The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
I was a devotee of Heinlein in my early days – TANSTAAFL, the Notebooks of Lazarus Long, and all of that. As I got older, so did he, and the relentless sexism began to wear on me. I still have a very warm spot in my heart for his Future History short stories, though, and for his earlier novels.
That said, I apparently don’t have it all quite as straight in my head as I thought. I started this re-read with the image firmly in mind of the Heinlein short story, “The Man Who Sold the Moon” – an error corrected within the first couple of pages. It took me a few more pages to bring back the memory of the right book. Among the things I hadn’t remembered – the abbreviated dialect the story is told in, and the extent both of the polyamory theme (which I thought had developed later) and the integration with Heinlein’s larger universe.
The dialect is slightly awkward, but quickly fades into the background. I had thought, however, that Heinlein’s somewhat incestuous view of polyamory, and his approach to gender roles, didn’t fully develop until I Will Fear No Evil, but both are on full display here. Polyamory I don’t care one way or the other about, and while it sometimes feels as though in this and later books, Heinlein keeps beating the same drum, it could also be argued that he’s just being consistent in his worldbuilding. Unfortunately, he’s also consistent in his sexism.
Heinlein books are full of extremely intelligent, highly capable, beautiful redheads (like his real life wife), and of an implication that women are the better sex and should be in charge – but that they also needs male protection up on their pedestals, and maybe should only take charge once the men have dealt with this little crisis. Nothing to worry about; just stand there looking defiant and pretty. That’s an attitude that worked better on me as a conservative early teen boy than as a grown-up liberal man.
Heinlein is famously a libertarian – which again worked better on me as a teen who didn’t analyze it much – but in this book, the politics are pretty muddled. To give him credit, the characters sometimes admit their inconsistencies, though if pressed, the implication is that a strong man with a weapon is always better than a bureaucrat with a pencil.
All in all, it’s a decent book, but not one that has aged particularly well. It may be more interesting for its role in fleshing out the foundations of the Stone family – though unfortunately they never greatly interested me.