In summary: It's hard SF, based sufficiently on science for it to seem possible. I found it an interesting and compelling thought experiment. The characters seemed believable too, if not perhaps overly unique or memorable: it's definitely a novel about ideas more than a novel about people....more
Dream Paris is the story of Anna, a teenage girl living in the slowly redeveloping ruins of London, which has only just re-established its reality after a takeover attempt by the Dream World.
Her parents are absent, having marched into the parks at the end of Dream London (the first novel in this series), while Anna only narrowly escaped from the march. She's coming to terms with life on her own, looking after lost and vulnerable neighbours from time to time, and vaguely looking forward to passing her A-levels and moving on to university.
Dream London has not passed without leaving some aftereffects behind. People take an undue interest in the social lives and virtue of women. Social mores have reverted by a generation or two (in Dream London, women were either housewives, whores, or, much more rarely, femme fatales), so Anna is not entirely surprised when a social worker shows up at her door, tasked with taking her into care.
The meeting with the social worker does not go as expected: another person shows up, a representative of the government with a clear history with the Dreamworld, and he has plans for Anna. She is given a fortune, a relic from Dream London. Fortunes are absolutely deterministic: what is foretold must happen. Unfortunately, the fortunes are in short snippets and impressions: an argument with her mother, a night of passion, a death...
Anna's fortune foretells that she will meet her mother in Dream Paris. The British government has an interest in revisiting the Dream World, as the incursion into London has left Britain reeling. They send Anna on her quest, accompanied by a soldier / bodyguard.
Dream London, if you haven't read it, is a mesmerising, evocative novel. Surrealism and dream logic intermingle effortlessly with an adventure story. It's a novel that reminds the reader of Dark City, of Terry Gilliam's Brazil. It's very archetypal, with patriarchical gender roles and a strong sense of location / London.
Dream Paris, by comparison, is different. This time, too, there is surreal dream logic at work. The plot successfully balances the unpredictable nature of crazy dreams with the predictable shape of a regular story. Having a good structure with plenty of thrills makes it satisfying to read.
Once again, there is also a strong sense of location. Paris is a different city, with different archetypes. Dream Paris is caught up in perpetual revolution. Eiffel Towers spring up everywhere and need to be repressed, while La Terreur and Madame Guillotine lurk just around the corner.
Dream Paris stands up to reading on its own. It is a slightly superior novel to its precursor: Dream London made the reader feel like being sucked further and further into a dream. It was a sinkhole of surrealism, a huge credit to writerly craftsmanship, but, towards the end, it was so surreal that the reading experience stopped being pleasurable and started feeling more than a little nightmarish. Dream Paris, on the other hand, is set in an established Dream City. It is not trying to take over real Paris. There is less of a sense of spiralling, exponentially growing surrealism, as this city is more or less set in its ways. People are still shaped by the Dreamworld, but citizens here have lived their entire lives in Dreamworld: they are not brutalised by a shifting reality. Dream London turned women into whores, ethnic minorities into primitives. It did this, fairly rappidly, to people who were modern Londoners to begin with. Dream Paris may be full of iconic characters, but they have grown into their roles over their lifetimes. They have more agency, are less the victims of a traumatic invasion of their psyches.
Dream Paris is full of interesting, quirky ideas. Scary clowns, porcelain dolls, sinister banks, edible duels, integer bombs, non-continuous mathematics, sexism and morality... it's a novel that positively fizzes with originality.
If you enjoyed Dream London, I think you'll love Dream Paris. If you found Dream London interesting, but not quite to your liking, you will probably enjoy Dream Paris more, And if you haven't read Dream London, I would recommend it, and recommend Dream Paris more.
In summary: Patrick Ness is a hugely talented author, and this book does exhibit truckloads of writerly craftsmanship, with spot-on characterisation, authentic dialogue, and a terribly smart understanding of teenagers. All of which makes this a literary achievement - but it's not the light hearted, fun read I expected. It's too serious for its premise. Rating: 3.5/5 ...more
In summary: This book is a pessimistic masterpiece, full of believable characters in an authentic-seeming world, struggling with everyday problems while things get worse and worse around them. Everyone should read it. It's magnificent. ...more
It's been a while since I've seen a novel set on the moon. It's almost as if, after mankind has set foot on our nearest space rock, the moon has lost some of its magic and allure.
Luna: New Moon sets out to show us the moon in a different light. Set in a not-too-far future, the moon has become a resource, the permanent home to hardy settlers and the new frontier. There has been a moon-rush, the way there have been gold rushes, coal rushes, oil rushes in the past.
Frontiers can be lawless places. There is a reason the West used to be Wild. There is a roughness in places that are frontiers today: the Arctic, the great mining and logging areas of Latin America, the oil industry onshore and offshore... robber barons, speculators and entrepreneurs all have exactly the sort of energetic, ruthless hunger that Ian McDonald has found so fascinating in the novels he set in developing nations of the future. The moon is no different, except the power that run the moon - the Lunar Development Corporation (reminiscent of the East India Company or the Hudson Bay Company and other colonial corporations) - formalised the ruthlessness into a unique legal system. The only law is contract law. Everything can be negotiated. Every atrocity can be paid off with compensation, if there is someone left to make a claim.
I've been eagerly awaiting Luna since I first heard about it, at LonCon last year. Ian McDonald is a brilliant writer, and seeing the moon through his eyes promised to be an exquisite pleasure. I was not disappointed. At first, the character list at the start of the book scared me: so many people. so many names, so many relationships to remember (and so many unfamiliar terms: what is an 'oko' to another person, I wondered). Needless to say, I forgot them all and started reading. Fortunately, the book flows so organically that it's perfectly accessible even without the list at the start.
The story starts with aplomb: a 'moon run': naked teenagers leap out of an air lock and sprint through the vacuum in ten seconds, to another air lock and safety. It's a coming of age rite, dramatic, dangerous and heart-stoppingly tense.
The pace never really lets up. Soon, the viewpoint shifts to Marina Calzaghe, someone at the very bottom of the pecking order, a Jo Moonbeam, a new arrival who lost her job and is near the end of her tether: her accounts for air, water, food and bandwidth are all perilously low. You can survive without food for a while, and even water can be scavenged, but without bandwidth, you have no means to find a job, no chance to escape from poverty, and your ultimate death would be inevitable as all your accounts would run out.
There are five dynasties on the moon. Australian metal & rare earth miners. Ghanaian traders. Russian space transport tycoons. Chinese high tech / IT magnates. And, newest of all, Brazilian upstarts, the Corta-Helio family: Helium miners. Marina Calzaghe catches a lucky break and gets to be a one-off waitress at a Corta party. After that, much of the novel tells the tale of the Cortas - their matriarch's rise to wealth and power, their traditions and struggles, and the inter and intra-dynastic squabbles.
The moon is brought to life beautifully. People live in underground caves or on giant moving platforms perpetually cruising around the moon's equator on rails. The currrencies feel right and convincing. The dynasties and family politics are cut-throat, as they should be on a frontier. Everything about this moon is interesting, visceral and so very very alive. It's not at all a dead rock, but a buzzing frontier.
Ian McDonald is a virtuoso with prose. Luna might have some of the dynastic feudalism and tribalism that Song of Ice and Fire has made so very fashionable of late, but it's told in prose that flows and sings and dances on the page. It's seductive and mesmerising - a beautiful book to read.
If Luna has a flaw, it's that it's the start of something - a duology, a trilogy, a series: I don't know. It's a great, engaging and thrilling read, with some stunning set pieces, tension, great prose, but it does not feel as if its story has ended. It leaves me wanting more.
I can't wait to find out what comes next. Highly recommended.