A friend of mine leant me his copy of Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. It was a very bold move for him to do considering he knows I am a big fan of Fantasy. I had actually never heard of the book, but I did know a thing or two about the author – multiple Hugo Award winner and arguably the best Science Fiction novel writer (sorry Mr. Assimov).
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a story about Luna, a colony on the moon, being exploited and oppressed by people from Earth. The revolution from start to finish is chronicled in the book. It is lead by Man, a computer technician, Wyoh, a vibrant women, Prof, an aged scholar, and Mike, a computer that controls everything. I just want to say that Man is an absolutely brilliant name for a [hu]man, especially when spoken by a machine.
There were 2 points about the book that confused me while reading: 1) What exactly is the story about (theme?) and 2) Why is Man the one telling this story? For point two, it definitely did not feel like Man’s story at all. You will have to read to the very end of the book to find out why Mike was the one telling it.
There is quite a bit of contention for point one. I have read reviews now since finishing the book and many reviewers choose to focus on the revolution itself as the main focus of the book. This is completely understandable as that is the main event that spans the entire book. I chose to think beyond the actual revolution because, well, the revolution had Mike. Mike quite literally controlled everything. Even with Mike’s help, it took the revolutionists months of planning (as well as 1/3 to 1/2 of the book) and intricate cell formations to topple the government on Luna. That is ridiculous. With somebody like Mike, they should have been able to take over Luna in the mere seconds it took the people to convince Mike to help them. If they were worried about the backlash, they simply could have had Mike impersonate the warden until they were ready to attack Earth and no one would be the wiser.
So is the book about politics? Economics? Culture? Language? Probably a little bit of all but none of these satisfied me while reading the book. This probably reveals more about my interests than anything else. It wasn’t until the end of the The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and I started reflecting on it in preparation for this review that the puzzles began to fall into place for me.
To me the whole story was about Mike!! Can machines ever really think for themselves? Can they feel human emotions? Do we want them to? This was just a [typical] modern day story of Frankenstein which I actually don’t have a problem with because I thoroughly enjoy those type of stories. Now had I been well versed in Science Fiction books, this theme (for lack of a better word) would have immediately popped out at me because it’s a very common one in Science Fiction. As it was, I enjoyed the aha! factor. Now please understand this is just my opinion. Others will choose to focus on the other aspects of the story and they certainly are not wrong to do so.
Great book. Many claim this is Robert Heinlein’s best work.