The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A Heinlein
Hey, smile if you bundled last night!!
Okay, that out of the system, just finished reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A Heinlein. I’ve read this as part of the Vintage Sci fi event I’m taking part in and happily this also counts to my other none challenge event being hosted over at Stainless Steel Droppings.
Oh my giddy aunt. What a thought provoking book. It creates a little tornado of emotions and, yes, (slight spoiler) it has a somewhat sad end (did I say somewhat! slight understatement) but it also has plenty of humour – a good deal of which I probably missed or that went over my head but, I’m getting away with myself.
The Moon really is a Harsh Mistress! Without a doubt. The story brings to us a Moon that has been colonised – mainly with criminals or political exiles but what is interesting is that the population is obviously now increased due to the number of people actually being born to families within these colonies (the reason I found this interesting is that there is no return to earth for any of these people – it seems a little like the children are also suffering from the sins of the parents in a way although it’s not like they could return on their own). The families live in underground tunnels and work hard to survive sending a good deal of their produce back to earth, probably as part of their punishment. They pay for air and they live without luxury. And yet, they seem content. They have their own strict rules that they abide by and woe-betide anybody who breaks the code – think of honour among thieves – put basically you keep your good family name, you settle your debts and you don’t step out of line otherwise you might as well walk out onto the surface without your airtight suit. Think not of being sent to Coventry but of being sent to a small planet in the outer ring of Saturn. Dead.
So, life goes on. However, the inhabitants have no idea that at the current rate that they are using the planets resources they are likely to run out fairly quickly and that will have disastrous results. (Actually, now I’ve actually stated that in print was Heinlein trying to make a point about our use of the Earth’s natural resources?)
At the start of the story we’re introduced to Manuel, who used to be a farmer but due to the loss of a limb is now an engineer who is frequently called upon to service the planet’s mainframe computer – Mike. Mike is developing a personality and Manuel or Man is becoming his only friend. Then step up and meet Wyoming and Professor de la Paz. Manuel meets Wyoming at a sort of political rally that goes a little bit pear shaped and means that the two of them have to keep a low profile for a while. Wyoming is something of a political activist, fairly well known in her home town and the authorities have their eye on her. The professor is a ‘rational anarchist’ – what a lovely phrase and contradiction in terms. Anyway, to cut a long story short and not to go too much into detail Manuel introduces his two friends to Mike. They pretty soon become aware of the impending threat to their way of life and start to cook up a rebellion. That’s all I’m going to say for the plot.
Put basically this is a book about revolution and an overthrowing of unacceptable control.
Like I said earlier, there is such a lot to think about in this book. I wish I’d actually kept some notes as I was reading because I’m sure that I’ve forgotten more than I ever knew and everything is now a big jumble! But, for example, the Professor’s idea of not living with rules – he basically states he’s a free man, he abides with the rules he can tolerate and not by those he can’t. Yet, we all do live with rules don’t we? Even in the colonies on the moon the inhabitants live by their own self-imposed rules. They don’t have a Government or Royalty or a President – and yet again, interestingly, when they begin their revolution they almost start to emulate the very systems on the planet they’re rejecting (puts you in mind of animal farm – no more farmer, all the animals in a co-operative until the pigs get bigger ideas that is). Really there is such a lot of interesting reading going on here.
I admit that at first I wondered what was going on with the form of writing. It’s told in a strange type of translated Russian – not sure whether that is a reflection on the author’s thoughts in terms of the Russian Revolution? or not?? But, it took me a little while to get used to it until I suddenly seemed to have turned a corner and was almost reading with an accent going on in my head! I also confess – when Mike kept saying things to Manuel such as ‘you’re my only friend man’ – I just thought he was imitating some strange type of hippie talk until it dawned on me that Man was short for Manuel (ahem, well I never said I was going to split the atom!) Anyway, once I got used to Manuel’s form of narration I found myself enjoying the book a lot more and actually understanding a lot of the fun that is incorporated.
I thought there was a lot of humour in the book, although there is a very strong possibility that I’m reading it wrong. And, I’m sure that I missed things that will be funny for some whilst laughing at other things that they may have missed. But that’s part of the reading experience after all. For example, I loved the little speech during the revolution that the Professor made to the crowds on luna – which was virtually the famous ‘we will fight them on the beaches’ speech made by Churchill adapted for the current situation. I loved the fact that the inhabitants of Luna are called loonies. And, I thought it was great that due to the ratio of men to women on the planet the women on Luna really do rule the roost! So original. Let’s face it chaps – one wrong move and you’ll find yourself ejected into outer space!
Now, obviously there’s a revolution and as we know from history we can’t have a revolution without some casualties. I won’t say any more except TANSTAAFL! Ain’t it the truth!
Very enjoyable read. Now reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep – only two chapters in but I think it’s got me already!