The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

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July 19, 2016 by McDowski

I have finally finished The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Took a while, even in audiobook format, since this seemed like a book that required a bit more attention from my side, enough so that I really couldn’t listen to it during work. Unlike the last few audiobooks I went through, where they were easy enough to follow that I could.

Long-winded thoughts coming up!

That arm is even more harsh on the mistress!Pretty decent book, but I didn’t really love it. Instead of an action packed Sci-Fi thriller, this books is more of a political discussion on the virtues of libertarian (if not borderline anarchist) philosophy. It’s a well thought-out book, with Heinlein giving almost a step-by-step process of how a revolution should work (at least in his mind) and the issues that would need to be addressed. I thought the first half of the book was very engaging, from the innocuous start all the way to the Loonies (what the residents of the Moon, or Luna, call themselves) planning to fight their way out from under Terra’s (Earth) dominance.

Once the revolution actually begins, though, the book’s pace slows considerably and the plot gets mired in politics. I understand this is not an accident; any such revolution would undoubtedly result in political holes that need to be navigated. The Loonies path was eased quite a bit by the convenient presence of Mike (short for Mycroft Holmes), an artificially intelligent and sentient supercomputer, who can basically tell the guys all kinds of facts, figures and probabilities for virtually every conceivable action. This allows the Loonies to know, in advance, what the likely result of their actions would be, and course correct as and when required. Unfortunately, it also kind of sucks the tension out of the story.

A revolution would, above all else, be extremely risky. Sure, you have all these high ideals of what is wrong with current society and how you would fix them, but… what if it doesn’t work? What if you just end up starting a war you cannot win, and people lost their lives only to end up with the status quo? Some of this tension is lost due to the prescience of Mike; sure, he doesn’t know everything, and probabilities aren’t certainties. But there was never really any point in the book where I found myself wondering if the Loonies would succeed. The end result seem pre-ordained.

And speaking of the end – I didn’t like the forced bit of ambiguity right at the end. Didn’t seem natural or fitting. It’s like Heinlein just thought that having some unresolved question mark at the end would be kind of cool, just to leave things a little mysterious, but it didn’t work for me.

On the plus side – the audiobook narration was fantastic. Lloyd James does an excellent job. Distinct voices, accents, inflections… all great. I also liked that he didn’t do a lot of ‘bookisms.’ Like if a character chuckled while responding to another, James would just put the chuckle in his voice rather than say, “he chuckled.” I have no idea if this was part of the written book, though I don’t know how it could be; without mentioning “he chuckled” how would the reader know that the guy chuckled? Either way, James didn’t say it and I thought it was great. A great example of voice acting rather than narration.

The book, on the whole, is decent enough but it does have some issues that stuck out to me. It’s basically Hypothesis on Revolution 101 framed around a narrative. Not a terrible book, by any means, but not one that will necessarily stay in my mind a long while. I’d give it about a 3/5.


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