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July 27, 2013

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress


The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, is a 1966 science fiction novel, winner of the Hugo Award, and written by Robert A. Heinlein. According to Wikipedia, along with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, they are known as the “Big Three” of science fiction. I have not read anything else from Heinlein, but based solely on this novel, I think that he is definitely on par with these great authors.

I had no idea what this book was about, when I started reading it. In fact, I had this silly notion that this might have something to do with those real-life astronauts that went to the moon, many of whom ended up divorcing their wives. Well, I wasn’t even close. And considering that the book was published three years earlier than the first Apollo moon landing, what was I thinking?

The-Moon-Is-a-Harsh-MistressThe novel is a first person narrative by Manuel Garcia O’Kelly-Davis, also known as “Mannie”. He was born in Luna, which is now a colony of earth, circa 2075. Luna or “the moon”, produces large amounts of wheat, which is shipped to earth, to supplement the eleven billion people that inhabit the planet. Mannie is a computer maintenance-programmer technician, in charge of the most powerful computer on either Luna or Terra. This computer becomes sentient and Mannie befriends it and calls it Mike. This computer becomes a key player to all the developments between Luna, who is seeking its sovereignty and Terra.

Considering that this novel came out in 1966, it doesn’t feel dated. And being an information technologist myself, I am quite impressed about the technical details, as it pertains to this supercomputer. I wonder if Arthur Clarke’s HAL computer was influenced by Heinlein’s Mike. Particularly if we consider that both computers became sentient.

Once I started reading the novel, I could not put it down. The structure is outstanding, very logical indeed. And more and more ideas are introduced, at a fairly rapid clip. The organizational structure of all the underground cities that formed the colony, and whose citizens were made up of ex-Terran convicts, was believable, too. Their search for independence and the ensuing war between Luna and Terra, was also quite thrilling.

All and all I enjoyed this novel a lot. It was great fun reading it and I highly recommend it.


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