The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (Anglais) Relié – 11 décembre 2008
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I see in Lunaya Pravda that Luna City Council has passed on first reading a bill to examine, license, inspect-and tax-public food vendors operating inside municipal pressure. Lire la première page
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Un peu avant les années 2100, cela raconte l'histoire des "loonies", les terriens exilés sur la lune suite à leurs méfaits divers et variés (une solution comme une autre face au surpeuplement des prisons). Arrivés sur la Lune, ils ont tout construit et ont développé une société à la fois rude, sophistiquée (par exemple il faudrait des centaines de pages pour expliquer certaines règles sociétales coutumières, comme les différents types de mariage, par lignes, par clans, à seulement deux individus, à X individus etc.) et sans règles écrites. La lune est devenue une sorte de grenier de la Terre, et ses habitants ses fermiers. Ils sont très sommairement encadrés par un petit nombre d'individus délégués par la Terre.
Les protagonistes principaux de l'histoire sont Manuel, le narrateur, doté d'un nombre variable de bras et réparateur d'ordinateurs, le Professeur de la Paz, qui tente de théoriser une anarchie un peu particulière (une "anarchie rationnelle"!), Wyoh une jeune rebelle venue de la Terre et... Mike. Mike est de très loin mon personnage préféré. Mike est un ordinateur doté de conscience, avec une personnalité s'affirmant au fur et à mesure des épisodes.Lire la suite ›
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The story follows a revolution on the lunar colonies against Earth authority. The lunar colony was originally a penal colony, but even though the lunar residents ("Loonies" as they call themselves) are no longer technically prisoners, they have become economic slaves of the Earth. Also, because of their adaptation to the Moon's lower gravity, they cannot safely return to live on Earth, so their exile is a permanent one. Amidst growing but unorganized discontent amongst the Loonies, four remarkable individuals begin the meticulous planning of a revolution to free the Moon: Mannie, an engineer and our narrator; Prof. de la Paz; fiery Wyoming "Wyoh" Knott; and a newly sentient supercomputer named Mike. Starting from this small group, the resistance spreads across the Moon. But how can the nearly defenseless colonists and miners face down the juggernaut of the nations of Earth? Mike has an ingenious solution: "Throw rocks at `em"...literally!
Told through Mannie's point of view, the novel is written in a clipped, abbreviated style that represents the Loonie version of English: many pronouns and articles are dropped, leading to 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." This takes a few pages to get accustomed to, but soon you won't notice the odd style at all and accept it as part of the book's revolutionary spirit.
Heinlein unfolds the revolution in a meticulously detailed style, using lengthy conversations between the characters about how to step-by-step overthrow the authority of an overwhelming power. Heinlein not only provides in-depth details on the technology, but also of the philosophy of revolution and the unusual customs of the Loonies (such as their group marriages). Like most of Heinlein's great novels, this is a trip for the mind, and you have to be prepared to do plenty of thinking along with the passages of action. The novel does tend to drag somewhat in the middle, but the last hundred pages are feverish with both action and ideas.
Where Heinlein really triumphs in this novel is in the characterization of Mike the computer. Mike, along with Hal from "2001," is one of great artificial intelligences in science fiction. You will quickly forget, as Mannie does, that Mike is a disembodied voice from a machine, and instead think of him (or sometimes `her') as another character. Mike's growth from his shaky beginnings as a thinking being is fascinating and one of Heinlein's great achievements as an author.
However, if you are new to Robert A. Heinlein (or science fiction in general), this isn't the novel to start with (and neither is "Stranger in a Strange Land"). You should ease yourself into Heinlein's brilliant mind first through his novels from the 1950s, most of which were aimed at teenagers but are nonetheless wonderful books that anyone can enjoy: "Have Space Suit -- Will Travel," "Starman Jones," and "Citizen of the Galaxy" are good places to start. Also recommended: "The Puppet Masters" and Heinlein's short stories from the 1930s and 40s collected in "The Man Who Sold the Moon" and "The Green Hills of Earth." You should definitely read "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" -- it's an essential classic of the genre -- but you may need to build up to it. After all, as Loonies say: "TANSTAAFL!" ("There ain't no such thing as a free lunch!")
Along the path to revolution, Heinlein, (as usual), inserts thoughts and ideas that challenge your basic assumptions about what is right, normal, necessary, or appropriate. Is a representative democracy the only 'good' form of government? What's so sacred about a 'majority'? How should a government finance itself? (Maybe make the representatives pay for their pet projects out of their own pocket - taxes not allowed!). Are polygamy, polyandry, or other forms of multiple marriage wrong or can they be used to help preserve the stability of a child-rearing environment? How do you most efficiently organize a revolutionary group that must be kept secret from the authorities (given the assumption that there will always be 'stool pigeons')?
Some have quite correctly noted that this book should not be read by ultra-grammarians, as it is told in first person Luna-speak, an odd pidgin mixture of English and Russian, with occasional items thrown in from Chinese, Finnish, and several other languages. Far from being a detriment, I consider this to be a great accomplishment. Most writers have trouble accurately portraying the dialect, say, of the Deep South in a convincing manner. Here, Heinlein has created his own dialect of the future - and makes you believe it.
This book is not quite as deep as Stranger in a Strange Land, one of Heinlein's other great books, but it has a faster, more action oriented pace, and characters that you will get emotionally involved with. I cried at the end of this book the first time I read it (and the second, and the third...) and I think you will too. TANSTAAFL indeed - but in this case, you get more than you paid for.
Heinlein attended Annapolis and was in the Navy; his experiences feed into many of his books (most famously, Starship Troopers.) And the theme of liberty, alternate marriage styles, animate computers also turn up in many of his works (Time Enough for Love.) Heinlein was kind of a libertarian; his ideas about society show up in many of his novels.
The endearing part of this book is the wonderful relationship between Mannie, jack-of-all-trades and computer technician, and Mike, the self-aware computer that runs everything on the Moon from the air systems and transport to accounting and telephones. The moon has been settled by various countries (Russia, US, China) and has been turned into a penal-colony and excess population dumping zone. The government is lead by the Warden, who views the post as a sinecure, and aside from keeping general order, does nothing. Since escape is pretty much impossible, the convicts and transportees have been left to set up a semi-anarchic society ruled mainly by common sense. (As long as you leave your neighbors in peace, they'll do the same for you.)
However, when Manny attends a Free Luna rally, he learns that the resources of the moon are being depleted and that without halting the one-way export of resources to the earth, the moon and its inhabitants will be soon be doomed to starvation. Manny joins an ad-hoc revolutionary cabal with his friend the Professor and blonde hot-head Wyoming Knott. Together with Mike the computer, who has an enviable insider view of everything that goes on and a puckish sense of humor, they found the Revolution with a novel cell structure depending on the savvy computer's abilities to remember everything and keep a secret. Mike takes on the alter-ego as Adam Selene, the revolutionary leader (and bit of a stuffed-shirt) and the struggle begins.
How the Revolution is fought and won is an exciting tale. The end is bittersweet, as the moon must inevitably change and not everyone does survive the heroic struggle for freedom. This is a must-read science fiction book in my opinion, and one of Heinlein's best.
I have heard of Heinlein's political leanings and how they affected his writing. However, I did not sense that the novel was a veiled attempt at spewing a manifesto. The story is simply about humans wanting to be treated as such, and having to fight for that treatment. Mike's suggestion to "throw rocks" at the oppressors was absolutely brilliant. It made me think of the Biblical line: "Let he who is without sin throw the first stone". Maybe there's a link, maybe not. I'm sure there are dozens of master's theses out there on this subject. In any event, this is a brilliant work of fiction of any kind! Read it!
First of all, the entire book is written in Lunaspeak. This pigdin English certainly takes some getting used to at first but one is able to read it after a chapter or so without even noticing. How simple it seems until you stop to consider the effort involved in accomplishing such a feat. And there's no doubt that Lunaspeak is vital to the success of the book.
Then there's the story: fun and important both. Hugely entertaining, so you don't notice that you're also learning something. As usual, Heinlein has populated the book with richly drawn and highly entertaining charcters who matter to the reader as individuals. The highest compliment I can pay a book is that I'm sorry when it ends b/c I want to spend more time with the people in the book. Having read it numerous times, I'm still a bit sad every time I get to the last page b/c my time with these people is done. How much more difficult it is to accomplish this task - very few writers, even good ones, ever even approach it. Heinlein did it consistently and this is no exception. To do so while also acheiving so much else makes this the best of his impressive collection of work.