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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A.…

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966)

by Robert A. Heinlein

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: World As Myth (prequel)

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  1. 112
    The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: A different moon, a different anti-authoritarian community, but the same experience of thinking about other ways to run human societies
  2. 21
    Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (JFDR)
  3. 11
    Illusions of Tranquility [short fiction] by Brendan DuBois (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: This short story puts a new twist on Heinlein's libertarian moon colony.
  4. 00
    Constellation Games by Leonard Richardson (bertilak)
  5. 11
    Freehold by Michael Z. Williamson (enrique_molinero)
  6. 00
    Radio Freefall by Matthew Jarpe (psybre)
    psybre: Lunar mayhem, and not just due to rock and roll, either.
  7. 01
    The Merro Tree by Katie Waitman (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For the seeds of revolution.
  8. 01
    Pallas by L. Neil Smith (enrique_molinero)
  9. 01
    Moon of Mutiny by Lester Del Rey (infiniteletters)
  10. 02
    The Unincorporated Man by Dani Kollin (MyriadBooks)

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English (91)  Slovak (1)  All languages (92)
Showing 1-5 of 91 (next | show all)
Originally posted at FanLit.

??Sometimes I think that government is an inescapable disease of human beings. But it may be possible to keep it small, and starved, and inoffensive.ƒ?

Itƒ??s the year 2075. The Earth, which has a worldwide government of Federated Nations, sends its criminals and exiles to the moon where they wonƒ??t bother anyone on Earth. The ƒ??Looniesƒ? are governed by wardens who require them to grow hydroponic grain which is sent back to Earth. This has been going on for over a century, so the lunar colony is no longer just criminals and exiles. Theyƒ??ve had families and have built a society, but theyƒ??re still treated as Earthƒ??s slave labor force. They do work for Earth, but get no benefits. Now they want to be free.

When a computer technician named Mannie realizes that the moonƒ??s central computer (Mike) is sentient and lonely, he befriends it and they begin, with the help of a professor and a radical young woman, to plan a revolution. Along the way Mike keeps calculating the chances of their success as new developments occur.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is the story of the American Revolution (or it could be any revolution) in a science fiction context. Readers familiar with Robert A. Heinlein wonƒ??t be surprised that this is an anti-authority story ƒ?? Heinleinƒ??s libertarian views are on full display and those of us with a libertarian streak will be rooting for the ƒ??Looniesƒ? as they lament the inadequacies of representational government and demand a free market, a free press, voluntary rather than compulsory taxation, and the right for all citizens to be free and self-sufficient. (Heinleinƒ??s libertarianism borders on anarchism, though, and his characters donƒ??t seem to have a problem with stealing power, water, and phone services from the government, allowing the computer to steal money for their revolution, or rigging elections.) Heinleinƒ??s fans also wonƒ??t be surprised to encounter an incestuous type of polygamy in the ƒ??line marriagesƒ? of the lunar colony.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is one of my favorite Heinlein stories. Itƒ??s exciting and well-plotted, has strong male and female characters of all ages and races (perhaps Mike the computer is the best character, though!), has some humor, interesting ideas about the purpose of government, and I learned enough about how to run a revolution that I feel like Iƒ??m prepared to plan my own. Plus, a catapult on the moon? Thatƒ??s awesome! (Though Philip K. Dick did it first).

The style of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is noteworthy. The Loonies come from all over the Earth and have developed their own slang. Mannie narrates the story in a choppy voice that skips a lot of personal pronouns and articles and sounds like heƒ??s taking notes:

Proud of my ancestry and while I did business with Warden, would never go on his payroll. Perhaps distinction seems trivial since I was Mikeƒ??s valet from day he was unpacked. But mattered to me. I could down tools and tell them go to hell. Besides, private contractor paid more than civil service rating with Authority. Computermen scarce. How many Loonies could go Earthside and stay out of hospital long enough for computer school? ƒ?? even if didnƒ??t die. Iƒ??ll name one. Me. Had been down twiceƒ??

Listened to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress in audio format. Produced by Blackstone audio and read by Lloyd James. Took little while to get acclimated to Heinleinƒ??s strange style in audio, but Lloyd James did great job, and got hang of it after not too long. Loved what he did with Mike the computer. Recommend this version.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress was published in 1966 after being serialized in Worlds of If. It received a Hugo Award and was nominated for a Nebula Award.

ƒ??Free Luna! Luna shall be Free!ƒ? ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
This is one of my all-time favorite Sci-Fi books, and in fact, all time favorite books of any genre.

While somewhat dated, it still presents an alternative to the evolution of society as we know it that is in the end both positive and optimistic.

For me, it gives hope that the "little guy" can ultimately triumph against the large, corporate/government structure with a little luck and lots of hard work, intelligence, and courage.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good read with an optimistic outlook.
  MissJessie | Oct 16, 2013 |
-woordy ( )
  mykl-s | Aug 31, 2013 |
When a book has stood the test of time, has been deemed a "classic," reviewing becomes something of a futile effort. Like an art critic reviewing the Mona Lisa or the Sistine Chapel with anything short of awe and respect, reviewing a classic novel feels a little arrogant. How does one critique what is universally acknowledged?

One doesn't.

And so we come to the book: Robert Heinlein's "The Moon is Harsh Mistress." In the world of science-fiction, Heinlein is a giant, called the "dean of science-fiction" and seeing four of his books win the Hugo (a record, if I am not mistaken). Published in 1966, before Kennedy's moon shot had succeeded, it is clear that "Mistress" is looking far ahead in time, and I can only imagine how forward and revolutionary it was at the time, even if there are elements of it that feel dated now. As a classic, it's beyond me to critique, but I'll at least lend a few thoughts.

