Ian's Reviews > A Grey Moon Over China

A Grey Moon Over China by Thomas A. Day
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's review
Jun 27, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: my-collection, blew-my-mind, signed-by-author, must-read-again, author-knows-my-life, kicked-my-ass, all-time-favorites, affected-me, this-could-really-happen
Read 3 times. Last read June 1, 2009.

When I read A Grey Moon Over China I believed it had the potential to become the most important and/or influential sci-fi book in a generation. I know our society is littered with the trash of ubiquitous hyperbole but I wasn't trying to exaggerage; I really believed this book had that kind of potential. It's the sort of book that can leave the reader a little jacked up for months afterward, and indeed it took me several months to put into words my thoughts and feelings on what I found to be a rather profound first attempt at a novel by a new writer. I knew I couldn't do justice to this book with a review. All I could do was try to explain, almost certainly inadequately, why A Grey Moon Over China connected with me, and to encourage others to give it a fair shake. So, here's what I wrote in the summer of 2009--at the bottom I have a quick update.

Original Review:

I have sleep apnea. I also have a hard-to-pin-down neurological problem that affects my brain’s ability to achieve and attain deep sleep. I’m now using a CPAP for my airways and a pill for my brain chemistry so most nights I sleep fine. But, for much of my life, sleep for me was something both feared and desired; a journey that I knew I desperately needed to take each night but one which took me into a dark tunnel of incoherence and uncertainty.

Eduardo Torres, the protagonist in A Grey Moon Over China, has a recurring dream about being in a dark tunnel of incoherence and uncertainty. As you might imagine, that dream is a cryptic metaphor for his journey through life. Ed takes his friends, colleagues, and lover with him on that journey, and they both lose and gain their humanity along the way.

This is not a happy book. If you want happy, go to Disneyland. I have no problem with Disneyland, mind you. I freaking love Disneyland. I take my kids their 2 or 3 times each year. But I’m not always looking for Disneyland. Sometimes I’m looking for a dose of truth, no matter how bad it might taste. An elixir to stop my utopian dreams from running amuck, so that I might remember how far we yet have to go and how much work is yet to be done. A foul reminder not to take anyone’s goodness, particularly my own goodness, for granted. The author drives home with gut-wrenching exuberance the point that what’s necessary and what’s right are not always the same thing, and that sooner or later we all have to make a choice. We cannot have it both ways and we cannot pass blame, judgment, or condemnation on others.

Thankfully, however, the people living in Thomas A. Day’s vision of the near future are not irreparable or irredeemable. He may force upon us the desperate truth that, if humanity is to create a better life for our children here and amongst the stars, it will take better people than we are ... but he also leaves us with the assurance that it will not take better people than we are capable of being ... for that, ultimately, is the message of hope behind and beyond the unhappy plight of the characters in A Grey Moon Over China.


Now, 18 months later, I'm flabbergasted that A Grey Moon Over China hasn't garnered more attention. I've read dozens of books since, many of them quite good and some downright elegant and profound, but I still put A Grey Moon Over China on the short-list of my all-time favorites. I mean, not to put too fine a point on it, but this book is really fucking awesome. And I don't mean it's awesome like Indiana Jones is awesome; I mean awesome like Dan Simmons and Iain Banks and Ursula K. LeGuin—or pick your own favorite award-winner if you don't like those—kind of awesome. Is it possible that A Grey Moon Over China has merely been elevated in my own imagination and, were I to read it again today, I wouldn't be so impressed? I suppose the only way to find out is to read it again, and I'm committed to doing so this year. Yet isn't it also possible that a truly great book got passed over? It must happen from time to time.

A Grey Moon Over China has just 35 ratings on GR, with only 9 reviews and a paltry three-and-a-half-star average. So I'm not talking here about a mere lack of popularity and commercial success; I'm talking about something that pretty much nobody has read. I would be happy to see A Grey Moon Over China read by an average number of people, or even below average. Twilight has nearly a half million ratings on GR. I'm not looking for that kind of success (indeed I tend to think a book has to be pretty awful to attain that kind of commercial success). Hyperion, a fairly popular, critically acclaimed work of sci-fi, has 8,262 ratings. A cool new writer produce an original work of alt history, Bitter Seeds, and has 437 ratings. So would it be too much to ask for A Grey Moon Over China to get, let's say, two hundred people on GR to read it? I mean, only thirty-fucking-five people have read this thing? It seems like an astoundingly, even farcically small number on a reading site with millions of subscribers.

Perhaps I should be happy. Maybe A Grey Moon Over China will be recognized decades from now for the great work it is, and my two first editions (one from each publisher, and one of them signed) will be worth big bucks due to the small numbers printed. Or maybe I should be happy that I get to have this book all to myself and not have to share it with anybody … but no, that doesn't seem right. Half the reason I read so much is that I love sharing the experience with other people.

I suppose the best thing for me to do is not worry about it. I can walk by my bookshelf and touch the spine of A Grey Moon Over China, appreciate the connection I have with the book, be thankful for what the author gave me, and leave it at that.

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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Miriam (new)

Miriam OK, fine, I'm ordering it already! Sheesh.

By the way, my library has 5 copies and none are checked out.

message 2: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Yay! Number 36!

message 3: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian I need to read this again very soon, if for no other reason than to elevate awareness of the book by posting continuous progress updates.

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Alright. I'll check my library today.

Whitaker I just ordered the book. Man, I'd better be lovin' it!


message 6: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Okay, now I'm getting nervous. If you guys don't like it I'm going to be quite embarassed ... I'll have to wear a mask around GR for a while.

So I've just moved up the re-read of this book to today. I'm 30 pages in and so far it's as good as I remember. I'm also seeing much more in the way of hints and foreshadowing knowing what's coming. Seriously you guys better like this book.

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

No pressure or anything though.

message 8: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian BTW, after reading the book again I loved every bit as much, if not more, than before. I'm not sure if I should write a separate review attached to another edition and leave this one intact, or delete the whole thing and replace it with a new review on this edition.

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