TBR YR 10 – The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – Robert A. Heinlein

Genre: Science fiction, Classics, Politics

Narrative Style: First person, chronological

Rating: 4/5

Published: 1966

Synopsis: The moon (Luna) is a former penal colony for Earth. They provide a lot of grain to Earth and are tied into an almost impossible to escape business structure that keeps Luna inhabitants poor and Earth well fed. The Federated Nations refuse to acknowledge Luna as a real country and release them from servitude. When Mannie Garcia, a computer technician realises that the central computer for Luna is self- aware, he, and his companions Wyoh and The Prof, start to consider the possibilities of rebellion.

Format: Kindle

Time on Shelf: A few years now. I had heard of it and was curious but slightly wary as I hasn’t got on very well with Starship Troopers, the last book I read by Heinlein.

Reading Challenges: TBR Challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader

I really enjoyed this. I liked the politics – which seemed as apt as when Heinlein wrote it – and the style. The plot is generally quite exciting and for the most part, it moved quite quickly. It does get a bit gummed up in the middle when there are long political interludes during the setting up of the rebel group but by the end, the pace had picked up again.

The novel is written from Mannie’s point of view. His first person narrative is written in pidgin English with words taken from Russian and from Australian slang, for example and using a simplified grammar system. He is suitably cynical and generally easy with working outside of the law. He is the first one to realise that the main computer – which he christens Mike (short for Mycroft Holmes) – is self-aware and trying to make a joke when he attempts to send out a pay check for a ridiculous amount of money. The two quickly become friends and Mannie attempts to teach Mike what humour actually looks like.

Mannie attends a political meeting where he meets Wyoh, a visiting political activist. When the meeting ends in a riot, Mannie hides Wyoh and introduces her, and his mentor, Professor de la Paz to Mike. They begin to discuss the likelihood of rebelling and as Mike is able to calculate the odds of a number of scenarios, they are able to work out there best odds of succeeding.

Mike is an interesting character. He is like a cross between a walking encyclopaedia and a somewhat annoying child. He is able to develop a voice for himself and an image so that he can be the leader of the group – named Adam Selene. He also has a rebellious alter ego called Simon Jester who creates political slogans which are quickly taken up by the populace. It was interesting that I quickly forgot that Mike was a mere machine. There were times when I worried that Mike was not trustworthy – a strange thought to have about a machine – like, for example, when he reveals he has used Mannie’s voice to give orders or when I remembered that he was so interested in what a successful joke might look like.

The final chapter details the war between the Federated Nations and Luna. It is a welcom relief from the political talk and posturing of the previous chapter as there is plenty of action. Even so, the ending felt anticlimactic. Although they win their freedom, the new government soon falls within predictable lines. Disappointingly, Mike is taken offline during the bombardment and cannot be found. Mannie is distraught by this and mourns Mike as he mourns Prof (who dies of heart failure as soon as Luna’s freedom is secured). It is disappointing but maybe that is the way of revolutions.