The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is an excellent novel, action-packed, exciting, and deftly-plotted, with fascinating, complex characters and some interesting science-fictional ideas. I also enjoyed reading about Luna's culture; I thought the marriage customs were particularly interesting.
One thing I noticed right off was the way the Loonies use language differently than people from earth do. In fact, it threw me at first -- I couldn't figure out what was going on or why the language was so rough and unpolished and choppy. Eventually, though, I found the rhythm of it and settled in just fine -- I didn't even notice it after a while. It makes sense; Luna started off as a penal colony and has since developed completely seperate from Earth and relatively unmolested. Of course they would have their own dialect and speech patterns! To my mind, their language seems to be as efficent as possible. They trimmed away any unnecessary deadwood -- they don't use articles, for example, and very few personal pronouns, and they seem to prefer to use fragments to complete sentences. Only the essentials remain, much the same as the original colonists/prisoners had to start their lives over with only the bare essentials and sometimes not even that.
This book was written about forty years ago, and it has stood the test of time quite well, but there are some aspects of it that do seem rather dated. For example, the idea behind the character of Mike -- the computer that is connected to everything and has "woken up" or become alive -- is one that is very familiar to modern readers, one that we accept easily. Apparently, we accept it much more easily than Heinlen expected his readers in 1965 to accept it, because he spends more time explaining it than he really needs to. When Mannie, the narrator, tells Wyoh about Mike and introduces them via a telephone conversation, she is shocked that Mike already knows what she looks like. He looked up her medical records and found a picture of her immediately after being introduced to her. To modern readers familiar with the internet, this is an obvious step and hardly shocking; we expect it, and Wyoh's shock and apparent need to have every detail and implication of Mike's "life" spelled out for her makes her seem a little bit stupid to us. If we don't remember that Heinlen is using Wyoh to explain things to his 1965 audience that his 2005 audience intuitively understands, then we'll get a little frustrated with Wyoh's denseness.
All in all, though, this is a novel about politics -- a very complex, deep, intellectual and sophisticated look at politics, government, revolution and war. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress has a very definite world-view and political philosophy, some of which I agreed with, and some of which I really, really didn't. My agreement (or lack thereof) with the politics espoused in this book didn't seem to have much bearing on my enjoyment of it. This is a book that requires the reader to think. And that, I think, is why I loved it so much.
Heinlein's classic tale of revolution in handy trade format. It's a classic. You know you love it.
I started reading Heinlein novels back when I was a teenager, and managed to plow through the Heinlein library between the ages of 16 to 25. This set of thought has played a large role in shaping who I grew up to be. And re-reading those novels now makes me think how amazing it was that I *did* read those novels at the time, and happy that I did.
"The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is one of my most favorite of Heinlein's novels, but one which I haven't re-read (until just now) since I first read it 20+ years ago. It's great. It's how revolution should be done, if you've got top-notch communications and smart computers. But even more than that, it's a celebration of being smart and having common sense.
In the end, Heinlein's characters don't grow a whole lot... If anything, they learn that they can accomplish great things with the heads they already have on their shoulders. There's not a lot of angst, self-doubt, or anything that causes emotional drama. The ideas are very much "see a problem, think about the problem, solve the problem" --- very direct, very straightforward. Heinlein's characters see what's in front of them and face it squarely. If only the powers-that-be in the real world did the same thing.
And it's this characteristic which is so refreshing, and why Heinlein's books had such great influence on my own style of thinking.