Accidental Book Review

I just finished another novel by Robert Heinlein. I mentioned before that I was reading it and now that I’m finished, I almost feel let down. My past with Science Fiction, and this author particularly, has led me to expect more than I found. Of course this makes me think I’m likely just missing something. Stranger in a Strange Land was far more straight forward and resonated with my religious upbringing and later conversion to atheism. It was simple to see the parallels he drew between modern man and those who crucified Christ two thousand years ago. I agreed with most of the ideas the protagonist put forth since they all were essentially live and love and realize we are all parts of one big cycle. Why fight? Why not enjoy and explore each other and each others’ sensuality? Of course that appealed to me 😉 My satisfaction with this book is one reason I’m so surprised at my dissatisfaction at the next one.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress pleased me with the community Heinlein had created (judging by his books it seems he is in favor of a free love kind of society where everyone takes care of everyone else and big government is bad) but I was disappointed by the shallow development of the primary mover and shaker of the book. In the first few pages the narrator meets ‘Mike’ (short for Mycroft with the obvious allusions attendant) and computer which runs the entire lunar colonies and then some. Mike has developed enough connections to become self aware and over the first third of the book we begin to see a personality emerge as Mike befriends the narrator, expresses opinions, questions things, shows off a little, and just generally behaves like a teenager. It’s charming and incited the reader to invest in the character. However it goes little farther than that. The narrator goes to Earth for the middle third of the book and by the time he comes back, we interact with Mike only a few times until the end of the book. Without spoiling the end, I can only say it didn’t have the impact it should have. The protagonist from Stranger in a Strange Land is far more beloved by at least this reader so we are more invested in his fate. It makes us feel as though we knew him, at least as much as you can know a character in a book, a figment of the author’s imagination. My connection with Mike, and even my connection to the narrator, was thin enough that at the end of the book I felt let down. It was too abrupt, not real enough.

Of course I’m sure this was the author’s intention. Science Fiction is a tricky animal, much like any cerebral literature, in that the author is trying to make you think in the what ifs. Are we unattached to the protagonist because of the writing or because he is a computer? Does the reader feel the ending is abrupt because we are too used to fairy tales as opposed to real life in which there are no epilogues or is it truly the fault of the author? What events sparked the parallels between the primary conflict and the true to life events of the many revolutions here on Earth? Why is the author so explicit in his description of the propaganda and censorship? That especially was hard to swallow. It made him sound either like a conspiracy theorist or a proponent of this sort of thing because his protagonists used propaganda and manipulation liberally for the revolution which the reader is encouraged to support.

All in all I was conflicted about The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I felt that the community and the characters were, if not exactly believable, at least understandable and proponents of a lifestyle I personally would enjoy. I felt the story line was interesting but the premise of a computer spontaneously arising was too common in Science Fiction and Heinlein did an only ok job of making it unique. I would recommend Stranger in a Strange Land far more heartily than The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

I didn’t exactly mean this to turn into a book review, but I like the idea of doing more of them. I’ll start with some of my favorites and try to keep up with current reads. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my own interludes of fiction and fancy.