Book Review – The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

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After weeks and weeks of struggling to read because of a bad reaction to a book¬†and an insane amount of stress which has even lead to me taking a break from blogging reviews generally, I am so happy (to the point that I want to scream it from the rooftops, but I’ll settle for a blog post) that I have not only finished a fiction book but I also want to talk about it.

I will hold my hands up and admit I could have maybe gone a bit easier on myself and chosen a slightly easier to read book than ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’ by Robert A. Heinlein, because it is not a easy book to read, but it is utterly brilliant.

‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’ is very much a science fiction book of its time; it was originally published in the 1960s so it does have the characteristic slower pacing, long conversations and then sudden happenings that 1960s speculative fiction is know for, but unlike others of the era I’ve read, this book hooked me in and kept me hooked.

I am very much a child of epic 1990s high fantasy like the early works of Terry Brooks and Terry Goodkind and then the faster paced emergence of YA and NA literature. Reading the sort of complex speculative world-building of earlier eras (bar J.R.R. Tolkien himself) has never really appealed to me until now, and I will admit, I have been missing out.

Once you adapt to the language which has been constructed to show natural evolution and the more abrupt story-telling style, the book is an utter masterpiece in world-building, in showing how a revolution operates and in developing tender relationships between man and AI. It’s a beautiful book to read.

One of the things that I loved the most is the imagination that has gone into the world-building, or perhaps I should say the luna-building. The structure of the society that has evolved on the Moon, originally used as a penal colony before become a settlement without freedom is incredibly well thought out, and a very good example of how a society can work when women are treated equally and with respect.

The very best thing though is the character of Mike; a supercomputer that has developed AI and a questionable sense of humour. Most people might not describe the relationship he has with Mannie, the protagonist, as tender, that was very much how I felt about their story together.

As a computer specialist Mannie already has an invested interest in Mike as a computer, and their blossoming friendship in the early chapters of the book is what hooked me in. Like all friendships the strain of changing circumstances tested their relationship, and I kept reading in order to find out what happens.

If you’re interested in science fiction and speculative fiction then you should definitely add The Moon is a Harsh Mistress to your reading list, and you definitely should if you want to see how a world and society can be built up using existing norms but then evolved in a natural way to create something new.

 

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