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367 of 373 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning achievement in hard-science and hard-politics
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...
Published on March 30, 2004 by Claude Avary

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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A primer for political science
What would you do if you had access to the greatest supercomputer ever built? A computer so complex and intricate that it finally gains full consciousness - and only you knew about it? Would you use it for your own nefarious purposes and hack your way to riches? Would you try to teach it how to be human? Would you tell it jokes? Or would you use it to start a revolution...
Published on January 1, 2011 by Chris Gladis


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367 of 373 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning achievement in hard-science and hard-politics, March 30, 2004
This review is from: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Paperback)
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!
Told through Mannie's point of view, the novel is written in a clipped, abbreviated style that represents the Loonie version of English: many pronouns and articles are dropped, leading to sentences like: "Stomach was supposed to be empty. But I filled helmet with sourest, nastiest fluid you would ever go a long way to avoid." This takes a few pages to get accustomed to, but soon you won't notice the odd style at all and accept it as part of the book's revolutionary spirit.
Heinlein unfolds the revolution in a meticulously detailed style, using lengthy conversations between the characters about how to step-by-step overthrow the authority of an overwhelming power. Heinlein not only provides in-depth details on the technology, but also of the philosophy of revolution and the unusual customs of the Loonies (such as their group marriages). Like most of Heinlein's great novels, this is a trip for the mind, and you have to be prepared to do plenty of thinking along with the passages of action. The novel does tend to drag somewhat in the middle, but the last hundred pages are feverish with both action and ideas.
Where Heinlein really triumphs in this novel is in the characterization of Mike the computer. Mike, along with Hal from "2001," is one of great artificial intelligences in science fiction. You will quickly forget, as Mannie does, that Mike is a disembodied voice from a machine, and instead think of him (or sometimes `her') as another character. Mike's growth from his shaky beginnings as a thinking being is fascinating and one of Heinlein's great achievements as an author.
However, if you are new to Robert A. Heinlein (or science fiction in general), this isn't the novel to start with (and neither is "Stranger in a Strange Land"). You should ease yourself into Heinlein's brilliant mind first through his novels from the 1950s, most of which were aimed at teenagers but are nonetheless wonderful books that anyone can enjoy: "Have Space Suit -- Will Travel," "Starman Jones," and "Citizen of the Galaxy" are good places to start. Also recommended: "The Puppet Masters" and Heinlein's short stories from the 1930s and 40s collected in "The Man Who Sold the Moon" and "The Green Hills of Earth." You should definitely read "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" -- it's an essential classic of the genre -- but you may need to build up to it. After all, as Loonies say: "TANSTAAFL!" ("There ain't no such thing as a free lunch!")
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68 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blueprint for Revolution, August 20, 2001
This review is from: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Paperback)
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. Here, Heinlein has created his own dialect of the future - and makes you believe it.

