BSFA Shortlist Review: The Moon King by Neil Williamson

TheMoonKingThe Moon King by Neil Williamson

Setting: An island bound to the cycles of the moon.

Summary: Glassholm’s first king captured the moon and tethered it to the island city. For five hundred years, the moon’s presence has influenced the mood of the people, who experience dramatic swings in temperament over the course of each month. But crime during the Dark days has become more heinous, and now leaks into the Fullish days. No one feels safe anymore.

Synopsis quote:

The earth moved around the sun, the moon moved around Glassholm. After that it was all a matter of shadows. [Loc. 1520]

The blurb that was never blurbed:

Gives new meaning to the phrase “that time of the month.”

How it feels: Fleeting moments of glittery fish scales and pearlescent moondrops are juxtaposed with a smoky crime story aesthetic. However, strained dialogue and strained motivations overshadow the intriguing, albeit flimsy, setting and premise. Many scenes feel blocked, as if in a play, as if the author is shouting, “Places, people!” An imaginative effort by a first-time novelist who is unpracticed in long fiction transitions.

The message: Loaded with positive, superficial messages about bipolar disorder and atonement. Ultimately about the importance of being different. Might also serve as a political allegory about the power of our leaders to make our lives miserable, and the passive compliance of citizens to allow misery to continue.

Celebrity blurbers: Jeff VanderMeer and Nina Allan have both praised this novel.

My response: Did we read the same book?

Should you read this? Passive readers looking for a unique secondary world setting might enjoy this. Critical readers might not buy the initial premise or the general passivity of the citizenry. (British colonists rioted over taxes; I should think state-induced suicidal depression might warrant regicide after the first month of lunar-entrapment.)

Ultimately: In general, reader feedback is split, most reviews are very positive, but this was my least favorite of the BSFA shortlist.

Publishing observation: The ebook version is loaded, LOADED, with typographical and grammatical errors, which, for this reader from a bilingual household, is not terribly important. (In my house, words make themselves!) More distracting is the urge to rewrite entire sentences to make them less explanatory, and more alluring.

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This is part of an 8-part review series on the 2014 British Science Fiction Association Best Novel Shortlist. The winner will be announced at the BSFA ceremony at Eastercon on Sunday, April 5.

Previous BFSA Shortlist Reviews:
Europe in Autumn by David Hutchinson
The Race by Nina Allan
Cuckoo Song by Francis Hardinge

Next week’s BFSA Shortlist Reviews:
Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
Wolves by Simon Ings