In the early 1900s, Edwin is exiled by his wealthy British family, and is walking in the woods in western Canada when he hears the music of a violin and what turns out to the the noise of an airship terminal. Set partly on the Moon, this intriguing, challenging, and rewarding novel moves through time and space, exploring the importance of art and connection, and playing around with the nature of reality. Best known for Station Eleven (a current television miniseries and an earlier book group selection) and The Glass Hotel, this book includes character from a couple of her novels. We also meet Olive, a novelist from the Moon who is on a book tour on Earth when a pandemic begins in 2203, and Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in 2401 who is sent back in time for an investigation that includes an airship terminal. Mandel beautifully weaves together the different scenes and themes, without quite resolving all the plotlines. Hard to put down and difficult to describe, likely to be very popular when published in early April.
In 1963, Nicole Wargin is a pilot, the first lady of Kansas, and an astronaut. She also has an eating disorder, and her husband Kenneth may run for president. In this award-winning alternate history series, a meteor strike in the 1950s precipitated the creation of the International Aerospace Coalition, with the goal of creating colonies on the Moon and Mars. Sexism and racism are still very much factors in this version of the 1960s. Nicole gets to fly shuttles on the moon, but doesn’t get to pilot the big rockets. She is sent to the Moon to investigate possible sabotage. There are several small malfunctions, short power outages, a non-fatal poisoning, and an increasing sense of suspense, as there are clearly terrorists on the Moon. Also, there is a polio outbreak on the Moon, and unrest back in Kansas. A complex, relatable character in her fifties, Nicole needs all her skills as a diplomat, investigator, and her experience as an astronaut to save the colony on the Moon. I had the pleasure to attend a virtual author event through a local bookstore, and heard more about the series, which begins with The Calculating Stars. Readalikes include Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, Seveneves by Neal Stephenson, and the Retrieval Artist series by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, beginning with The Disappeared.
Jazz Bashara, born in Saudi Arabia, has grown up in the Moon’s only city, Artemis. She’s just getting by, delivering packages and the occasional contraband, sleeping in a capsule berth and eating Gunk. When she’s offered a large reward to vandalize a refinery, the pace revs up as Jazz starts down a slippery slope, taking the reader on a wild ride as she gets creative and enlists an unlikely group to save Artemis from disaster. While the plots differ, Marina in New Moon by Ian McDonald and Bet Yeager in C.J. Cherryh’s Rimrunners have a lot in common with Jazz, using all their skills to survive in a hostile environment. This book was fun to read; I really enjoyed the unusual, well-detailed setting.