peteg's blog - noise - books - 2021 12 11 Heinlein TheMoonIsAHarshMistress

Robert A. Heinlein: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

/noise/books | Link

Kindle. Suggested to me by Adam from Brooklyn in Townsville a few weeks back, and I'm always curious to know what people find in Heinlein. (Here it was a take on revolution.) Finished in the Blackdown Tableland National Park (Queensland).

Well, what can I say about this piece of tendentious juvenalia. (I stopped reading it closely once he had a character assert that the basic human right is to trade in a free market. Note "the", not "a".) On the plus there's a bit of interesting though shallow revolutionary theory (cells, communication, finance, etc.) and an underdrawn pluralistic society. On the minus computer Mike quickly becomes a trusted third party which puts paid to everything beyond rudimentary opsec. It's also just a little bit sexist. At times it gets really boring (particularly the post-revolution recognition of new regime and the wartime reports). In the middle there's an undercooked theory of humour.

Overall the plan (aka plot) works out, but so what? The underlying issues are not adequately explored. For instance, if government is so very horrible, why do we have it? Heinlein's economics is weak as well: it may be more efficient (better, cheaper, fairer, whatever) for risks to be pooled at larger groupings than individuals or families. There's a market for lemons. He clearly has no solution to the problem of coordinated action (benevolent dictatorship or unilateral computer decision is what we get here) and little interest in such. To me John Brunner is far more fascinating as he focuses on sociology and media to lasting effect.

Moreover Heinlein's cry of TANSTAAFL! is clearly bullshit: protagonist Mannie and family thieve water and electricity from the Lunar Authority to turn profits, and yet somehow this is not a free lunch. Ditto Mike's consciousness and provision of communications, planning, etc. None of the revolutionaries ever paid for any of that.

Russ Allbery digs a bit deeper. I thought Mike taking over at the end was intentional: he becomes more autonomous/assertive and perhaps as tired of things as I was. Goodreads. Some people think this is the American revolution, when it clearly steals from many others. Others observe the scifi aspects are mere window dressing.