Just finished reading Robert Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress for what must be the fifth or eight time, as it is my favorite novel from one of my favorite science fiction writers.
Employing obvious parallels from the American Revolution, TMIAHM tells of the fight for independence by Loonies, future penal colonists living on the Moon. A computer technician, a political agitator, and an academic unite to kick off the Moon’s struggle for sovereignty from Mother Earth, which uses the Moon as a dumping ground for ‘undesirables’ and for real estate to grow grain for Earth’s teeming hungry billions.
But the whole thing would have never worked had it not been for ‘Mike,’ a sentient computer that runs the Lunar infrastructure and who has an odd sense of humor. Only the inner three conspirators know of Mike’s capabilities, and they use his lightning-fast intellect and processing power to full effect.
Heinlein spells out much of his libertarian philosophy here: on the Moon, nothing comes free–not health care, not justice, not even air, so “Loonies” don’t expect government largesse in any fashion. Their national motto is TANSTAAFL–There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch!
The author also explores alternative family arrangements, notably the “line marriage” of the protagonists. Family units consist of multiple husbands and wives, with new members opted into the arrangement as older ones retire and die off. At any given point children may have half a dozen fathers or mothers–makes for almost no orphans, and family capital can compound over decades to enormous sums, which would come in handy when your family spans a century or more. Must make for interesting sleeping arrangements.
All in all, TMIAHM has revolutionary politics, family dynamics, action, humor, pathos–something for everyone. I can’t rate it highly enough.