Nowadays, bookstores are flooded with piles of post-apocalyptic books that mourn dark futures, bringing a smoke of grim in the industry itself, and honestly, many of us are tired of dystopia. When Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games books became a phenomenon, a legion of Young-Adult authors tried to follow the trend that proved to sell, so they tried to recreate the oppressive nature of a tyrannical world, and some spiced them up with a dash of the Dead. Some of them published works that appealed to the same demographic while others brewed dreadful imitations of the ones that "made it". However, there are still compelling post-apocalyptic tales I enjoyed. Videogames like Fallout 4 and Destiny portray the aftermath of Earth's decay, but in refreshing ways. They've brought unforgettable experiences in an exhausted sub genre. That's kind of what I got from reading Garon Whited's sci-fi novel Luna, which doesn't cry a river on the dying world; the characters bring a vibe that celebrates it instead.
Despite the demise, the last of the human race somehow find hope, laughter, joy, and the simplest pleasures that we've taken for granted. This is the post-apocalyptic novel for those who are tired of reading post-apocalyptic novels. Seeing how it strays away from the predictable dystopian conventions is amusing. Luna is not trying to be a light at the end of the tunnel; it's the mass of light that shrouds the dark tunnel itself even though it's a habitat for disaster. Instead of showing us the world before the eclipse of apocalypse, Whited opens the novel with armageddon already devouring Earth.
"It's the end of the world, and I have the best seat in the house," says Maxwell Hardy, the lieutenant commander and Chief Damage Officer of the surviving crew. As a reader who have read a bunch of dark post-apocalytpic books, I expected to feel grief, a grim sense of hopelessness and oblivion, but oddly, Luna doesn't dwell on ruins, escape from gargantuan disasters, or rebel against dictatorship; instead, we follow Max and his small crew make the most out of life even though there's nothing left. Luna shows us what truly matters after the apocalypse hits, which reminds me of Michael Caine's line from the Christopher Nolan's science fiction film Interstellar, "We're not meant to save Earth, we're meant to leave it". Like the growth of lichen following a forest fire, Max's crew seemed powerless to take the initiative at first, but soon they summon the courage to recolonize the area. "We didn't need saving. We're the ones who do the saving!"
Luna, the crew's ship that brought the crew to the moon, aren't just physically distant from Earth's armageddon, they appear to be emotionally unattached as if they've cut their umbilical cords away from contaminated placentas. They settle on the moon, apparently unconcerned about loved ones they may have lost in the past. It's as if the characters have decided to dismiss the idea of weeping because what the hell is the point of doing so when tears won't raise the dead or heal the world anyways? Their emotions are as empty as the moon, "a lifeless ball of rock", so it's hard to sympathize with them when they seemed to have already settled, and I don't get the sense that they have a clear path ahead in the early chapters. It almost feels like watching a bunch of SIMS avatars happily live their lives in a nice home, and there are occasional conflicts they face, but nothing detrimental. What else could they possibly lose when they've lost everything already?
Yet Luna isn't a journey for healing or a story of survival; it's a story about human connection amongst the the crew members, and the experiences they make in the unknown. Max doesn't seem to be interested in seeking for new planets to colonize, however, nor does he want to climb the power ladder to rule on top, but to conquer what exactly? Max is a cheerful and humble leader who "doesn't take the burden of command well". He likes to get involved with the pleasures of life, and doesn't concern himself much of the past nor the future. He interacts with women who unleash their sexual spirits when they're isolated from Captain Carl and the reins of Luna's duties. Although Max's affairs may make readers think that these relationships would build at some point, I often felt like they're empty baggage.
It's incredible how humans manage to organize and rebuild societies no matter how small despite the lack of resources. Life on the moon seems to easy for them, which could be a bore to readers seeking for thrill and adventure. The lack of tension was tough to get through, and the lack of emotions made the characters feel like zombies themselves. At least, a moment of reflection with loved ones in the past would at least portray more realistic reactions to a freaking apocalypse! But instead the early plot is as downtrodden as a brainless reality TV show. However, there's a turning point in the middle of the book, which involves an interesting investigation that revived my interests. The book also taps into political ideas but doesn't dig deep into them. Here's a powerful quote about the uselessness of democracy in the quest of survival or recolonization:
"While democracy is a fine thing, it does not work when those who vote have no real idea of the issues they face. A space ship cannot be steered by committee; a vessel cannot be commanded by vote. We must have direction and we must make no mistakes."