From the Stacks: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

Do you have a book that you return to from time to time? I have a few myself. Lately I’ve been thinking about Robert A. Heinlein’s novel, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.

Put simply, it’s a story of revolution. The moon is populated by Earth’s cast-offs, criminals, political exiles and their descendants. It’s a life sentence for anyone sent to the moon, for after a few months on Luna, the human body can no longer function properly in Earth’s gravity. By the year 2075, the lunar colonies, deemed “Loonies”, predict food riots in the near future if they don’t stop sending their crops to Earth. Mannie, a one-armed computer technician, along with the help of Wyoh, a political agitator, Professor Bernard de la Paz, a “Rational Anarchist”, and Mike, a self-aware super computer, bring revolution to Luna.

In my first reading, I was held captive by the adventure of revolution. How were they to fight against so formidable a foe? Could they actually pull it off? My second reading had me digging deeper. The philosophies of the revolution, the cultures that arose in harsh living environments, the speech patterns of the narrator that start out feeling disjointed, but makes sense and seemingly disappears almost instantly. My third reading (really in all of them, but I focused more on it this time) I followed all the parallels in our history, mainly relating to the American Revolutionary War.

This political science-fiction story, published in 1966, still resonates clearly forty-five years later. It’s no wonder why it was nominated for a Nebula Award in ’66 and won a Hugo Award in ’67. It has everything you could want from a book, sci-fi or otherwise. It even created a new term I still use from time to time: TANSTAAFL = There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

Writing this, I’ve started a craving for another read-through. Tell me, what books are you drawn to over and over again?