First edition (publ. Tor Books)
Cover art by Stephan Martiniere

The Free Lunch is a 2001 novel by Spider Robinson. The title is a reference to the adage "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch", popularized by science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein in his 1966 novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.[1][2]


Twelve-year-old Mike is looking for a safe place to escape from the real world. Like Peter Pan, he seeks a fantastic sanctuary where he can stay without worry. Tomas Immega's amusement park, Dreamland, provides a completely immersive theme park experience, and seems to be just what Mike is looking for. Soon after escaping the guest tracking system, Mike meets Annie, a midget known as the Mother Elf, who has eked out a living in Dreamland for thirteen years caring for the park. Annie takes Mike in, but all is not well in Dreamland.

The story is full of references to other works:


  1. ^ Safire, William On Language; Words Left Out in the Cold" New York Times, 2-14-1993 [1]
  2. ^ Heinlein, Robert A. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966). 1st Orb edition, 1997, 382 pp. New York: Tom Doherty Associates. ISBN 0-312-86355-1.