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The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

A Brilliant Novel About Liberty, Sentience, and Humanity

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a fascinating and politically gripping novel of gargantuan proportion. Written by Robert Heinlein during the peak of his creative genius, the novel surrounds and encapsulates its reader by transporting them to a time and place that today ...
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a fascinating and politically gripping novel of gargantuan proportion. Written by Robert Heinlein during the peak of his creative genius, the novel surrounds and encapsulates its reader by transporting them to a time and place that today many believe is not possible.

The novel is set during 2076 on a Moon colony where the residents were once convicted criminals on Earth. The regime that is depicted in the novel is reminiscent of a dictatorship and the population is oppressed to the point of insanity. The plot centers on a computer technician and a super-computer that becomes sentient during the opening chapters of the book. The computer, referred to as MIKE, chooses to help the technician and others who have come to believe that a revolution is needed on the Moon in order to restore the basic human rights that were once guaranteed to them. The libertarian-style revolution that the computer and the revolution's leader, an eccentric and highly educated professor named de la Paz, orchestrate forces a response from Earth that ultimately leads to confrontation. The confrontation leads to revolution with the Moon colonists faring quite well thanks mostly to MIKE who controls much of the Moon's electrical and mechanical systems. However, even though the colonists ultimately win recognition from Earth, in the final barrage of the Moon, MIKE is knocked about quite violently and when rebooted no longer has sentience.

The novel is about liberty, desire, and self-awareness. Libertarianism, a key concept in the book, is evaluated and examined with more voracity than any professional political pundit could do and yet, at the end you are left wondering-did it work? For at the end of the story, Heinlein leaves much open. It appears he wanted to let his reader decide the true fate of the revolutionaries. The novel is more than just a fiction book about libertarian revolution on the Moon, it is provides a true social and political critique on the system of government that exists in the United States. There are many threads of thought and consciousness the run through the book that require the reader not only to just read and possibly understand the story, but to question the story. And, as always to recognize "TANSTAAFL" or there ain't no such thing as a free lunch!

This Hugo Award-winning novel is a true testament to Heinlein's writing genius and style and in my opinion is possibly his greatest work. This book should be required reading for any individual who questions the motives of the society in which they reside and anyone interested in libertarianism, government authority, and freedom.

posted by Zenophile on August 30, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

You will find this book under the Sci-Fi section and I have to be honest, as far as sci-fi books, this one is not much. I will give it props, considering that it was written in the sixties, it actually was pretty accurate in the way somethings would have worked in the f...
You will find this book under the Sci-Fi section and I have to be honest, as far as sci-fi books, this one is not much. I will give it props, considering that it was written in the sixties, it actually was pretty accurate in the way somethings would have worked in the future, but as far as this book being an entertaining sci-fi, Mistress falls short of the mark. That being said, it is very clear from the beginning that this book is intended to be far more than an `entertaining¿ sci-fi book, focusing instead on politics, social commentary and libertarian ideals and that is where this book shines.

The setting is the Moon (or Luna, as they refer to it) a penal colony, where all of earth¿s outcasts were once sent to serve their prisons. It was the perfect set up, as far as Earth was concerned, you got rid of your malignant entities pretty much for good, because once you spend a certain amount of time in the moon, your body becomes adjusted to the lower gravitational pull and you will eventually reach a point were coming back to earth is impossible. And as far as the prison in the Moon goes, it is also perfect. No need for cells, bars, walls, the prisoners were free to live as they wished, it is not like they could escape anywhere.

Time goes by and eventually the colony ceases to be a prison, more people begin to head out to Luna to make a living, the way pioneers did during the gold rush. It is a difficult lifestyle, but one that they seem to have streamlined without the aid of government or any true ruling, quite easily. The only darkside to this lifestyle, is the precense of the Warden and his troops, who remain in authority even though the colony is no longer penal. `Authority¿ controls all the crucial aspects of society, dictating the prices of the produce they sell, the water they utilize, the air their breathe, etc. Needless to say, by the 2070¿s certain citizens have had enough. It is not until Wyoming Knott, a beautiful blonde speaker, comes to speak in regards to revolution and independence that the wheels start actually turning.

Caught in the motion are Manny, a one armed tech man, in charge of Authority¿s computer systems; Profesor Bernardo de la Paz, an eclectic, well respected old man and Mike (named after Mycroft Holmes, brother of Sherlock Holmes), a computer that has made so many `neural¿ connections with other computers that it actually becomes sentient. And it is this ragged bunch, that come together and plot revolution, to gain a free Luna.

It is a cool and interesting concept, with very interesting ideas, however ideological and in for that aspect, this is very much a book worth reading. However, those of you that are looking for an entertaining read, will find this bland, at best. The plot moves painfully slow and dialogue is over abundant and on the verge of repetitive, to the point where if you have no interest in politics and the libertarian theories, then chances are you will not get to the end of this book. So¿.keep that in mind before picking this one up. There are some interesting theories in regards to society, the role of government and even marriage, but all of that may not amount to an interesting read, if what you are looking for is a thriller.

posted by FocoProject on October 27, 2008

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  • Posted August 30, 2009

    A Brilliant Novel About Liberty, Sentience, and Humanity

    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a fascinating and politically gripping novel of gargantuan proportion. Written by Robert Heinlein during the peak of his creative genius, the novel surrounds and encapsulates its reader by transporting them to a time and place that today many believe is not possible.

