Daily Archives: April 14th, 2016

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

349.jpgThis was sent to me by a Galactic Suburbia listener, when I mentioned that I had finished my first Robert Heinlein (Stranger in a Strange Land) only recently. Isn’t that awesome??

… apparently I should feel a bit bad about not loathing this. Ah well.

The short version is: I enjoyed it more than I anticipated that I would. I had zero knowledge of what the story was about before going in (except for the slight teaser from Jonathan Strahan describing Luna: New Moon as “The Moon is a Very, Very Harsh Mistress”), and given that it was published in 1966 by a man who has almost become synonymous with outdated ideas and views… yeh, I found it surprisingly readable.

Let me deal with the problems first and get them out of the way. Yes, it’s racist. The Chinese colonists and those on Earth are not given the same level of respect as the white colonists. I am in no way disregarding that; but I was expecting it. It’s like being able to tolerate – that is, not run away screaming from – such racism in James Bond movies. But I’m white; I have the advantage of not having to deal with that sort of crap every day. I can understand not wanting to wade through that to get to possible good bits. I am certainly not saying anyone has to read this.

Additionally, yes it’s sexist. Interestingly it’s not as sexist as I had expected; there are a couple of women who have active and interesting roles. While Wyoming doesn’t have as active role as some of the others, she is present and she is a genuine member of the action, as are – if to a lesser extent – a couple of other women. So I think it does slightly better on the female angle than on the non-white angle (damning with faint praise?).

The short version of the plot: the moon is being used largely as a penal colony – well, the bit the story cares about; there’s also a Chinese colony, but they hardly feature (see? racism). The colony is being used as labour to extract stuff that Earth needs. So there’s a revolution. Naturally.

SPOILERS below in case you’re like me and a Heinlein novice. This isn’t pretending to be an in-depth analysis of the book, just a few comments on the things I found interesting.

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