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Robert A. Heinlein - The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress - 1966
Written at the peak of Robert A. Heinlein\'s creative powers in the mid-sixties, \"The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress\" ranks with \"Stranger in a Strange Land\" as his most popular and acclaimed novel. Heinlein was furiously ingenious at this stage in his career, and this novel is an incredible feat of imagination, intellect, and writing talent. It is, however, a difficult and heavy novel (much like \"Stranger in a Strange Land\"), loaded with hard science and even harder politics: Heinlein at his best is a writer who attracts and repels the reader at the same time, and no one could read \"The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress\" without forming some very strong opinions about it.
The story follows a revolution on the lunar colonies against Earth authority. The lunar colony was originally a penal colony, but even though the lunar residents (\"Loonies\" as they call themselves) are no longer technically prisoners, they have become economic slaves of the Earth. Also, because of their adaptation to the Moon\'s lower gravity, they cannot safely return to live on Earth, so their exile is a permanent one. Amidst growing but unorganized discontent amongst the Loonies, four remarkable individuals begin the meticulous planning of a revolution to free the Moon: Mannie, an engineer and our narrator; Prof. de la Paz; fiery Wyoming \"Wyoh\" Knott; and a newly sentient supercomputer named Mike. Starting from this small group, the resistance spreads across the Moon. But how can the nearly defenseless colonists and miners face down the juggernaut of the nations of Earth? Mike has an ingenious solution: \"Throw rocks at `em\"...literally!
Told through Mannie\'s point of view, the novel is written in a clipped, abbreviated style that represents the Loonie version of English: many pronouns and articles are dropped, leading to sentences like: \"Stomach was supposed to be empty. But I filled helmet with sourest, nastiest fluid you would ever go a long way to avoid.\" This takes a few pages to get accustomed to, but soon you won\'t notice the odd style at all and accept it as part of the book\'s revolutionary spirit.
Heinlein unfolds the revolution in a meticulously detailed style, using lengthy conversations between the characters about how to step-by-step overthrow the authority of an overwhelming power. Heinlein not only provides in-depth details on the technology, but also of the philosophy of revolution and the unusual customs of the Loonies (such as their group marriages). Like most of Heinlein\'s great novels, this is a trip for the mind, and you have to be prepared to do plenty of thinking along with the passages of action. The novel does tend to drag somewhat in the middle, but the last hundred pages are feverish with both action and ideas.
Where Heinlein really triumphs in this novel is in the characterization of Mike the computer. Mike, along with Hal from \"2001,\" is one of great artificial intelligences in science fiction. You will quickly forget, as Mannie does, that Mike is a disembodied voice from a machine, and instead think of him (or sometimes `her\') as another character. Mike\'s growth from his shaky beginnings as a thinking being is fascinating and one of Heinlein\'s great achievements as an author.