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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

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 Human beings are drastically affected by the rapid strides achieved in technology in the last few decades. Man has crossed the moon and is researching to beat the stars. He is on relentless efforts to probe the mysteries of nature. He wishes to control and utilize the natural resources to his selfish advantages.  If one turns the pages of history, one finds that it is the story of the strong trying to control the weak.

Human beings of one continent try to conquer the human beings of the other continent. The intruders, the neo-settlers try to subdue the natives. The technological revolution and the stunning scientific discoveries have not changed the inner domain of an individual and made him broad-minded and humane. He is willing to do anything, destroy everything for the sake of self-aggrandizement and to establish his control. Whether the credits of science would lead to qualitative changes in the thought process and consequently the action process of human beings?

Definitely not, according to Robert A. Heinlein, the author of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Most of the revolutions on Earth, despite the initial success, have failed in the ultimate analysis. Heinlein’s science fiction is the gripping tale of revolution on the moon in 2076. In this story he has described how with the help of the ladder of science, man reached the moon and continued with his earthly tales of exploitation and subjugation.

The “Loonies” are kept poor and their exploitation continues unabated. But a small band of dissidents decide to fight back. They include a one-armed computer jock, a radical young woman, a past-his-prime academic and a nearly omnipotent computer named Mike, who light the fire of revolution. They are aware of the doomed failure and eventual death (Like the human bombs of the modern era!) and yet they decide to resist injustice meted out to them.

Science needs to be spiritualized, but unfortunately science has been controlled by political leaders. Didn’t someone say, “Politics is the last resort of the scoundrels?” What will happen when the deadly products and awe-some scientific discoveries are controlled by such politicians? History provides us with some examples when the achievements of the science were at the kindergarten level. But the science of the day has unimaginable destructive power. When a brilliant among the brilliant writers like Heinlein uses his imagination and extraordinary talents of writing, the resultant science-fiction turns out to be stranger than fiction! He creates desperate situations, weaves a cobweb of tools of science, and arrests the reader’s attention, leaving deep imprints on the curtain of his mind.

The writing and the facts mentioned in the novel have a strange revolutionary spirit and as one reads the novel, one begins to accept many strange ideas, which are read with repulsion at the beginning. The story gives an account of the evolution on the lunar colonies against the Earth authority. Initially the lunar colonies were established as penal colonies-comparable to the prisons on Earth. Later, though not technically prisoners, they are exploited economically by the Earth Authority. Their long stay on the Moon has created certain insurmountable problems.  They are accustomed to live in the Moon’s lower gravity and are not in a position to return to the Earth. Thus, they are permanently exiled on the Moon.

Eventually, the resistance and the fire of revolution spread across the Moon. But the Nations of Earth are too powerful for the defenseless colonists. Mike inspires them and vows to fight back with an ingenious solution. “Throw rocks at ‘em”….literally!   As one continues to read the novel one has to accept a new ruling for structure and style of the language. Remember, it is the Loonie version of English. So, worry not about the grammar…yet the meaning will be clear!   The book’s revolutionary spirit remains intact, even when one has to digest sentences like: “Stomach was supposed to be empty. But I filled helmet with sourest, nastiest fluid you would ever go a long way to avoid.”

To write the science fiction of the genre of Heinlein, about a century ago, (that too the author had no occasion to walk on and feel the Moon), is an extraordinary task. To build a story of science-fiction, meticulous planning is required. One can not remain totally detached from philosophy of revolution. Even the unacceptable things and customs need to be made acceptable with proper rationale, and in this attempt, Heinlein has ably succeeded.

As for ideas and action on the final part of the novel, those one hundred pages make a stunning reading. The characterization of Mike, the computer is extraordinary and to depict such original ideas, one has to be an advanced researcher in the field of computer hardware and software! That the novel was written decades before the technological leap and surges of the 90’s –it is a great tribute to the writing skills and flights of imagination of the author. The accuracy of the details and the related description are astounding!

The credits of science have not lead to qualitative changes in the thought process and consequently the action process of human beings according to Heinlein. He attended Annapolis and saw service in the Navy and his practical knowledge in these areas generously seeps in to the novel. He was a libertarian as well; his ideas about the society are reflected in the novel.

Heinlein successfully carves a society from the penal-colony and the excess population dumping zone from countries like Russia, China and US). He tries to depict a life of heroic struggles on the Moon, and carries the message how freedom is so dear to every human being, even in that Planet.  He explains in his own style why inner evolution must precede revolution for peace and happiness everywhere whether it is the Earth Planet or the Moon. The book contains hard to believe events and sequences—therefore, it is the work of science fiction!




      References Cited:

Heinlein, Robert. Book: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Publisher: Orb Books; 1st Orb Ed edition (June 15, 1997) ISBN-10: 0312863551

ISBN-13: 978-0312863555

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