"The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is the story of a revolution, the rebellion of the lunar penal colony against the master nations of Earth told through the voice of a computer engineer who inadvertently finds himself at the center of events. Along with an aging professor, a beautiful agitator, and a computer that becomes self-aware (and is seeking a sense of humor, decades before Star Trek: The Next Generation had Data trying to understand humor), he leads the prisoners and free people of the Moon to attempt first the overthrow of a warden ruling the colony, and then the Earth's worldwide government that tries to put down the rebellion.

In contrast to the Gene Roddenberry idyllic version of the future--where worldwide government has resulted in perpetual peace and the end of economic tumult (or any visible economy at all, for that matter)--Heinlein's world of 2075 is gritty, dangerous, and free on the frontier (the moon), while the Earth is ruled by a large, bureaucratic government that is bloated and corrupt. Indeed, Heinlein's novel has rightly been called a novel of libertarian revolution. On the moon, laws are limited, government small, and only the strong survive.

Seriously. Like a penal colony in any frontier land, be it was the New World or Australia, the environment is harsh, the rules are only those that are created by common consent. In one scene, a cultural norm is broken when a tourist from Earth propositions a woman in a bar, misunderstanding the cues. Rather than push him out an airlock or compete in a duel to the death, both completely acceptable options in the lunar culture. Instead, a third option is proposed and followed--an impromptu jury with a respected member of the community serving as the judge. It hearkens back to medieval England and the power of the jury to nullify laws and set people at liberty to serve justice.

It's a little unnerving, but Heinlein's libertarian republic is by no means perfect, but sees elements that seem to echo the Russian communist revolution and the rise of a small, secretive group that manipulates the rest of the country to their own ends. Seeing the mix between a libertarian society and communist-like principles of revolution seems a little odd and occasionally out of place, but the integrity of the characters themselves lets the story carry to a simplistic conclusion where the heroes remain uncorrupted by the secret power they hold.

At the heart of the story is the phrase "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch," or TANSTAAFL as it is commonly known among the Loonies, or the natives of the moon. It's the idea that nothing is free, and to everything there is a cost. It's the idea that everything is negotiable, it is why the cost for freedom is high, and describes why in the end freedom is more available on the frontier where those who are strong enough are able to win the rewards of their labors. To his credit, Heinlein endorses the right to bargain ones efforts and resources with a simplicity that others, most particularly Ayn Rand, spend thousands of pages attempting: “It is ridiculous—pestilential, not to be borne—that we should be ruled by an irresponsible dictator in all our essential economy! It strikes at the most basic human right, the right to bargain in a free marketplace.”

Ironically, this does not lead to great wealth. Quite the contrary. His protagonist, not unlike every other lunar libertarian, describes himself as “Not wealthy, not weeping.” He has enough to be comfortable, but he’s not wealthy. What really matters is not lucre, but freedom to do as one chooses, to be responsible for ones choices, and to succeed or fail on the merits.

The problem is the state. While a necessary evil, its needs are secondary to the individual. A trip to Earth shows endless bureaucracy, lines to stand in, forms to be completed, licenses to be sought and obtained, taxes and fees to be paid. On the other hand there “are no circumstances under which State is justified in placing it’s welfare ahead of mine.” If the individual’s needs are subsidiary to the state, the individual is no longer free to choose.

Even if it does occasionally seem dated, Heinlein's genius is in looking ahead down the road of human history and imagining what might be. Without using technology that is so far advanced that it is more magic than science, Heinlein is able to focus on a story that just happens to take place over a hundred years down the road, though that story might just as easily have been set in the past or on our own planet. Whether it is creative family structures, a land with no laws but is crime free, or a jargon that bastardizes Russian, Chinese, and English, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” retains a timelessness that while perhaps not the most exciting read, is guaranteed to provoke thought and conversation for decades to come. ( )
2 vote publiusdb | Aug 22, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 91 (next | show all)
None of these complaints are to say that Harsh Mistress is a straight-up bad book. As with any Heinlein book, it offers a lot of food for thought and fodder for argument.
added by lorax | editio9, Josh Wimmer (May 2, 2010)

» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert A. Heinleinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
James, LloydNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lippi, GiuseppeContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Patrito, MarcoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pinna, AntonangeloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Pete and Jane Sencenbaugh
First words
I see in Lunaya Pravda that Luna City Council has passed on first reading a bill to examine, license, inspect—and tax—public food vendors operating inside municipal pressure.
There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.
TANSTAAFL (There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch)
We never did it that way again ... Alvarez was not a scientific detective.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Für die ersten Raumfahrer war sie das Ziel ihrer größten Sehnsüchte, doch nun ist Luna ein Hort der Alpträume geworden. Die Menschen haben den Mond in eine riesige Strafkolonie verwandelt. Niemand, der hierher verbannt wurde, hat die Chance, auf die Erde zurückzukehren. Das System ist allen verhaßt, doch keiner lehnt sich gegen die grausamen Unterdrücker auf - bis Mike, der gigantische Computer, für die Loonies Partei ergreift. Und plötzlich scheint alles möglich zu sein - selbst die Revolution auf dem Mond.
Ein Klassiker! Einer der fünf besten SF-Romane aller Zeiten.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312863551, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:39:44 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

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.

» see all 6 descriptions

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