This book is not quite as deep as Stranger in a Strange Land, one of Heinlein's other great books, but it has a faster, more action oriented pace, and characters that you will get emotionally involved with. I cried at the end of this book the first time I read it (and the second, and the third...) and I think you will too. TANSTAAFL indeed - but in this case, you get more than you paid for.
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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
This review is from: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Paperback)
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. Together with Mike the computer, who has an enviable insider view of everything that goes on and a puckish sense of humor, they found the Revolution with a novel cell structure depending on the savvy computer's abilities to remember everything and keep a secret. Mike takes on the alter-ego as Adam Selene, the revolutionary leader (and bit of a stuffed-shirt) and the struggle begins.
How the Revolution is fought and won is an exciting tale. The end is bittersweet, as the moon must inevitably change and not everyone does survive the heroic struggle for freedom. This is a must-read science fiction book in my opinion, and one of Heinlein's best.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cast the first stone, March 17, 2004
This review is from: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Paperback)
I am not much of a science fiction reader or film watcher but when my friend bought THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS for my birthday, it instantly became one of my favorite books. Not one of my favorite science fiction books, one of my favorite books period. And what makes it such is its sturdy character development and plot development. All the characters are believeable and likeable. This includes Mike the computer. His desire to understand humor and humans must have been revolutionary for the time the book was written.
I have heard of Heinlein's political leanings and how they affected his writing. However, I did not sense that the novel was a veiled attempt at spewing a manifesto. The story is simply about humans wanting to be treated as such, and having to fight for that treatment. Mike's suggestion to "throw rocks" at the oppressors was absolutely brilliant. It made me think of the Biblical line: "Let he who is without sin throw the first stone". Maybe there's a link, maybe not. I'm sure there are dozens of master's theses out there on this subject. In any event, this is a brilliant work of fiction of any kind! Read it!
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This may be the best SF book ever written, October 13, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Paperback)
Now, how to defend that sweeping statement? It's kind of hard to pin down WHY I like this so much.
Is it the story of a horribly oppressed people rising up against the whole world, and winning? Maybe.
Is it the fact that 3 of the characters (Professor De La Cruz, Wyoming Knott and Mycroft Holmes) are among the most memorable in all of SF? Maybe.
Is it the whole-cloth realization of the Libertarian ideal without being overbearing, pedantic or intrusive? Maybe.
Is it that Heinlein manages to have hit the sweet spot of his "it's not the plot, it's the gestalt fabric of the story" method of writing? Maybe.
Is it that he pulls this off with a dialect that appears to be English transliterated from Russian (no definite articles are used). Maybe.
Can't really say. But I've re-read this more than any other book I own, and I read maybe 5,000.
Oh, sure, there's "Ender's Game" and "Dune" and "Snow Crash", not to mention Heinlein's own quiet masterpiece "Double Star." But for some reason, I can't put any of them above this one.
Note that I'm writing this about 3 years after my last reading, and it's all still fresh in my mind. Maybe that's it. Certainly not a lot of books I can say that about.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not to be missed, February 23, 2000
This review is from: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Paperback)
Forced to pick a favourite book by Heinlein, one of my favourite writers, I would have to choose this one. Even leaving aside the (not inconsiderable) benefit of the excellent explication of solid political philosophy in the book, it's a great read.
First of all, the entire book is written in Lunaspeak. This pigdin English certainly takes some getting used to at first but one is able to read it after a chapter or so without even noticing. How simple it seems until you stop to consider the effort involved in accomplishing such a feat. And there's no doubt that Lunaspeak is vital to the success of the book.
Then there's the story: fun and important both. Hugely entertaining, so you don't notice that you're also learning something. As usual, Heinlein has populated the book with richly drawn and highly entertaining charcters who matter to the reader as individuals. The highest compliment I can pay a book is that I'm sorry when it ends b/c I want to spend more time with the people in the book. Having read it numerous times, I'm still a bit sad every time I get to the last page b/c my time with these people is done. How much more difficult it is to accomplish this task - very few writers, even good ones, ever even approach it. Heinlein did it consistently and this is no exception. To do so while also acheiving so much else makes this the best of his impressive collection of work.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Heinlein's Best..., July 26, 2001
By 
"brian91174" (Hacienda Heights, ca USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Paperback)
This was only the second Heinlein novel I'd ever read, and to me, it was the most moving. I have read Starship Troopers, The Cat that Walks Through Walls, and Stranger in a Strange Land thus far.
This novel is part science-fiction adventure, part social commentary, and part political philosophizing. However, that seems to be the formula for most of Heinlein's novels (or at least the ones I've read)
The story is of a computer repairman, who is the first person to realize that the large central computer which the Lunar Authority uses to control most everything has become a sentient being. Through this realization, as well as meeting with a couple of agitators who are dissatisfied with the way things are run on the Moon, Manny (the repairman) becomes one of the founding fathers of the revolution that allows Luna to gain its independence.
Throughout the book, Heinlein explores different notions of politics, marriage customs, culture, and human nature, all of which is thought-provoking at least. The end of the book, and its inevitable climax, left me emotionally drained. Never has any book been able to do that to me the way this book has. While Starship Troopers remains my favorite Heinlein novel, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a very, very close second.
I would highly recommend this novel to anyone interested in science-fiction, political science, or just plain looking for a great read.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tongue-in-Cheek Guide to Revolution, December 19, 2004
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This review is from: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Paperback)
I don't read very much fiction, but make an exception for this book which I reread every 5-10 years. On one level it's a delightful story of a revolt by the inmates of a penal colony on the moon. On another level, it's a rather tongue-in-cheek guide to planning and conducting a Libertarian revolution against the authority of the State, complete with a description of the many pitfalls one might encounter.

The story centers around four madcap characters who form the executive cell of the revolution: Mannie, the apolitical computer technician, Wyoming, the beautiful, blond, and sometimes illogical revolutionary, Professor de la Paz, the always logical Libertarian theorist and revolutionary, and Mike the self-aware master computer who controls the entire infrastructure of the lunar colony.