    The novel is set during 2076 on a Moon colony where the residents were once convicted criminals on Earth. The regime that is depicted in the novel is reminiscent of a dictatorship and the population is oppressed to the point of insanity. The plot centers on a computer technician and a super-computer that becomes sentient during the opening chapters of the book. The computer, referred to as MIKE, chooses to help the technician and others who have come to believe that a revolution is needed on the Moon in order to restore the basic human rights that were once guaranteed to them. The libertarian-style revolution that the computer and the revolution's leader, an eccentric and highly educated professor named de la Paz, orchestrate forces a response from Earth that ultimately leads to confrontation. The confrontation leads to revolution with the Moon colonists faring quite well thanks mostly to MIKE who controls much of the Moon's electrical and mechanical systems. However, even though the colonists ultimately win recognition from Earth, in the final barrage of the Moon, MIKE is knocked about quite violently and when rebooted no longer has sentience.

    The novel is about liberty, desire, and self-awareness. Libertarianism, a key concept in the book, is evaluated and examined with more voracity than any professional political pundit could do and yet, at the end you are left wondering-did it work? For at the end of the story, Heinlein leaves much open. It appears he wanted to let his reader decide the true fate of the revolutionaries. The novel is more than just a fiction book about libertarian revolution on the Moon, it is provides a true social and political critique on the system of government that exists in the United States. There are many threads of thought and consciousness the run through the book that require the reader not only to just read and possibly understand the story, but to question the story. And, as always to recognize "TANSTAAFL" or there ain't no such thing as a free lunch!

    This Hugo Award-winning novel is a true testament to Heinlein's writing genius and style and in my opinion is possibly his greatest work. This book should be required reading for any individual who questions the motives of the society in which they reside and anyone interested in libertarianism, government authority, and freedom.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 28, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    The best Heinlein and probably one of the best sf books written.

    Heinlein at his best as he works in sex, freedom, economics, artificial intelligence, family, government and a host of other topics. Even if you don't agree with his point of view, RAH at least makes you think and think deep about your own beliefs.<BR/><BR/>Personally, I think this is the best of Heinlein's early and middle works. He was about to go off the deep end (in many ways) with his next book - Stranger in a Strange Land.<BR/><BR/>markf

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2004

    By Far One of the Best Novels I Have Ever Read!

    The subject line says it all, really. Manuel Garcia O'Kelly (Davis!) is a great protagonist and the world in which he lives is just as real as our own. It is no surprise this garnered Heinlein's fourth Hugo Award. Everyone should read this amazing novel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2013

    I agree. This may have been Heinlein's best work. Can't think of

    I agree. This may have been Heinlein's best work. Can't think of anything else to add. If you haven't read it, you've seriously missed a winner!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2013

    Absolutely incredible.

    Absolutely incredible.

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  • Posted February 7, 2013

    This is one of my favorite books of all time. I first read it in

    This is one of my favorite books of all time. I first read it in junior high school. I am now 58 years old. I have read it at least ten times in the past 40 years, and it still has the magic. Heinlein's was brilliant, I've read all his stuff, and this is, in my view, his best work. WHY IS THIS NOT A NOOK BOOK???

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2011

    The moon may be harsh but the politico is cunning

    If you are ready to get serious about your science fiction then it is time to pick up this book and start your journey. There are numerous social undertones regarding the political machine and social architecture. Be prepared to think and assess the daily institutions while reading a sci-fi.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2007

    Fantastically Futuristic

    This is a great story that is in fact so great that many movies have based their plots on some of this book's ideas. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is a sci-fi fan's must-read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2006

    Really go view on Libertarianism

    I read this book after reading Starship Troopers (another book I also recommend) and heard it was about Libertarianism. Libertarianism was something I had always been interested in, and I had debated for a while becoming one, after reading this book I realized thought it did present Libertarian ideals it wasn¿t wholly about Libertarianism. The book didn¿t make me a Libertarian, thought it did present some interesting that I agreed with and others I didn¿t. I am what I call a ¿Me-ist¿ meaning I form my own opinions about things and vote for what ever candidate agrees with me most, I don¿t believe in parties in politics. The science fiction aspects of the book are not over casted by the political aspects, if anything it was other way around. The whole concept of the Mega Computer Mike is very believable, and so is how humans would have to adjust to the gravitational differences of Earth and the Moon. It¿s a real good Hienlein Novel, I would suggest it to any of my friends. Any Sci Fi fan should pick this book up.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2003

