No one can beat Ms. Kowal on the finely imagined details of how to disrupt Earth’s toehold in the unforgiving conditions of the Moon, and how to guard against it ... 'Relentless' is the right word for Ms. Kowal’s book. It reminds us that space is about finance and politics, not just technology. But the technology is vital just the same. Her award-winning sequence has revived the old sci-fi dream. The premise is a 'might have been' scenario, but the series is also a blueprint for 'what could be yet.' Arthur C. Clarke would have loved it.
A reader will likely empathize with Nicole’s impatience to get to the Moon already. The first third of the novel proceeds at a frustratingly slow pace, setting up the necessary conflict on Earth as well as the idiosyncracies of lunar living, albeit sometimes repetitively. It’s not until Nicole and her team are settled on the Moon, with a few hiccups, that the book’s action truly picks up ... Part of the story’s slow pace is due to Nicole herself, a vexing (in the best way) enigma of a protagonist ... The reward of reading, then, is sticking with Nicole until she unclenches enough to reveal the parts of herself that are not immediately apparent: the anorexia that lets her squeeze into gala gowns and exert control when so much agency is taken from her, that becomes unintentional self-sabotage just as the colony’s glitches shift from inconvenience to true danger. But as things get increasingly personal, Nicole also reveals another facet of herself, answering some questions of how she is so good with people, and it is spectacular.
It isn’t only inherent tension of a mystery that makes The Relentless Moon such a compelling read. First, that mystery is set mostly in a place where the stakes could not be more high ... What really kept me reading well past my bedtime, because I wanted to know what was going to happen, was that there is an epidemic on the moon. Reading about counteracting polio in a small fictional population while responding to a COVID-19 outbreak in my own small town was gripping—and a reminder that none of this is new ... Kowal offers assurance that it is a problem that can be solved, if her characters use their brains to work it. Hopefully the same will prove true in real life.
How goddamn cool is the idea of a character being a spy and an astronaut? Seems a little over the top when it is plainly stated, but this is part of the genius of Kowal’s writing—as we get to know Nicole, it is impossible to not believe this about her ... The fact that this story hinges on a woman in her fifties (with arthritis) is, quite frankly, out of the ordinary for Science Fiction. Add to that the her eating disorder, and you’ve got even more traits that aren’t typically associated with protagonists in Science Fiction. But here again is what makes this such a brilliant novel, Kowal is thrusting such an atypical character at the forefront of this novel ... Nicole is believable and human ... Kowal doesn’t allow plot or narrative power to take a back seat. This novel is very much an espionage thriller in many respects, with the natural tension of a novel where one of the main themes being that there are untrustworthy characters mixing with our protagonist ... What I found particularly gripping and fascinating was how prescient and relevant the novel is to the world we live in today ... a hopeful, beautiful, gripping, powerful continuation of The Lady Astronaut saga, which is emerging as a Modern Masterpiece of the Genre.
... another strong installment in Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series ... Men are still frustratingly (but accurately) 'in the way' throughout the book, but it is a delight to watch Nicole maneuver around them, especially as stakes on the moon heat up. The book does not shy away from discussing the double standard in appearance, either ...
With the change in main point of view character to Nicole, The Relentless Moon keeps the series fresh with a more focused look at Earth First and Lunar Colony dynamics. A touch lighter on the hard science of space flight and a lot heavier on intrigue, new and old readers will find themselves quickly immersed in this complex alternate history of the US’s space program.
Despite a great deal of science-driven science fiction, this is, at heart, a mystery novel and political thriller ... Like the other Astronaut books, this book has great science content and a fascinating portrayal of what establishing a lunar colony would be like in both technical terms and in terms of characters ... This book has a compelling plot, with a cascade of things going wrong, puzzles to solve both scientific and criminal, and real emotional heft ... every loss, every moment of suspense, every piece of news comes as a real punch to the reader, especially the long time reader. Every success feels like a real triumph.
Focusing on the politics and daily living of space, The Relentless Moon takes a few chapters before it really blasts off. Once it does, readers will want to buckle up for a ride, but should be aware of Wargin’s frankly described fight with anorexia.
... stellar ... Kowal effortlessly blends espionage, spacefaring adventure, and social fiction, paying particular attention to the details of life as a female astronaut in the 1960s. This is hard science fiction at its most emotional, intimate, and insightful.