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Moon is a Harsh Mistress [Hardcover]

Robert A. Heinlein
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (400 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 1996 0312861761 978-0312861766 Reprint
In the classic Hugo Award-winning book, a one-armed computer technician, a radical blonde bombshell, an aging academic, and a sentient all-knowing computer lead the lunar population in a revolution against Earth's colonial rule.

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Editorial Reviews Review

Tom Clancy has said of Robert A. Heinlein, "We proceed down the path marked by his ideas. He shows us where the future is." Nowhere is this more true than in Heinlein's gripping tale of revolution on the moon in 2076, where "Loonies" are kept poor and oppressed by an Earth-based Authority that turns huge profits at their expense. A small band of dissidents, including a one-armed computer jock, a radical young woman, a past-his-prime academic and a nearly omnipotent computer named Mike, ignite the fires of revolution despite the near certainty of failure and death.


"We proceed down a path marked by his ideas." --Tom Clancy
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 382 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; Reprint edition (August 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312861761
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312861766
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.8 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (400 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #748,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
358 of 364 people found the following review helpful
Written at the peak of Robert A. Heinlein's creative powers in the mid-sixties, "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" ranks with "Stranger in a Strange Land" as his most popular and acclaimed novel. Heinlein was furiously ingenious at this stage in his career, and this novel is an incredible feat of imagination, intellect, and writing talent. It is, however, a difficult and heavy novel (much like "Stranger in a Strange Land"), loaded with hard science and even harder politics: Heinlein at his best is a writer who attracts and repels the reader at the same time, and no one could read "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" without forming some very strong opinions about it.
The story follows a revolution on the lunar colonies against Earth authority. The lunar colony was originally a penal colony, but even though the lunar residents ("Loonies" as they call themselves) are no longer technically prisoners, they have become economic slaves of the Earth. Also, because of their adaptation to the Moon's lower gravity, they cannot safely return to live on Earth, so their exile is a permanent one. Amidst growing but unorganized discontent amongst the Loonies, four remarkable individuals begin the meticulous planning of a revolution to free the Moon: Mannie, an engineer and our narrator; Prof. de la Paz; fiery Wyoming "Wyoh" Knott; and a newly sentient supercomputer named Mike. Starting from this small group, the resistance spreads across the Moon. But how can the nearly defenseless colonists and miners face down the juggernaut of the nations of Earth? Mike has an ingenious solution: "Throw rocks at `em"...literally!
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97 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic of Sci-Fi that holds up well February 20, 2001
I just re-read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress after not having read it since I was a teenager. (Well, that was in the 60's, oof.) I must say, this book holds up well against science fiction written far after it, and also after the technological surges of the 90's that made computers a household item and not just a device at work that spewed out yellow punchtape.
Heinlein attended Annapolis and was in the Navy; his experiences feed into many of his books (most famously, Starship Troopers.) And the theme of liberty, alternate marriage styles, animate computers also turn up in many of his works (Time Enough for Love.) Heinlein was kind of a libertarian; his ideas about society show up in many of his novels.
The endearing part of this book is the wonderful relationship between Mannie, jack-of-all-trades and computer technician, and Mike, the self-aware computer that runs everything on the Moon from the air systems and transport to accounting and telephones. The moon has been settled by various countries (Russia, US, China) and has been turned into a penal-colony and excess population dumping zone. The government is lead by the Warden, who views the post as a sinecure, and aside from keeping general order, does nothing. Since escape is pretty much impossible, the convicts and transportees have been left to set up a semi-anarchic society ruled mainly by common sense. (As long as you leave your neighbors in peace, they'll do the same for you.)
However, when Manny attends a Free Luna rally, he learns that the resources of the moon are being depleted and that without halting the one-way export of resources to the earth, the moon and its inhabitants will be soon be doomed to starvation. Manny joins an ad-hoc revolutionary cabal with his friend the Professor and blonde hot-head Wyoming Knott.
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65 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blueprint for Revolution August 20, 2001
This is my favorite Heinlein novel, and I've read all of Heinlein's works. It is a great mixture of adventure, humor, politics, technology, some thought provoking looks at alternate types of marriages, and the most lovable sentient computer ever to grace the pages of a novel. Mike (the computer) is really the star of this book, from loving to tell jokes, to deciding to help a group of revolutionary-minded Luna 'citizens' actually accomplish their dreams of freedom because the human interaction would keep him from being lonely.

Along the path to revolution, Heinlein, (as usual), inserts thoughts and ideas that challenge your basic assumptions about what is right, normal, necessary, or appropriate. Is a representative democracy the only 'good' form of government? What's so sacred about a 'majority'? How should a government finance itself? (Maybe make the representatives pay for their pet projects out of their own pocket - taxes not allowed!). Are polygamy, polyandry, or other forms of multiple marriage wrong or can they be used to help preserve the stability of a child-rearing environment? How do you most efficiently organize a revolutionary group that must be kept secret from the authorities (given the assumption that there will always be 'stool pigeons')?

Some have quite correctly noted that this book should not be read by ultra-grammarians, as it is told in first person Luna-speak, an odd pidgin mixture of English and Russian, with occasional items thrown in from Chinese, Finnish, and several other languages. Far from being a detriment, I consider this to be a great accomplishment. Most writers have trouble accurately portraying the dialect, say, of the Deep South in a convincing manner.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Now one of my favorite books.
I just started reading Heinlein's books over the past year or so and this one has been my favorite so far. Read more
Published 11 days ago by Curtis Dunne
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome
Heinlein is a masterful writer and as a libertarian minded person this novel really speaks to me. The physics and technology of the moon to earth launch system is completely... Read more
Published 26 days ago by Jacob Chancery
3.0 out of 5 stars A very good book, re-released in an annoying format
This is not a typical hardbound book. It is in essence the smaller paperback size with a hard cover. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Charles Gilbert
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book
Gave this to my son for Christmas. Great explanation of "rational anarchy" one of Heinlein's best. Read more
Published 1 month ago by William Guy
5.0 out of 5 stars Futuristically Relevant
Despite being written in the 60's, many of the themes and philosophies contained in the book add to a timeless tug between freedom and coercion. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Morgan
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've ever read!
Forty eight years ago, the world was blessed by one of the Father's of Science Fiction with a novel so ahead of its time that it still retains its relevance today. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Angela Markwalter
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Heinlein was really a man who was ahead of his time. I love the way he wrote about human relationships and great believable technology.
Published 1 month ago by Evans
5.0 out of 5 stars Lunar libertarianism
This book was written back when sci-fi writers used to pay attention to the science in science-fiction. It is very good. Read more
Published 2 months ago by A. Simon
4.0 out of 5 stars Revolution 101
In spite of having a bit of trouble getting into the Russian-accented writing, I can see why so many people love this book. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Anthony Prudori
5.0 out of 5 stars Story of the American Revolution
Told from the perspective of the lunar penal colony, and organized with somewhat modern (for the 1950's) communications and control. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
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Topic From this Discussion
Was Heinlein a genius or a sexual deviant?
Heinlein was one to conform, publicly, with the prevailing mores of his environment. In private he lived according to his own lights, as do most people who don't want the neighbors sticking their noses where they don't belong.

That he was a genius is attested to by the volume and range of his... Read More
Apr 24, 2013 by D. J. Foley |  See all 5 posts
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