The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

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US hardcover, 1st edition.

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is a political science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein. It was originally serialized in the magazine Worlds of If from December 1965 to April 1966, and then published as a novel in 1966.

I first become a fan of Heinlein from Stranger In a Strange Land, after that, I read Starship Troopers, which was decent, and The Door Into Summer, which was awful. A friend suggested The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress as being one of his best, so I decided to give it a go.

Status

I do not own this book, but I have listened to it as an audio book.

Review

Good

  • I like the amalgam of cultures present on the Moon.
  • It's interesting to hear about the various marriage systems put in place to handle a population that's only 1/10th female.

Bad

  • The likelihood that Mike would become the first sentient AI without any notice from scientists or researchers seems especially slim. Why was Mike equipped so well when he was just supposed to run the catapult and basic systems of the moon? Shouldn't the Earth computers have been far more impressive?
  • The idea that the Earth had the technology to build interplanetary spaceships, but didn't have a way to safely stop incoming bogies was difficult to believe.
  • Despite women supposedly being in positions of authority on the moon, they still do all the home making, and all the major decisions in the rebellion are made by men.
  • Heinlein's description of futuristic computers is pretty uninspired. He describes them as faster versions of 1960s computers. Everything is still done with printouts and hardware can still be damaged by insects getting into the circuitry.
  • Heinlein was unaware of the uncanny valley, so this is forgivable, but Mike, powerful as he was, wouldn't be able to easily create a visual human facsimile.
  • The death of Mike and the Professor were both pointless and contrived.

Ugly

  • For most of the book, I was bored. The Lunar rebellion always seemed several steps ahead of the warden and all of the Earth, so it never really seemed like there was any real danger. It was more just waiting for them to be victorious against an incompetent foe without suffering any major casualties.
  • The book appears to be just a vehicle for Heinlein's anarchist approach to government. However, much like in Starship Troopers, he constantly touts the benefits of his ideals without giving any evidence for how they are superior. There is a particularly bad contradiction with the Professor. He lauds the importance of protecting the freedom of the individual, but his methods are the same as any other dictator: he uses dirty tactics to strong-arm his people into positions of power so they'll do his bidding and he justifies his tyranny by claiming it's for the "greater good."

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