Genres: Queer Protagonists, Science Fantasy
Representation: Queer MC, nonbinary spouse, mentions of polyamory
Published on: 5th July 2022
A gripping sci-fi mystery wrapped in an LGBTQIA love story that bends space, time, myth and science
Lumi is an Earth-born healer whose Mars-born spouse Sol disappears unexpectedly on a work trip. As Lumi begins her quest to find Sol, she delves gradually deeper into Sol’s secrets – and her own.
While recalling her own path to becoming a healer under the guidance of her mysterious teacher Vivian, she discovers an underground environmental group called Stoneturners, which may have something to do with Sol’s disappearance. Lumi’s search takes her from the wealthy colonies of Mars to Earth that has been left a shadow of its former self due to vast environmental destruction. Gradually, she begins to understand that Sol’s fate may have been connected to her own for much longer than she thought.
Part space-age epistolary, part eco-thriller, The Moonday Letters is also a love story between two individuals from very different worlds.
I received this book for free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
~run, don’t walk, when a lynx comes calling
~“Have you considered…FLEAS?”
~Earth is a holiday resort now
~Martians are the new 1%
~lichens are the key to everything
The Moonday Letters is as beautifully strange, and as strangely beautiful, as all of Itäranta’s books so far, and I’m so happy that it was translated into English so I could read it!
Itäranta takes the bare bones of a story we’ve seen many times – one spouse uncovering, bit by bit, the other’s very unexpected secrets – and frames it within a distant but all-too-plausible future; one where Earth is ruined, scraping by as a holiday destination for the wealthy of Mars and various space-cities. Planet Earth has been reduced to little more than a series of theme parks and holiday resorts, such as Winterland, where those born off-planet can visit to experience snow and reindeer. (A few subtle clues make it clear that Winterland is almost certainly an amalgamation of Finland and Lapland post-climate change.)
But the story doesn’t start there; it starts on Mars, where Lumi, born on Earth but a recipient of a more-precious-than-gold visa, is travelling to meet her spouse Sol. The two of them are often apart for weeks or months, so Lumi keeps a kind of diary which she shares with Sol whenever she finishes a notebook. The Moonday Letters opens with Lumi beginning a new notebook, and this journal – which could also be considered a very long letter, written in first-person and directed at Sol – makes up the bulk of the book, although there are also articles, excerpts from fictional books, and emails between various characters included.
Sol isn’t at the rendezvous they and Lumi arranged; nor the next one; nor the one after that. At which point enough red flags have appeared that Lumi starts digging into Sol’s current work and past. What she finds has implications for the entire solar system and the future of humanity.
I don’t think it’s quite correct to label this an ‘eco-thriller’, simply because The Moonday Letters feels much more soothing than edge-of-your-seat. There are no high-speed chases, heists, daring rescues, or the like. It’s measured, calm, a slow and careful unfolding, question and answer following one after another like someone delicately placing the pieces of a puzzle on a table, one after another.
And I think that was exactly the right way to tell this story, where all the characters feel so immensely, completely human, messy flaws and all. The Moonday Letters may be set a few hundred years in our future, but I had no trouble at all believing in every character – they all felt so real, even the frustrating or unlikeable ones. For example, although I despise the manufactured drama of characters-not-talking-to-each-other, I wholeheartedly believed that Sol really was the kind of person who would keep these secrets from their wife. It didn’t feel manufactured; it felt like the kind of idiotic decision real humans make every day.
(In this context, that’s a compliment!)
That realism – that sense of it all being so real – is even more impressive when you consider the setting and staging of this story. Itäranta has created a far-future, post-planet-Earth society as sci-fi as you could possibly wish…but Lumi herself is a shamanistic healer, who routinely travels to other worlds with the help of her soul-animal to retrieve the lost pieces of her patients’ souls.
It shouldn’t work, but it does; there’s no dissonance between space travel and astral travel here. Lumi talks about her work and experiences in a matter-of-fact way that doesn’t leave room for disbelief, never mind scoffing or mockery, and it serves as a ribbon of quiet spirituality that’s fundamental to the story, beautifully intertwining with the book’s environmental themes.
The only thing I didn’t like about The Moonday Letters was Sol themself, who in no way deserves the awesome Lumi, as far as I’m concerned. There were many points where I would have liked to tell Lumi to quit searching and let Sol disappear, if that was what Sol wanted to do; Lumi can do better than this patronising cheese-rind of a spouse (Sol’s take on Lumi’s work made me fume!) I completely failed to understand their marriage, even if I very much believed in Lumi’s love and her need to make sure Sol was okay.
SOL YOU DO NOT DESERVE YOUR AMAZING WIFE!
I’m not sure I’d call this a fun book, exactly, but it’s a very good one, and I loved how quiet and meditative it felt. It pulled at my heartstrings, but gently. I loved the message that we don’t have to give up spirituality and magic as we go forward into the future…and that we should never forget where we came from, no matter how far from Earth we end up going.
Another beautiful work from Itäranta that you definitely shouldn’t miss.