The Moon is a Harsh Mistressby Robert A. Heinlein
In this Hugo Award winning novel, the Moon is a penal colony in the 21st Century. Earth’s castoffs, criminal and political, are given a one-way ticket to Luna. Due to the rapid physiologic changes their bodies have undergone, returning to Earth quickly becomes impossible. They, and their descendants, are governed by the harsh Lunar Authority. Even those people who are nominally free live lives of virtual slavery since the Warden controls all business on Luna. Controlling many of the systems necessary to maintain life on this colony (air, water, sewer, traffic, communications, accounting, etc., etc.) is a highly evolved computer system, nicknamed Mike by the computer technician contracted to provide maintenance. Manny has discovered that Mike has become self-aware and has developed a sense of humor. Unfortunately, Mike’s sense of humor is not tempered by the understanding that comes from personal experience. To Mike, overpaying someone by ten million billion dollars would be equally as funny as turning off the air supply to the entire colony. Recognizing the potential danger in this scenario, Manny strikes a bargain with Mike and begins a project to explain and classify different types of humor to the curious computer. Manny also realizes that although highly intelligent, Mike is lonely. He has no one besides Manny to speak with, something Manny resolves to rectify.
At Mike’s request, Manny attends a political meeting, actually a revolutionary rally, that takes a violent turn for the worst. Manny finds himself on the run with one of the meeting organizers, a woman named Wyoming Knotts. Forced to hide out, Manny contacts Mike for assistance. One thing leads to another and before he realizes it, Manny is involved with the revolution Wyoming is advocating. It quickly becomes apparent that having access to the main computer system on Luna will definitely be an advantage! With an aging Professor providing political experience and acting as the figurehead of the revolution, Manny, Wyoming and Mike form the nucleus of a group that will forever change the way Earth and the Authority deal with Luna.
Heinlein describes a society that has developed from very unsavory beginnings. Customs and mores are quite different from those we may be accustomed to but they’ve proven to work in Luna’s society. Even the speech patterns and jargon are different, but it’s not too difficult once you get a feel for it. Heinlein creates a colorful "language," blending together all the different elements representative of the conscripted people sent to Luna. The action is fast-paced and the political ideas Heinlein presents merit further thought. Heinlein’s characters are quite human (even the computer!). They are not perfect, in fact their flaws are what make them human, but they are strong and likable individuals who continue to grow and evolve throughout the story.
Reviewed by: Diane
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Recently put back into print by Stealth Press, this Heinlein classic is a must read for all Heinlein fans. Although a bit pricey in the current edition, it is a finely crafted hardback book and would look very nice on your bookshelf (note: picture is not of the new edition but an old, out of print paperback).
What would happen if a group of interstellar pioneers going on a multigenerational journey to another star system forgot they were on board a ship? Heinlein explores this possibility in 128 action packed pages.
Generations ago, a mutiny took place on the rocket ship (a very large ship – over 5 miles long) which ended with the deaths of all the astrogation officers. As a result, the ship has drifted aimlessly through space with little hope of it ever reaching its destination. The people currently on the ship have forgotten most of this history. And since none of them has ever been outside the ship, to them, the ship is their universe. They exist to farm, raise families and battle mutants that inhabit the upper levels of the ship. Hugh Hoyland, a young man intent on becoming a scientist is captured by mutants and presumed dead. Can Hugh unravel the mysteries of the upper decks of the ship and convince the crew to resume their journey?
Although it is a short novel, Heinlein packs a lot into it. He explores and reviles the prejudice shown towards the mutants in a way that was fairly revolutionary for 1951. He also explores the folly of blind loyalty to ideas and religion, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence that a person can see with his own eyes. The story moves along quickly (I read it in an hour) and comes to a satisfying (if expected) conclusion. I think this is one of Heinlein's finest novels. Some readers may be put off by his portrayal of women in this novel (they are not even second class citizens). However, in his other novels, Heinlein does not repeat this view.
Reviewed by: Alan
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In Time Enough for Love Heinlein reintroduces a character and concepts he’s written about before. As the novel opens, Lazarus Long, oldest living human, is near death, sick and dispirited. Considering that he is 2356 years old, this may not be surprising. However, in the society Lazarus lives in, death does not have to be the solution. In an effort to convince Lazarus, also known as "The Senior," to undergo rejuvenation (again), the head of the government strikes a bargain. The Senior’s wisdom and experiences are too important to be lost if he chooses to die. The Chairman, Ira Weatheral, agrees to visit Lazarus every day to record his knowledge for posterity. In exchange, Lazarus agrees not to use the suicide switch in his room. The first time Ira fails to appear, the agreement is off. In the meantime, other staff members are working furiously to discover something new and unique to pique The Senior’s interest and give him further incentive to live. Thus begins a long, wandering tale of the various events in Lazarus’ life.
The details of Lazarus’ long and illustrious life are discussed in a meandering, flashback fashion, while the current ongoing efforts to save his life are interwoven throughout. At some point midway through, it appears as though Heinlein tires of this style and fastforwards to a future time. Lazarus has evidently chosen to live and the book now centers on several of the inducements developed as encouragement during his darker days, including time travel.
Heinlein’s character development is always interesting and this book is no exception. He introduces a variety of unique individuals with strong personalities, both women and men. Unfortunately, some people may be put off by the way this book wanders from topic to topic. At times it seems contrived and Heinlein introduces several concepts that may offend some readers. If you’ve never read anything by Heinlein, this may not be the book to start with. In my experience, readers either really like this book or really hate it. Personally, I’ve read it at least two or three times and have found something new to enjoy and think about each time. I’d recommend it for mature readers, but it’s not for the fainthearted.
Reviewed by: Diane
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Through a selective breeding program begun in the late 1800’s, members of the Howard Families have been able to extend their lifespan well into the second century. The year is 2136 and, erroneously believing that their benign modern society is ready for the news, the Howard Families have begun to reveal their existence to the rest of the world. They couldn’t have been more wrong. Faced with rapidly increasing hostility and violence from the shorter-lived majority, the Families are forced to flee Earth, only to find that their options are very limited.
The inhabitants of the worlds encountered on their journey are initially appealing, but ultimately disturbing. The travelers quickly learn just how alien the otherworlders can be. This is one of Heinlein’s earliest stories involving the Howard Families and some of his more memorable characters are introduced here. They include Lazarus Long, a key figure in many of Heinlein’s tales; Andrew Jackson Libby, a mathematical genius who invents an entirely new way to navigate through space, and Mary Sperling, a Howard Family elder who ultimately makes a decision whose impact is felt by many.
By current standards, Methuselah’s Children is a very short novel — only 160 pages. But that brevity doesn’t stop Heinlein from getting his message across. Heinlein shows that no matter how civilized and tolerant society may appear, it is only a thin veneer covering violent and primitive urges, and he stresses that in order to remain human, man must remain independent and always have a goal to strive for.
Reviewed by: Diane
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