspective of Nicole Wargin, another astronaut in the IAC and the wife of Kenneth Wargin, the Governor of Kansas with Presidential aspirations. Don’t fret - Nicole is an engrossing protagonist with her own secrets and her own skills, befitting her roles during World War II, as a governor’s wife, and from an oft-mentioned Swiss finishing school. From her particular vantage point, she has access both to the IAC people around whom the core of the series is based, as well as the politicians in Kansas City.

Nicole is closer to home than Elma is now; as the title might suggest, the bulk of the action is set on the Moon. Humanity on the Moon in this universe lives in cramped, fragile settlements that could lose light or power at any moment; this happens a number of times. It’s a part of the Lady Astronaut universe that hasn’t much been explored until now, and the new environment is compellingly realized.

Much like in The Fated Sky, Kowal exploits the limited technology of this alternate 1960s and the communications inherent in space travel for dramatic effect. The Moon colony is beholden to IAC regulations and the rotation of the Earth, as well as period teletype. This allows her to ratchet up tension as messages can be delayed by these reasons or by others.

This installment of the series puts much more focus on a group that has gotten only some coverage in the first two books: the Earth First movement. Here, there is a much greater focus on why these people do what they do, and why they oppose, against all reason, humanity’s expansion into space and escape from the ravages of the impact strike in The Calculating Stars. The plot of The Relentless Moon is ultimately a conflict between reason and unreason, knowledge versus ignorance, the powerful versus the desperate.

The social issues that undergird much of the series likewise show up here; Nicole is in a different position than Alma, but they are both subject to period misogyny. Eugene and Myrtle return from past books, and new characters cause no end of frustration in this regard (including South Africans, a series regularity by now, but nobody quite so aggravating as Vanderbilt DeBeers). The only loss in this regard is the presence of the infuriatingly period-accurate white American male named Stetson Parker, who was always frustrating but always profound in what he revealed.

The Relentless Moon continues Kowal’s streak with the Lady Astronaut series. Many authors can’t manage three good books in a row, but Kowal is simply that good. If you like alternate history, space travel, or massive social change, you ought to read this series post-haste.

The 2021 Hugo Nominees: Reviews
'Finna' by Nino Cipri
'Ring Shout' by P. Djèlí Clark
'Piranesi' by Susanna Clarke
'Upright Women Wanted' by Sarah Gailey
'Come Tumbling Down' by Seanan McGuire
'Harrow the Ninth' by Tamsyn Muir
'Riot Baby' by Tochi Onyebuchi
'Black Sun' by Rebecca Roanhorse
'The Empress of Salt and Fortune' by Nghi Vo
'Network Effect' by Martha Wells
The Novelettes
The Short Stories

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad