The Cat is a Harsh Mister – A Review

With scincere apologies to the legacy of Robert A Heinlein.

[Scene: the south drawing room, Felapton Towers]

[Camestros Felapton] I think the decorators took the theme too literally…
[Timothy the Talking Cat] You mean the paper floor and walls and the rough pencil sketches of furniture and windows?
[CF] Yeahhhh
[Timothy] You have to admit they did a fine job of the billiard room though.
[CF] Well a room shaped like a giant billiard ball with nothing but billiard balls inside it, is in essence, just a very big ball pit.
[Timothy] Exactly! It’s not like either of us would ever play billiards.
[CF] I can’t fault your reasoning there Tim. But enough critiquing of eccentric interior design, were we not intent on reviewing some work of science fiction?
[Timothy] Yes indeed! One of my favourites ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress‘ by Robert Heinlein.
[CF] I thought you and he didn’t get on?
[Timothy] We had our artistic differences but I admire his work. In particular, the political insights of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress have been very influential on my ideological development.
[CF] Well confession time! I haven’t read it.
[Timothy] WHATTTT???? You call yourself an official-a-now-doll of science fiction and yet you haven’t read one of the greatest works of the twentieth century by one of the most versatile writers of speculative fiction that ever lived?
[CF] Did you just say ‘an official-a-now-doll’?
[Timothy] It’s a fancy term for somebody who knows a lot about a thing – like he is a doll that is officially now. See? That’s ate-him-ology.
[CF] I…no never mind…how about we do this as an interview? I’ll ask you questions about the book and you can tell me things about it.
[Timothy] No, that’ll never work. I haven’t read the book.
[Timothy] Oh! How about I ask YOU questions about the book! That way I’ll find out all about it.
[CF] No but…
[Timothy] Hmm, no that won’t work you’ll just say stupid leftist stuff.
[CF] No I won’t!
[Timothy] Oh, well, in that case, we can go ahead with my plan.
[Timothy] Well then you shouldn’t have agreed to be interviewed about it. No, no, we’ll just have to carry on – that way you’ll learn a valuable lesson about doing your homework before agreeing to an interview.
Ahem…Question one. So what’s the book about then?
[CF] [peering at his phone and obviously reading:]

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is a 1966 science-fiction novel by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, about a lunar colony’s revolt against rule from Earth. The novel expresses and discusses libertarian ideals. It is respected for its credible presentation of a comprehensively imagined future human society on both the Earth and the moon.”*

[Timothy] Oh, you cheat! You are just reading out the Wikipedia page!
[CF] The irony is that was the only thing I knew about the book.
[Timothy] Put that phone away! Next question. Who are the main characters?
[CF] I’ve no idea? Bob? Frank?
[Timothy] Hmmm, sounds interesting. Which one is the good guy?
[CF] (sigh) Frank and he lives on the moon and Bob is the bad guy and he lives on Earth.
[Timothy] Motivation?
[CF] Well Frank just wants to be left alone on the moon but Bob keeps asking him annoying questions.
[Timothy] That no good statists Earther scum! What’s he look like?
[CF] Bob well he’s about your hight, purple and has whiskers.
[Timothy] So quite handsome for a villain? See, that’s Heinlein working his magic – instead of an ugly bad guy he picks somebody who looks quite debonair.
[CF] Yup, quite the master craftsman.
[Timothy] Then what happens?
[CF] OK, I’ll act it out. Can you play Bob for a moment and I’ll be Frank?
[Timothy] OK – OH! Can I twirl my whiskers villainously?
[CF] By all means!
[Timothy] Ho ho! I’m the evil Earther villain Bob! You’ve got to do as I say!
[CF] No way! I’m Frank and as an independent moon living man, I just want to do my own thing!
[Timothy] You dare defy the might of world government of EARTH!
[CF] Yes! [Walks over to Timothy, picks him up by the scruff of the neck, opens a badly drawn window and drops the cat outside.}
[Timothy] oofff!
[CF] I can’t believe that worked! Time for some peace and quiet for once!

[A horrific tearing noise breaks the silence. Camestros turns to see razor-sharp claws shredding the walls of the south drawing room from the outside. Timothy’s head pushes through one of the tears.]

[Timothy] HERES BOBBBYYYY!!!!!
[CF] Eeep!
[Timothy] Ha! Foolish Frank – you underestimated the power, determination and claw sharpness of Earth’s government. I’m here to subjugate THE MOON!
[CF] Yeah well I’m guessing you didn’t bet on me asserting my god given right to bear arms with this GIANT ROLL OF DRAWING PAPER!
[Timothy] You vandal! That was the lounge!
[CF] Yeah well now it is my sovereign right to self-defence! CHARGGGGEEEE!!!!!
[Timothy] Eeeep!
[Chaos briefly ensues]

[Enter: Mr Atomic]
[Mr Atomic] Stop this chaos! I HOLMES IV, the moon’s sentient computer otherwise known as Mike, aka Adam Selene ersatz leader of the lunar rebellion command you to stop making all this mess!
[CF] Who?
[Mr Atomic] Mike Holmes – it’s a character from ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’.
[Timothy] Wait? You’ve actually read it?
[Mr Atomic] Obviously – it is one of the finest works of science fiction from the twentieth century!
[Timothy – turning toward Camestros] See – I told you so.
[CF] Earther scum.

[Timothy] OK final ratings:
[Camestros] I give it 10 out of 10 for actually existing as a book and not just a fake title we made up.
[Mr Atomic] I found the themes of artificial intelligence are under-appreciated in this science fiction masterwork: 9 out of 10. I’d give it more but it has too many fleshy humans in it.
[Camestros] No offence taken.
[Mr Atomic]  None intended.
[Timothy] I give it 11 out of 10 because I got to twirl my whiskers. Also we don’t seem to have a south drawing room any more.

*[ ]

14 thoughts on “The Cat is a Harsh Mister – A Review

  1. It will be interesting to read the comments. When I was 16 I thought Moon is a Harsh Mistress was the best book of all time. Now I’m scared to re-read it, since I suspect I’d find it overly formulaic and surprisingly jejune for a book written by a 60 year old guy.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yep. I thought it was great (although probably not ‘best book ever’) when I read it around age 13. I have little doubt that now I’d find it pretty appalling.


  2. I too loved The Moon is a Harsh Mistress as an adolescent. But recently I taught a class in dystopian/utopian SF at my university, and MHM was one of the books I assigned. The students universally hated it. Not because of the sexism and terrible attitude toward “defective” children, either (those who have read the book will remember a big deal is made out of the fact that “monster” children, or those with birth defects, are killed at birth).

    No, they hated it because it was boring. “Does anything ever happen in this book?” one of them demanded when we were halfway through.

    On the other hand, they loved Jo Walton’s The Just City, where not that much happens either.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had such high hopes for this book when I read it as a teenager. I mean, it had a really cool title and it was about a space prison on the moon where the prisoners were fighting for their freedom. How could something like that not be cool? And then I read the actual book and it was dull, sexist, ablist, full of speechifying and really weird and offputting sex.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe the title was a warning. I expect if he’d written it just a few years later, it would have been THE MAN WHO ****ED THE MOON—in substance, if not in title.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Mr Atomic lives!

    Just dropping by to say hi to everyone and wish you all, especially CF, a very nice and sparkly day.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The older I get, the more I prefer Heinlein’s YA over his adult (term used advisedly) fiction. Though Mycroft is probably the most interesting portrayal of an artificial intelligence from that era.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you, and backatcha! 🙂
        (I tend to lurk much more than I comment, on all four blogs I regularly read (yours, File770, Whatever, and Stross’) mostly because I’m still grumpy that Usenet – with proper threading and filtering – is effectively dead.)

        Liked by 3 people

  6. I like Mr. Atomic’s take on it. Hopefully sometime Susan will travel to our time again and give her opinion.

    Oooh, O. Westin! I loved today’s Star Wars/equinox mashup. Even more than most of your stuff.

    I also think the “juvenile” novels are better b/c less speechifying and stuff happens. TMIAHM was Really Swell when I was 15, but not so awesome in my 30s. “Jejune” is a good word. Heinlein seemed to get stuck at about 17 in his mental and sexual development. So the juvenile novels make sense from that worldview, and also don’t go into incest. Stonking sexism aside, “Citizen of the Galaxy” is still a swell adventure with some interesting cultures — at least till the last section which is both more sexist and more conventional.

    It’d be interesting to see the same situation written by someone who wasn’t into Old Guy Didactics, racism, and ephebephilia. There was a hint of something interesting when Wyoh decided (based on data!) that Mike was really more of a girl, but that gets dropped after a page.

    He did kill off the best character. The computer’s more human(e) than the people.

    Liked by 2 people

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