The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – by Robert A. Heinlein
FROM AMAZON’S BOOK DESCRIPTION:
“Robert A. Heinlein was the most influential science fiction writer of his era, an influence so large that, as Samuel R. Delany notes, “modern critics attempting to wrestle with that influence find themselves dealing with an object rather like the sky or an ocean.” He won the Hugo Award for best novel four times, a record that still stands. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was the last of these Hugo-winning novels, and it is widely considered his finest work.
It is a tale of revolution, of the rebellion of the former Lunar penal colony against the Lunar Authority that controls it from Earth. It is the tale of the disparate people–a computer technician, a vigorous young female agitator, and an elderly academic–who become the rebel movement’s leaders. And it is the story of Mike, the supercomputer whose sentience is known only to this inner circle, and who for reasons of his own is committed to the revolution’s ultimate success.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is one of the high points of modern science fiction, a novel bursting with politics, humanity, passion, innovative technical speculation, and a firm belief in the pursuit of human freedom.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is the winner of the 1967 Hugo Award for Best Novel.”
“I see in Lunaya Pravda that Luna City Council has passed on first reading a bill to examine, license, inspect – and tax – public food vendors operating inside municipal pressure.”
(Page 76) “The trouble with conspiracies is that they rot internally. When the number is as high as four, chances are even that one is a spy.”
Once upon a time, I would have thought a book like this would be totally outside my reading comfort zone. Maybe it’s because of my new-found fascination with Libertarianism (I learned of it from the book I read earlier in the month) but even if it weren’t for that, I think I would still have found this to be an exciting, entertaining story. On the political philosophy side of things, there were a few parts that reminded me of Ayn Rand from Atlas Shrugged – only in this case, it was stated in a far more succinct way and not nearly as off-putting as Rand’s methods.
But if you’re not into politics (which I’m really not), don’t let anything I said in that last paragraph stop you from reading this – it works perfectly well at face value as an adventure tale set in the not so distant future. Written in 1966, the book takes place approximately 100 years in the future. It’s clear now that we won’t be at that point in the next sixty years – at least not with a thriving colony on the moon – but that doesn’t detract from the story. What could be feasible is the possibility of a sentient computer. Who knows how close we are to that now!? Not only was the plot excellent, I enjoyed the descriptions of life on the Moon… especially marriage and relationships. I’m always amazed at the details authors create in their imaginary societies.
The story is written in first person from the viewpoint of Mannie, a computer technician, and his dialect takes getting use to. I found myself looking up words, which often turned out to have Russian origins – not surprising for a novel written at the height of the Cold War. All the central characters were interesting and very likable, but the best might have been the computer: HOLMES IV (“High-Optional, Logical, Multi-Evaluating Supervisor, Mark IV”) or as Mannie named him: Mycroft Holmes, better known as Mike. Most people if asked to come up with a computer from a science fiction story would name HAL 9000, but I’ll always think of Mike now.
There is a detailed Wiki page for the book, but be warned it’s full of spoilers should you want to read the book.