Do not buy Red Moon for its literary merits ... There are great indigestible tracts of expository dialogue. There is a horrible doldrum of narrative drift in the middle as the physicist and the princess fester away in Hong Kong. The ending is abrupt and anticlimactic ... Read this book instead for its thorough and irresistible imagination. Read it as an extended love letter to China. Read it for its insights into the impossibility of total surveillance, the limitations of machine learning, the unbearable brightness of sunshine on the Moon’s dead surface and the true nature of power. Read it as the work of a man who has looked long and hard at the modern world and seen it for what it is with the clear gaze of a hyper-informed stranger. On its own terms – and it should not really be judged by any other standard — Red Moon is a masterpiece.
Sci-fi fans will love the detail and the optimism about humanity’s future in space. Not so comforting are the penetrating comments about politics on Earth. But in grown-up sci fi, of which Mr. Robinson is the pre-eminent producer, it’s all about mozhe shitou guo he—'crossing the river by feeling the stones,' the author’s enigmatic quote from Deng Xiaoping.
So on the one hand, moon murder! And who doesn't love that? On the other, there's Kim Stanley Robinson laying down an extended, 400-page riff on a future where an ascendant China has become the world's superpower and human law, politics, class and culture are all being reforged in the harsh environment of lunar colonies. That's how he chose to write his book. And that's fine. It's just no way to tell a story ... in Red Moon you can really see the strings. It feels like a spoonful-of-sugar-helps-the-medicine-go-down kind of situation. Give 'em a little moon murder and then they'll GLADLY stick around for my lecture on quantum cryptography! ... Red Moon reads like a TED Talk being given in the middle of a car chase. Too often, it sacrifices rhythm and structure for pages of back-and-forth debate. Fascinating, sure. Occasionally revolutionary, and beautifully deliberated. But ultimately it makes for a book that is too dry, didactic and choppy to sustain itself through to the end.