The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
Written by: Robert A. Heinlein
Narrated by: Lloyd James
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Genre: Sci Fi, Vintage
My Rating: 5.0 of 5.0
In what is considered one of Heinlein's most hair-raising, thought-provoking, and outrageous adventures, the master of modern science fiction tells the strange story of an even stranger world. It is 21st-century Luna, a harsh penal colony where a revolt is plotted between a bashful computer and a ragtag collection of maverick humans, a revolt that goes beautifully until the inevitable happens. But that's the problem with the inevitable: it always happens.
Winner of the 1967 Hugo award, this novel marked Heinlein's partial return to his best form. He draws many historical parallels with the War of Independence, and clearly shows his own libertarian political views.
©1965 Robert A. Heinlein; (P)1999 Blackstone Audio Inc.
Luna was set up years ago as a penal colony where prisoners were sent to serve time. They do not have cells and the peace keepers are few since there is no place to escape to. There are no laws but common sense rules of society have developed over the years that maintain order. There is now a large population of free people on Luna, either having served their time or having been born free. But the Warden still governs and he answers to Luna Authority which keeps the population at a level of slavery by controlling the exports and finances.
Manuel, “Mannie”, Davis is a free born citizen who lost an arm in a work accident. He now has a collection of six or seven arms designed for specialized purposes. Mannie works as a computer technician on the main computer that controls the life systems on the moon. When the computer asks about a joke, Mannie realizes that it has become “sentient”. Mannie, with his new friend “Mike” (the lonely computer), inadvertently ends up as one of a handful of leaders of a revolution to free Luna.
Mannie meets a beautiful young activist, Wyoh, at a political rally he attends mostly out of curiosity. The event is interrupted by a police raid and the police, and a few citizens, are killed. Mannie leads Wyoh out of the crowd to a safe place, ultimately bringing her into his interesting family farm. Wyoh is named a fugitive, and Mannie’s longtime friend, Prof, is suspect, but Mannie has not caught the eye of the authorities. The three enlist Mike to help them as they form an Emergency Committee to Free Luna.
The revolutionists have limited weapons and know that they are facing the vast technological resources of Terra. Their best secret is Mike with his analytical skills and circuits of control. Mike warns them that their circumstances are more urgent than they know when he predicts starvation in only seven years. After some brainstorming with Mike the leaders recognize that they do have a weapon they can use… they will become like David slinging stones at Goliath.
I became fascinated with the society make-up of Luna, the differences resulting from the lesser gravity and the values developed. The marriage and family system was creatively adjusted to accommodate large family groups with multiple husbands and wives. The set up and progress of the Revolution is interesting study in strategies.
Mike’s multiple roles as a friend, co-conspirator, party leader and political satirist make him a wonderful character. I enjoyed Prof’s initial manipulations of the temporary council and later efforts to direct the nature of the ‘new government’. I grew very attached to Mannie who tells the story, first person, as a form of memoir of the revolutionary years. The language is a mixture of English and Russian with a few other words thrown in. Mannie was an easy going fellow who didn’t choose to be a leader but stepped up, with support of his friends, to complete the mission, even if the results weren’t quite as planned.
The story has a great blend of humor, social and political issues, revolutionary strategy, danger, and that touch of irony I now anticipate as an element of science fiction. I highly recommend this as a fun and intriguing story.
Audio Notes: Lloyd James does a great job with the narration. The Russian accent for Mannie is at first surprising but soon becomes friendly and natural. James nails the multiple personalities of Mike and does a good job with the other characters too. I was delighted by the story and the audio.
This is another Vintage Sci Fi from 1966. This has been in my Audible Library since 2011 so it is a good TBR as well as qualifying for Audio Challenge.