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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a 1966 novel by Robert A. Heinlein. It's one of his most famous works and got a Nebula nomination in 1966 and won the Hugo award in 1967. The book tells the story of the Lunar colonies breaking away from Earth. It's written in first person, narrated by the main character, Manuel "Man/Mannie"Garcia O'Kelly-Davies, a computer technician who becomes a key person in the revolt.
The idea is that Luna was first a penal colony where Earth shipped their criminals and rejects who worked and lived under the supervision of a warden who stood in for the Earth Authority. At the start of the book most "loonies" have either completed their sentence or are the descendants of prisoners. They grow grain, which they have to ship to Earth and sell to the Authority at a pittance. One reason the revolt starts because the loonies can't support their families on what the Authority pays them.
Another key figure in the book is Professor Bernardo de la Paz, through whom Heinlein explores the concept of "rational anarchy," a belief that the state and government are useless, and that responsible individuals make the law. On Luna, wrongdoers get spaced and people take care of themselves and their families. They pay for what they use and operate on a peculiar kind of morality grown from the harsh conditions on the Moon. The main principle is TANSTAAFL, "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch."
In the book, the gender ratio is skewed with there being many more men than women, which has led to a system of "line marriages," a kind of polyamory. Women have power to choose their mates and sexual violence is almost unheard of; anyone who tries it gets spaced. Supposedly women are equal in society, too, but the main female character, Wyoh Knott, was a letdown for me. For someone who has lived on Luna almost her whole life she sure needs a lot of things explained to her. I believe the phrase "oh, honey, that's not how it works" was used on one occasion. Of course she's beautiful, a fact that gets hammered in any time anyone meets her. And guess what she does for a living? She's a surrogate mother. Also, for a badass revolutionary she's kind of a wimp, like she's afraid to stay in a hotel room without a man to keep her company. After she marries Mannie, she pretty much dedicates herself to wifely duties.
My favourite character was actually the computer, Mike/Michelle. I liked the humour and that it didn't feel stereotypical but a character in its own right. And a sentient computer that isn't homicidal? That's a change.
One thing that bothered me while reading was the Lunar dialect Mannie uses, especially the way he drops the word "the." It's explained that this is because a lot of the people on Luna are Russian, but to me it felt like someone doing an impression of a Russian, not organic and original like the Nadsat slang in A Clockwork Orange, for example. It took me almost half the book to get used to it. While I liked many elements of the book, to me it felt quite slow until about halfway through.While a lot of the world-building is interesting and realistic, the idea that growing grain hydroponically on the Moon would be cheaper than on Earth is quite a stretch.
My final verdict? This novel is definitely worth reading, but once is probably enough for me.
Science Fiction Classics read 45/193.