Kowal continues her Hugo and Nebula award-winning Lady Astronaut series with an exploration of Lady Astronaut Nicole Wargin, who is thrilled to be one of the moon's pioneer settlers. But she is less happy that her husband, the Governor of Kansas, is considering a run for President as riots and sabotage on Earth plague the space program.
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.