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Bookends: Two books about revolutionary change January 27, 2016

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: Two books about revolutionary change

By Dan

June 10, 2015

– 875 words -Davidson


The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

By Robert HeinleinMoon is Harsh

Orb Books

384 pages



Blackstone Audiobooks

Unabridged reading by Lloyd James

14 hours and 12 minute



Science fiction writers of the mid 1960s missed a lot of things, like personal computers and cell phones, for instance, but they also assumed we’d be a lot further ahead when it comes to space exploration. Writing several years before the moon landing, Robert Heinlein assumed that by 2076 we’d have colonies on the moon and that, given the biological adjustments to one-sixth earth normal gravity that would take place after an extended residence, it would tend to be a one way trip.

To him, that suggested that the moon might well become a penal colony: Australia in space, home of political and criminal exiles from the mother planet.

Now the date, ending in 76 as it does, is a strong suggestion as to what kind of book this is likely to be. It’s about the various lunar colonies banding together and shaking off the chains of Earth. In this future, Luna (as the locals like to call it) is a major supplier of grain for the crowded Earth, but the resources that make this possible are finite and a group of people realize that this cannot go on.

The story is told to us in a somewhat stilted, Russian influenced dialect by Manuel Garcia O’Kelly Davis, a computer tech who has stumbled onto a secret that no one else knows. The main computer that runs much of the tech on the moon has reached that tipping point of circuits, processing and memory capacity where it has developed sentience, has become an artificial intelligence. As it is a HOLMES IV computer, Manny decides to call it Mike (short for Mycroft) and has spent a fair amount of time teaching it about being human (they exchange jokes) before he becomes involved with the lunar resistance movement.

Other key characters are the typical Heinlein “wise old man” character, Professor Bernardo de la Paz, and would be revolutionary Wyoming Knott. Manny becomes involved with the resistance and, with the assistance of Mike, the three of them build the sort of organization needed to pry Luna free.

The book breaks down into three sections: the building of the resistance; the Earth-side negotiations; the actual revolution.

There’s a lot of Heinleinish rhetoric about different kinds of family structures. Manny is part of a line family with multiple husbands and wives. There’s lots of There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Lunch (tanstaafl) conversation, with action vignettes to prove the point. The book is at times a bit of a “talking heads” production, but the conversations are interesting.

Since there are 41 extant editions and formats of this book, you can choose the version you like. The one on my bookshelf is the 1968 Berkley/Putnam edition, which I read in 1969 when I was in grade 12. I don’t reread novels often, but I have taken to listening to old favourites while travelling, and this is one I can definitely recommend. It got me through 27 bags of leaves while cleaning up the lawn, as well as most of the way to Skagway on a recent road trip. Lloyd James did an excellent job with the first person narration as well as the numerous voices needed to make the story come to life.

While I read all five of the novels that came after this one, RAH did become more and more obsessed with sex and with being preachy about lifestyles and politics as he got older, and this is the book that marks for me the end of his strongest period as a writer.



Rupert’s Parchment: Story of Magna Carta

Story by Eileen Cameron

Illustrations by Doris EttlingerRupert's Parchment

Mascott Books

36 pages



As our current government nibbles away at the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it’s interesting to take a look at the document that started the notion that there should be limits to the power of the state over the lives of its people.

Within our English tradition, the document is the Magna Carta (or Great Charter), which celebrates its 800th anniversary on June 15 this year.

Rupert is the son of a local parchment maker. His village has been ransacked by the king’s men on a number of occasions, so when the family learns of a great gathering at Runnymede – a thing that may either be a negotiation or a great battle – Rupert is fascinated.

It turns out to be a negotiation, and Rupert’s father is asked to provide the parchment on which the solemn agreement between King John and the disaffected nobles will be written and signed.

One of the key phrases, one we may need to remember in light of Bill C-51, is “No free man shall be imprisoned or stripped of his rights or possessions … except by lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.”

The text is appropriate for young readers. There is a story as well as some factual material and the illustrations are effective.






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