Book Review: The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert A. Heinlein
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is an absolutely crucial read for any interested in science fiction, Freedom, or both. Before reading this I had heard many people raving about other sci-fi books like “mars” by Andy Weir and their scientific accuracy in connection to the incredible stories they told. I was shocked to find out, after reading his story, that Heinlein was the first to emphasize scientific accuracy in his fiction, and immediately understood the hype; the author being an aeronautical engineer knew what he was talking about.
"Oh, ' tanstaafl.' Means ~There ain't no such thing as a free
lunch.' And isn't," I added, pointing to a FREE LUNCH sign across room,
"or these drinks would cost half as much. Was reminding her that anything
free costs twice as much in long run or turns out worthless."
"An interesting philosophy."
"Not philosophy, fact. One way or other, what you get, you pay
for." I fanned air. "Was Earthside once and heard expression 'Free as
air.' This air isn't free, you pay for every breath."
"Really? No one has asked me to pay to breathe." He smiled.
"Perhaps I should stop."
"Can happen, you almost breathed vacuum tonight. But nobody asks
you because you've paid. For you, is part of round-trip ticket; for me
it's a quarterly charge." I started to tell how my family buys and sells
air to community co-op, decided was too complicated. "But we both pay."
-Discussion between two characters in the book
The book, Published in 1966, is based in the 21st century after man has successfully learned to sustain life on the Moon. Once life could be continued on the Moon, Earth dwellers used it as a celestial exile/prison for criminals on earth. However, unlike Earthside prisons, they aren’t locked in cages, they are free to move, mingle, work, and generally do what they want. There is virtually no present law in Luna except for what you must give to the Wardens of the Moon, meaning the people there must regulate themselves; such a life is represented by a phrase repeated often by the stories protagonist “Manny” when he says “There ain't’ no such thing as free lunch.”, hence the book’s title.
Around a century after initial habitation, the people of Luna (the Moon) begin to grow weary of the iron boot of Earth’s Federated Nations and their bureaucratic rule over Luna, who has grown by all means into its own nation/planet. This is where the story begins and I end this review by giving this book all the praise I can. Both its story and writing are authentic, believable, and compelling. I was sad when it ended that I couldn’t continue the story, but at the same time satisfied in the story itself. 10/10.
“A rational anarchist believes that concepts such as ‘state’ and ‘society’ and ‘government’ have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame… as blame, guilt, responsibility are matters taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else. But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluations, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world…aware that his effort will be less than perfect yet undismayed by self-knowledge of self-failure.
“My point is that one person is responsible. Always. [...] In terms of morals there is no such thing as ‘state.’ Just men. Individuals. Each responsible for his own acts.”
― Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress