by Robert A Heinlein
It is 2075 and the Moon (Luna) is a former penal colony. Now the citizens want their independence and are prepared to fight for it.
I suppose that in 1966 when the book was first published, the idea of a permanent colony on the Mohon seemed not just possible, but probably. With the space race in full swing and the first Moon landings on the horizon, all was to play for. It’s a shame the reality didn’t quite live up to the promise of those pioneering days.
But putting that aside, what we have here is a tale of political intrigue, revolution and sociological change. In Heinlein’s Luna colonies, relationships are both free and complicated in a world where men outnumber women several-fold. But as always, writers are limited by their own experiences, even Sci-Fi writers like Heinlein. It seems that in 1966 even the most fantastic plots did not envisage a world where men and women could expect equal opportunities. The female lead, Wyoming Knott, is n the face of it a strong and independent character, but in fact, she is no more than a hook to hang the books romantic thread onto.
Luna’s struggle for independence from Earth draws a great deal from history and comparisons between it and America’s fight against Imperialism are easy to draw.
If I sound overly critical of the book, I don’t mean to. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is an excellent example of how good science fiction can be. The science is believable and grounded. The problems faced by those having to adjust to the Moon’s lower gravity adds a level of believability so often overlooked.
Heinlein is undoubtedly a mast of the genre, but he is also an excellent storyteller. The characters and plot are well structured and the pace consistent and relentless. And whilst there is a dated feel about some elements of the book, it stands up pretty well in my opinion.