The Moon and the Other (John Kessel)

31 August 2022

The Moon and the Other

John Kessel, one of the most visionary writers in the field, has created a rich matriarchal utopia, set in the near future on the moon, a society that is flawed by love and sex, and on the brink of a destructive civil war.

In the middle of the twenty-second century, over three million people live in underground cities below the moon's surface. One city-state, the Society of Cousins, is a matriarchy, where men are supported in any career choice, but no right to vote--and tensions are beginning to flare as outside political intrigues increase.

After participating in a rebellion that caused his mother's death, Erno has been exiled from the Society of Cousins. Now, he is living in the Society's rival colony, Persepolis, when he meets Amestris, the defiant daughter of the richest man on the moon.

Mira, a rebellious loner in the Society, creates graffiti videos that challenge the Society's political domination. She is hopelessly in love with Carey, the exemplar of male privilege. An Olympic champion in low-gravity martial arts and known as the most popular bedmate in the Society, Carey's more suited to being a boyfriend than a parent, even as he tries to gain custody of his teenage son.

When the Organization of Lunar States sends a team to investigate the condition of men in the Society, Erno sees an opportunity to get rich, Amestris senses an opportunity to escape from her family, Mira has a chance for social change, and Carey can finally become independent of the matriarchy that considers him a perpetual adolescent. But when Society secrets are revealed, the first moon war erupts, and everyone must decide what is truly worth fighting for.

Average Rating:

Ross Hetherington (6 March 2023 16:44)

I thought this excelled in everything except the prose - which was fine, but I'm the sort of person who wants more than workpersonlike and isn't so enamoured of short, snappy sentences for the sake of it. I'd recommend this to just about anyone, whether they were a sci fi fan or not, as I think it engages so well with debates about sex, gender and capitalism. A completely believeable society in a completely believable context, I think. Read it. If it's not on one of those "Sci Fi Masterworks" lists in 10-20 years, it will be an outrage.

Sinclair Manson (3 September 2022 19:55)

The plot emerges from this novel like a house that has grown from a tree. There's little sense of construction in the writing but more a sense of something sown, nourished and pruned. Rather than tell the reader how the author thinks things should be, he shows how things work in his world. This undogmatic approach suits a story that revolves around the power and failure of ideals. There is a strain of thought thay suggests that happiness lies in the pursuit of a dream, rather than its possession. That comes through in multiple strands of this book, most satisfyingly in the fate of Cyrus, and most obviously in the rebellion of younger Cousins against their parents' utopia. The latter also shades into another theme: the ironic conflict between utopian ideals and the individual dreams they're intended to fulfil. Carey's relationship with his son is badly damaged by their participation in the campaign for paternal rights. Erno finds himself a powerless drone in the more masculine colonies outside the Society. Most dramatically, uplifting Sirius makes him more savage than he could ever have been as an ordinary dog. There is indeed a rich vein of irony that runs through the whole story. Throretical oppression and practical egalitarianism go hand in hand, and vice versa. It was mentioned in the discussion that the writing style lacked flash but for me the novel was a compelling read and one I get more from, the more I think about it.