SELECT * FROM uv_BookReviewRollup WHERE recordnum = 524
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein Book Review | SFReader.com
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein Genre: Science Fiction Publisher: Tor Published: 1966 Review Posted: 12/22/2004 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 10 out of 10
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein
Book Review by Pete S. Allen
Have you read this book?
An alternative title for this book could have been TANSTAAFL, or "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch" - the motto of Luna. Or if it had been written 30 years later, Revolutions For Dummies. The only hitch would be that you need a self-aware computer to pull it off.
The moon of 2075-6 is the most effective penal colony ever. It is impossible to escape from, largely because after several months of living on the moon, humans suffer irreversible physiological changes adjusting to one-sixth gravity, and can't go home.
Luna is the home for criminals of all sorts - hardened felons, political prisoners, dangerous freethinkers, you name them. But it's been an open prison-colony for a while, so the folks that have survived have had children; these comprise the "free" citizens of Luna. Of course, being born on the moon, the free citizens are even less able to go to Earth.
Manuel Garcia O'Kelly is one such free citizen. He is a computer repairman, though like all Loonies, he has quite a few other trade skills too. Because like no-when else in history, everybody pulls their weight. He is the only one able to repair the main controlling computer for Luna because he is, in this computer's opinion, "not-stupid." The computer, named Mike, has recently become self-aware, and Mannie doesn't do a lot of pondering about how or why - he just ensures that he's the only one that knows. Job security and all. He also has some skills he wasn't aware of, until he reluctantly becomes involved in the revolution.
Mannie's newest friend, Wyoming Knott, is a raging revolutionary, tolerated by the powers that be as essentially harmless. Mannie's old friend, Professor Bernardo de la Paz is a rational anarchist who has discovered that Luna's shipments of grain to the Earth, without compensating water and fuel, will cause a famine on the moon within the next several years.
Mannie's first visit to a rebel meeting happens to be the first one that is raided by the Authority, and it's the combination of these factors - famine, violence, and an allied omnipresent computer - that make these three decide that the time for Revolution is ripe. That's the set-up and from there you're on your own. But I will tell you why you want to put it on your list.
If you put any stock in the Hugo awards, this book got one. Heinlein earned a number of Hugos in the middle of his career, and he explored some interesting themes - namely, human sexuality and alternative governments. As his health deteriorated, so did his work, but this book has always been one of his brightest and most underrated stars.
It was published in 1966, five years after Stranger In A Strange Land, the book that was seized by the young rebels of the '60's as a textbook for counterculture practice. Many communes emulated the Martian "nests" found in Stranger.
Moon was the next book Heinlein wrote which really explored the human construct of marriage. His Luna of 2075 has a male-female ratio of something like 5 to 1. Women on Luna have a great deal of power in a practical sense, though patronizing attitudes toward them still exist to a degree.
Different types of marriages are explored - polyandrous, line and clan marriages. Male jealousy is a thing of the past - or at least, if it exists, self-preservation makes it a dangerous practice.
He also delves into alternative forms of government in this book, from the rational anarchist point of view. Some ideas tossed around are - constituencies formed by occupation, age or even alphabet, putting in power the person who receives the least votes, making the government officials pay for budgets from their own pockets - some very preposterous ideas that aim at keeping individual freedoms high and putting the most appropriate individual in office. I find myself agreeing with these ideas more every time I see the news.
But mostly, this is an intelligent and entertaining read from a man who made his mark early in the pulp era. There is more than enough action, adventure and cliff-hanging to satisfy the hungriest pulp reader, along with some great tag lines to steal for your e-mail signature.
Click here to buy The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein on Amazon