The Moon is a harsh mistress (Robert A. Heinlein, 1966)


The Moon is a harsh mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein (1966).

Score: Excellent.

I didn’t know when I chose this book that it would complement the previous one (The dispossessed) so well. It was quite interesting to see a libertarian take on a similar topic.

In The moon is a harsh mistress, the Moon is a penitentiary colony and has been for so long that most of its population was born free and lives under their own law and ethical code. It also happens to be the place where the first supercomputer becomes sentient and befriends Manny O’Kelly, who, with the help of the computer and of some of his friends decides to make Luna free of the exploitation they suffer from Earth.

If Dispossessed was a great utopia, this is a great exercise on applied politics, directly from the masters (I’m thinking Machiavelli and Sun Tzu), uncompromisingly cynical. Prof, and, to a lesser extent, Manny, are conspirators and don’t care to admit it, they give up noble principles for a greater good because they do believe if you want an omelette you gotta break some eggs. This includes stealing through creative bookkeeping, manipulating elections and doing every douchebaggishly necessary thing to look like victims on Earth to avoid a half-assed agreement that on the long run would end with food riots anyway. Oh, and let’s not forget they actually kill people (who decided to go sightseeing to a place where a planned attack was announced, which actually qualifies as natural selection, though). Quite refreshing, contrasted with LeGuin’s purely theoretical and sort of holier-than-thou vision of politics in Dispossessed. The whole thing has the ability to invoke values dissonance and question these openly (even more so if you think this came out in 1966 and some things are still shocking today— think line marriages). Well, let’s not forget this was penned by Robert A. Heinlein, considered one of the Big Three of science fiction and in my view one of the most shocking writers and thinkers of the genre.

Compared to Stranger in a strange land this is much more committed, and more political, no trace of religious themes, I enjoyed it more– But if you hold it up next to Starship Troopers it’s hard to believe they were both written by the same person. If you despise libertarian/pragmatic political views you’re probably not going to like either, but The moon is a harsh mistress has nothing to do with the batshit insanity of Starship troopers.

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