A Grey Moon Over China by Thomas A. Day
2007, Black Heron Press
Review Summary: A Grey Moon Over China is an excellent, well-written, dark, thoughtful, and innovative novel, and I highly recommend it.
The characters in Day’s A Grey Moon Over China are briefly drawn but unique, each with their own unique perspectives and implied backstories. The author has a talent for drawing out the nuanced social dynamics between a number of troubled adults fleeing a troubled world, and leads the reader through a fast-paced storyline emphasizing, without being preachy, the moral and psychological struggles the main character faces in the numerous bad choices he makes, all of which are understandable, real, honest and human, in trying to flee his past and reach a new life.
The plotline is likewise fast-paced, as well as edgy and unpredictable – it’s a dark, harrowing ride the author is taking us on, unfolding like a train wreck with each well-intentioned misstep, each morally weak moment of inaction, each arrogant or naïve mistake and misjudgment. Chapter by chapter, I didn’t know where the author was taking me, but with trepidation I kept reading, needing to witness these characters lives and their desperate reach for the stars, and power, and absolution from their pasts. Only a couple of times do elements of the plot seem too convenient, too pat, in an otherwise realistically messy storyline.
Thematically, the novel is a work of art, spelling out through example the costs of the characters’s moral weaknesses, in particular the main character’s “sins of omission” – where Torres should have taken responsibility, taken leadership and authority, he instead allowed others to do some morally questionable – when not just wrong and evil – work in his name, weakly protesting his innocence along the way, but through his inaction, his choice to not say anything to curb these decisions by others, and his decision to remain ignorant of certain facets of the operation, tacitly approving the methods that are obtaining his goal for him, however morally bankrupt those methods are. More than his actions, his inactions define the failures of the diaspora, as the exodus takes on a life of its own and begins reeling, nominally, out of his control.
Overall, A Grey Moon Over China is an excellent, well-written, dark, thoughtful, and innovative novel, and I highly recommend it.