01/01/2009. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Gollancz. 382 page small hardback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-575-08241-0.
check out website: www.orionbooks.co.uk
One thing that marks out Robert Heinlein's books is how there are set themes to many of his books even if it isn't given away by their titles. The best way to sum up 'The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress' is that it is a channel for Heinlein to express his views on revolution set not only in the future but on our nearest satellite. The Moon is not the kind of place where you would think independence would be crucial but that depends entirely on the sort of society that exists on Earth. The seeds are sown and the revolution begins.
It's a slightly different future to ours. Instead of locking up the criminal element, they get sent to a lunar penal colony. With what we know now, such an action would be seen as being awfully expensive but Heinlein did write this book in 1966 where dreams of the future were not guided by expense merely as a means to put people out of the way.
Written in first person, we follow the life of Manuel Garcia O'Kelly, his dealings with Mike, the lonely hip computerised artificial intelligence running the base, and generally life on the Moon. When supplies from Earth are cut back, the seeds of revolution and self-sufficiency are stirred. This book follows what happens next.
If you're of my generation then you probably read this book in your youth. If you've missed out, then this is your opportunity to see Heinlein at his best and certainly a textbook classic in how to write a story. His characters come alive off the page and he builds up a remarkable image of life on the Moon protected from the cold vacuum.
Part of the trick of any storyteller is to get you to forget the outside world and focus your attention on a different set of problems. Heinlein was a master of this even his some of his views today are now regarded as being right-wing. Oddly enough, when I first read this book I never took that into account. For any Science Fiction reality, you accept the ground rules set up and read on from that without any pre-judgements if its right or wrong, just the circumstances that limit the choices.
'The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress' will open up a whole new world for you and a different way to address problems. With a re-issue in Gollancz' 'SF Masterworks' series, you don't have any excuses not to read this book. Remember: patronism is protecting where you live.
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