Written in 1966 The Moon is a Harsh Mistress has been critically acclaimed and is often considered as one of Heinlein's finest works, winning the prestigious Hugo award and also becoming a part of the original SF Masterworks collection. It's only the third Heinlein novel I have read after Stranger in a Strange Land and Starship Troopers.
The story follows the Lunar ex-penal colony of the twenty first century as a revolution to overthrow the hated "Authority" is plotted by a lonely talking super computer and its human friends.
The novel is told in a future-ish version of English with other languages such as Chinese and Russian blended in, which at times descends into an almost pidgin English - this does help create the right atmosphere but it did take a little getting used to and got on my nerves in the first few chapters. The novel is however very well written, and even with the language adaption it's very easy to read; containing likable characters and a nice relaxed pace with a very tongue in cheek approach that is reminiscent of starship troopers. I love the way that the intelligent computer is portrayed in the novel and for me it was one of the real highlights to see how Mike grows and develops as the story progresses. The characters are brilliantly portrayed and become likable very fast and this includes the secondary ones like "Mum" too.
There are a number of thought provoking ideas presented here, as with Stranger in a Strange Land themes of racism, sexism, polygamy and polyandry are a major influence. These are joined with the idea of artificial intelligence - along with asking the question - just what constitutes life. A Heinlein novel wouldn't be complete without politics and here he asks the question; is a representative democracy really the best form of government? This includes the character of "The Professor" who according to the American Journalist Brian Doherty was modeled after famous autarchist Robert LeFevre.
The rebellion is clearly a reworking of the American Civil war and it's an idea that is developed much further than many novels, not simply ending when the war is won but then investigating just what they do from there, can they create something better without becoming the very thing they have rebelled against?
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a thought provoking story which manages to present the authors myriad ideas without passing judgement, it's a powerful tale that touches the reader on an emotional level and really makes you think.
Written by Antony, 31 October 2012.