The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein: My first taste of Heinlein was Stranger in a Strange Land a few years back. It was, in a word, bad. So I gave up on Heinlein all together, figuring if his most famous and critically acclaimed book was no good, what chance did the others have? This conviction was met with protests from Heinlein fans, saying I need to read some “good” Heinlein before making the call. So I did, though it took me an unusually long time to finish. I just couldn’t get into it. The characters were two-dimensional and shared too many qualities with those in SiaSL: the brilliant innocent (here, a self-aware computer named Mike), the levelheaded and elderly teacher/father-figure (Prof the anarchist philosopher), and the beautiful, “smart” woman whose most highly praised attribute is her ability to keep her mouth shut when the men are talking about important things (Wyoh, a revolutionary with a thing for older men – another SiaSL staple). Another recycled idea (though I don’t know which book came first) was the group/line marriages, where the women are said to be in charge but actually spend most of their time at home worrying about their men. These characters weren’t that great the first time around; the second time was just tedious.

The idea behind the story is fine: the moon is more or less a penal colony under totalitarian rule. With the help of Mike the computer, Mannie (a computer tech who talks – and narrates the story – in an obnoxious dialect that sounds like someone faking a Russian accent very poorly), Prof, and Wyoh engineer a revolution. There is some interesting discussion of political ideals and governmental structure, but without sympathetic characters to bring it to life the story is about as gripping as your average high school civics class. I simply could not bring myself to care one way or the other. Now I wonder, how many more of his books do I need to read before I can officially say I don’t like Heinlein?

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