Ah, Heinlein. One of my all-time favorite science fiction authors. His books came in 2 basic varieties – ‘I’m going to write a social commentary thinly disguised a science fiction’ and ‘I need a quick buck’. Fortunately, he was a good writer with a knack for scifi, so both worked.
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is of the first category. In a couple a sections the scifi disguise gets very thin indeed, but as a whole the story is good enough to be read as a story and not just a certain political systems/governments or cultural system (marriage). It is set mostly on the moon, which has been used as a penal colony for many generations. At this point, many of the people there are not criminals, but were born there. In fact, many of them are several generations removed from the family member who was originally exiled to the moon. They are, however, not treated any differently than the actual prisoners. Also, a lot of the prisoners now being shipped to the moon are political agitators rather than violent criminals, people deemed to dangerous to remain on Earth due to their beliefs rather than their actions. The moon colony is tightly controlled by the Lunar Authority, which pays minimal prices for goods and food produced there but charges exorbitant rates for goods shipped up from Earth. Colonists are permitted no weapons and no ships, and have no way to get off the moon.
Now enter the main characters – a computer tech named Mannie and the sentient computer named Mike he has made friends with (he’s also the only one who is aware of him). Add a sexy agitator for lunar freedom, Wyoming Knott, and an old Poli Sci professor exiled for his political views and you’ve got a group that starts to make things happen. The story focuses on the fight for freedom and the development of the AI Mike. It’s a good read and promotes an ideal of a self-regulating society rather than a self-governing one. Entirely impractical but an interesting concept none the less.
Anyway, read it. It’s a classic. No self-respecting science fiction fan can pass it up.