The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is a classic, so it's hard to review, because the scifi industry at large has declared it a great book. Personally, I thought it was good, but not without flaws.
The novel is about the American Revolution set in space. The comparison is explicitly made many times by the characters, so this isn't just my interpretation. Instead of the US, it's the moon. Instead of the British, it's the Earth. The people of the Moon are oppressed and decide to declare their independence from Earth. The Earth tries to stop them, and basically war breaks out.
I gets a little more complicated than that, of course. The Moon is essentially a penal colony populated by criminals, political exiles, and the children of those condemned to the Moon. The colony is overseen by a master computer known as HOLMES. The hero is Manuel Garcia "Mannie" O'Kelly-Davis, a computer repairman who discovers that HOLMES has evolved sentience, and becomes friends with the machine. At the same time, hostilities develop between the Moon's colonists and Earth, which relies on wheat and ore mined from the Moon. When the lunar colonies decide their resources will be exhausted by the Earth's exploitation, they announce independence. The Earth sends soldiers to reclaim the colony, the Moon retaliates by launching rocks to attack Earth, and a full-scale war ensues. It's interesting to see how Mannie evolves from an apolitical working joe to the leader of the Moon's resistance and ultimate government, and it's all very realistically done.
The novel, I have to say, is not without its problems. For one thing, the sentient computer becomes a deus ex machina - any time the Moon needs to do something, the computer does it for them. Need to rig an election? Call HOLMES. Need to send secret messages? Call HOLMES. Need to launch moon rocks? Guess who. HOLMES takes a lot of the plotting out because it makes things too easy for the lunar colonies.
Another huge problem is Mannie, the narrator. The main character is a multi-ethnic who's written in a ludicrously over-the-top broken English that sounds like Boris Badenov from Bullwinkle, and uses terms like "talk-talk" for "phone" and "thinkum" for computers. To say it's distracting is an understatement, but it also makes no sense. He's been on the Moon for decades, so he should have learned to speak proper English, especially since absolutely no one else talks like him.
The novel has also become a political hotbed, because of its advocacy of polygamy and anarchy. With a shortage of women on the Moon, the colonies have developed a concept of "line families," where multiple men (even generations of men) can marry the same wife, and vice-versa, forming a sort of extended family. Likewise, the Moon has no court system or central government, because everyone follows an informal but rigid code of conduct based on the concept of "TANSTAFL," which stands for "There Ain't No Such Thing As a Free Lunch." The novel portrays these concepts as a good and wonderful thing, which I believe is highly suspect.
Anyway, it's a book worth reading.
View all my reviews on Goodreads