Heinlein develops a description of the lunar social mores that flow logically from the fictional origins and setting of the colony. For example, the vast majority of males among the convicts results in unconventional marriage patterns. Similarly, the lack of a formal justice system on the moon results in a self-administered ad hoc legal system for resolving disputes among residents. Heinlein writes in a self-invented form of Pidgin English (with strong influences from Russian and Australian-English) designed to reflect the multi-national origins of the lunar colony.

On a philosophical level, Heinlein develops the economic underpinnings of the lunar revolution based on international (Earth-Moon) trade, comparative advantage and finite resources. He also explores the contradictions inherent in a State that can commit acts that would be considered crimes if committed by an individual.

Heinlein also weaves into the plot some attributes common to many revolutions in actual history, both before and after his time. By destroying the old order, revolutions create a very brief period of instability in which many changes can be implemented. However, this window of opportunity for radical change closes very rapidly and a new order quickly assumes power which it immediately seeks to consolidate and perpetuate. For example, the initial 1917 Russian Revolution (in February) was hijacked in the "October" Revolution by the Bolsheviks who imposed a tyranny far worse than the Tsars. Boris Yeltsin's early liberal advisors (Gaidar, Chubias, Feodorov) were absolutely right to immediately free prices and privatize state assets after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union; these changes probably could not have been made later.

In The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Heinlein stays focused on the plot and does not allow the philosophy to become ponderous and overbearing. In contrast, in several of his other books, he seems to forget part way through the book that there was a plot.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars politics, families, computers...and it's fun, too!, February 4, 2001
By 
Diana Nier (Ithaca, NY, United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I care deeply about the English language, especially proper grammar. If you asked my friends and family, I suspect they might even use the word "fanatic" to describe me. Therefore, believe me when I say the non-standard English in "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress" is not hard to understand after a few pages, and that it is integral to the characterization of Mannie and Lunar society. There are times and places for linguistic purism. This is not one of them.
Computer technician Manuel Garcia O'Kelley Davis is a free citizen of a Lunar penal colony, run for Earth's benefit. He discovers the master computer (it manages telephones, newspapers, electricity, air supply, etc.) is sentient, names it Mike, and befriends it/him. In his efforts to humanize Mike, Mannie introduces the computer to Wyoming Knott, a fiery member of a flawed revolutionary organization, and to Professor Bernardo de la Paz, a lovable rational anarchist. With Mike's help, they determine that under current management policies, famine will strike the Moon. Being Loonies, they gamble on a revolution. A real one.
One pleasure of this book is learning about Lunar society, which Heinlein creates with great attention to detail. (Hence the language.) The other great pleasure is watching the revolution develop. The propaganda, misdirection, government machinations, and ingenious weapons (yes, throwing rice can be deadly - if you throw from the Moon!) are marvelous. I didn't notice much overt characterization, but by the end of the book, I cared about these people; I had traveled a long way with them.
"The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" contains libertarian, or anarchist, philosophy, but one purpose of science fiction is to present challenging ideas. Whether or not you agree with the Loonies' political philosophy, or are offended by some of their social structures (such as their forms of marriage) I defy anyone not to sympathize with their quest for freedom.
Note: While I find Heinlein's obsession with female bodies a bit annoying, and while he uses some sexual stereotypes, any society where a woman, as he says, "calls tune," and a man has to dance to it, can't be all bad!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars intelligently written book, June 10, 2000
This review is from: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Paperback)
I'm not a Heinlein fan. Whenever I start with a book of his, I brace myself for yet another alterego surrounded by beautiful educated females who adore him for unknown reasons, and the also inevitable stronger helper/superhuman who accompanies and teaches the protagonist.
This time there was a "line marriage", again giving the protagonist any number of women he would want, and thus the opportunity to be lofty about it. But I admit readily: the line marriage is a real good idea. I hope it will be allowed on earth real soon. And yes the superbrain was there in the story too. This time in the form of a sentient supercomputer that was interesting to meet, and gave the opportunity to explore Heinleins concepts of AI.
The most important reason I liked this book is because it matched an intelligent plot to fast paced action and considerable insights in the making of revolutions and the behavior of governments if they are confronted with one. If you're planning a revolution, do read this book as a starter. But if you're not: it's still a good read that as an extra resets your thoughts about the way we have structured our society now.
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The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein (Paperback - June 15, 1997)
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