In The Moon is a Harsh Mistress the moon is colonized by criminals, political exhiles or descendants thereof (called “Loonies”), and is run by Earth’s Protector of the Lunar Colonies (called the “Warden”). Luna (what the moon is referred to) is a very loosely governed society. Men outnumber women, and what little work is available is hard. The year is 2075 and within a decade all resources of Luna will be exhausted. The story is narrated by Manuel Garcia “Mannie” O’Kelly-Davis, and follows him through a journey of revolution—one lead by a self-aware computer named Mike whose only real interest is learning how to tell jokes.
I tend to like books that are more speculative fiction than The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Perhaps in 1966 this book was a bit more “out there”. But now, as its Wikipedia article points out, it has a “credible presentation of a comprehensively imagined future,” meaning it’s not all that “futuristic” at this point. That said, it was still a great read.
I enjoyed it for a couple reasons. One was the way the speakers, Mannie in particular, spoke. At first the reading of the The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was difficult because of the odd use of English. But by the of the story it was this unique way of writing that really made the story come to life.
Another reason I liked the story was because of its plot. The revolution is the main part of the story. The revolution is very detailed, down to precise times, dates and locations of strategic moves. It’s not a sub-plot, nor treated like one. And the way Heinlein goes about moving the plot along is very dramatic, all the way to the final page. As Mannie puts it, “Revolution is an amateur thing for almost everybody.” And the way the revolution unfolds in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is very fascinating.
But like most sci-fi novels, the coolest part of the story is the robot. Mike, an augmented HOLMES IV (“High-Optional, Logical, Multi-Evaluating Supervisor, Mark IV”) who achieved self-awareness when his complement of “neuristors” exceeded the number of neurons in the human brain, is an awesome character. He is at the same time a supercomputer, capable of almost anything, and a child, who is only interested in telling jokes and pulling pranks. I find that line where human intelligence and computer intelligence blur very interesting, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress spends a lot of time developing this part of the story. That’s what kept me hooked more than anything.
Overall, it was a fun read. You know what’s going to happen almost immediately, but if you’re like me you’ll keep reading to find out how it happens. I doubt you’ll be disappointed with this one.
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