    An ongoing delight

    There are great writers and some of them are great storytellers, too. Heinlein was enough of both to deserve, get and maintain an ongoing cultural influence: he still attracts people early and holds them late. He called himself 'a minor celebrity', but how many writers still deliver the goods forty years later? As suggested by its evocative title (look it up!), this is one of his best. It's rich in cultural and technical detail: there's a moon colony reminiscient of Botany Bay, but with a population from all over earth. There's an Authority prescient of any large, indifferent megacorporation working its contractors, ensaddled by a distant world government. Finally there are four would-be revolutionaries: one stunning blond heroine in Afro makeup; an elderly South American professor blending nods to Marx and Rand with a solid base of Jefferson and Thomas Paine. There's a reluctant, middle-aged, one-armed, apolitical computer jock/micromachanic who hosts and narrates. Finally, there's an enthusiastic, newly-awakened, multiply-personaed computer, operating off a small fraction of the horsepower of this laptop: which alerts one to the possibilities. Together these odd bedfellows put together the next one that works. It's modeled after the American Revolution, of course, because Heinlein loved the United States most of all. But he was a bedrock realist who didn't go glossing flaws, except, maybe a little, for fun and effect. 'Logic is a frail reed, friend,' he wrote once, so if you think he's sounding a little dogmatic, you can be sure there's some low chuckling behind it. There's enough spice in this crowd to recall the old Australian's remark: 'Aren't you glad they got the Puritans and we got the crooks!'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2002

    One of Hienlien's best

    This book is one of the most captivating books I have ever read. Heinlein grabs you with wonderfully written characters, a hilarious sentient computer and a penal colony on the edge of a revolution. If you've read Heinlein you'll definitely want to try this book. If you haven't, it¿s a great place to start. Don't forget to read it's sequel, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, and TCWWTW companion books Time Enough for Love and To Sail Beyond the Sunset.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2001

    A Great Choice

    This is definetly one of the classic science fiction books. It's one of my favorite. If you like science fiction you should defienetly read this. The way it talks about politics, and sentience of machines is great. There's a lot to learn from it. Also, there is a sequeal, it's called 'The Cat who walks through walls.' It's also a squeal to 'Time Enough for Love.' It's a good one to read, but look out for the ending.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2001

    One of the best stories I've ever read. I never get tired of it!

    This is one of my all-time favorite stories. Heinlein does a tremendous job of including all the details you need to know about, and balancing that with a quick pace that keeps you turning pages. The characters are all well-defined and believable. Even the slang terms and mode of speech are altered to convey how different lunar culture is from our own.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2001

    EASILY ONE OF HEINLEINS BEST

    General Heinlein: Tom Clancy, David Webber, and Stephen King all credit Heinlein as thier mentor. More need not be said about the three decade all time Sci-Fi Grand Master, but this. If you haven't read Heinlein, you haven't yet lived. First Sci-Fi to Movie, The recent topical hit movie Star Ship Troopers (a novel's always better, and RAH's SST is no exception), a perennial collective Best Seller (30 Million in print ten years ago!) Never off the shelves in even the poorestly sci-fi stocked book store, you can't go wrong! Pohl Anderson, Larry Niven, Issaac Asimov, Anne McCafferty, and dozens of other GrandMasters and Masters of Fantasy and Sci-Fi all gave way willingly to the 'Dean of Science Fiction'; He is and was a legend of American Literature. Perhaps only Hemingway and Clancy can challange his overall popularity. Don't miss the experiences! IMHO, THIS IS PROBABLY RAH's most under rated book. Meet A Sentient Computer of the best kind, and enter a world of wonder as RAH develops the Moon into such a believable place, you want to move there immediately -- or at least as soon as the Revolutionary War with the Earth Federation is over. A grand romp through politics, people, behavior, physics, cabals, intellegence networks (Spys), public relations (press) and humor told as only the Dean really knew how. Clancy and Webber still have a few tricks to learn to reach this level of narrative mastery.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2000

    Just about my favorite book

    This is an engrossing book, one I have read many times. It combines true science fiction (something that could never happen in the current day and age) with amazing plotting and character development -- the mark of a truly good story teller. I have often wondered about the ending (which I won't spoil for you), because Heinlein never TELLS us what happened to Mike. Read this book, you won't be sorry.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2000

    good good good good book

    this is a very good book. i think that i am going to read it again. if you like heinlein READTHISBOOK do it now or i will hurt you. read it now , fast, it is too good to miss

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2000

    One of the best scifi books ever written

    I've been writitng reviews of my top five SciFi novels of all time (If it lends some credibility, the other four are 'Dune' 'Hyperion' 'Ender's Game' and 'Harvest of Stars'. Anyway, this is Heilein's best book. Granted, he tossed out some losers, but he also wrote other great ones, like 'Stranger...Strange Land' and 'Starship Troopers'. This is a book about a revolution on the moon, which is a prison/farm planet for the masters on earth. There are five or six central characters, all interesting and 'rootable', one of them the Warden's Computer, which has become self aware, and throws in with the revolution. It is not a big book, but it is funny, action packed, and sweet. You will read it again and again over the years, fondly.

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    Posted October 27, 2008

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    Posted January 31, 2009

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    Posted September 2, 2009

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