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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A.…
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The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966)

by Robert A. Heinlein

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: World As Myth (prequel)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
6,733100552 (4.18)1 / 250
  1. 122
    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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Showing 1-5 of 99 (next | show all)
In this review I'm going to explore one specific aspect of the book The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein which I have just finished reading; this is the political philosophy of Rational Anarchy and how it can help to address the following:

That we were slaves I had known all my life — and nothing could be done about it. True, we weren't bought and sold — but as long as Authority held monopoly over what we had to have and what we could sell to buy it, we were slaves.

What is Rational Anarchy?

Exactly what a Rational Anarchist believes is defined by one of the characters:

… concepts such as ‘state’ and ‘society’ and ‘government’ have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame . . . as blame, guilt, responsibility are matters taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else. But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluations, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world ... aware that his effort will be less than perfect yet undismayed by self-knowledge of self-failure.

So while the Rational Anarchist appreciates that some form of government is required he believes that it is merely just a collection of individuals making individual choices. How would government differ if all politicians took personal responsibility for their choices? Would different choices be made? Rational Anarchy then is anarchy at an individual level as each person strives to makes rational decisions in the context of the environment, customs and constraints he or she lives in:

My point is that one person is responsible. Always. If H-bombs exist—and they do—some man controls them. In terms of morals there is no such thing as a ‘state.’ Just men. Individuals. Each responsible for his own acts.

It’s interesting to note that the typical reaction when anarchy is mentioned is that the default thought is one of no government and no laws, the assumption being that people would then act purely in their own self-interest. The concept of Rational Anarchy isn't about this as it uses phrases such as,"...self-responsible individuals" and "Each responsible for his own acts." This suggests recognition of a level of constraint over and above total self-interest where people would just do as they please without fear of retribution. An example given in the book:

There is no rape in Luna. None. Men won’t permit. If rape had been involved, they wouldn't have bothered to find a judge and all men in earshot would have scrambled to help.

But we figure this way: If a man is killed, either he had it coming and everybody knows it — usual case—or his friends will take care of it by eliminating man who did it. Either way, no problem. Nor many eliminations. Even set duels aren't common.

So the society portrayed, while there may not be laws to protect the population, had certain customs in place which people have individually chosen to accept.

An interesting idea indeed and only one of the many explored in this fascinating and well plotted book. ( )
  Rob.Thompson | Nov 22, 2014 |
I expected something much different from the synopsis. I imagined something more similar to HG Wells's The Time Machine. Probably because I categorize these two books as "old sci-fi books", even though they aren't even in the same century ha. But I imagined something dense with a lot of description and old sci-fi style. Instead, I got culture shock, first person dialogue, a subtle treatise on government and revolution, and a theoretical question about the meaning of sentience. It was fascinating.

At first I was annoyed at two specific things: the language and the attitude towards women on Luna. The dialogue slang felt like a cheap trick that was just hacked off English plus a smattering of references to other languages. And the obnoxious whistling and treatment towards women seriously threw me off. But then about two hundred pages into the book, my annoyance dissipated somewhat. It's always a little difficult to sink into the world when it's radically different. And I think the Loonies's slang and cultural differences is definitely something that needs a lot of time for the reader to adjust. I guess it also helped that the seemingly-chauvinistic attitude was more of blatant appreciation. Crude on "Terra", but normal on Luna, I suppose. Like I said: culture shock. But I made my peace with these problems and found myself more enraptured by the plot. But please note, I did not like ANY of the female characters. So I might have made peace with it, doesn't mean I approved entirely.

I was definitely not expecting how much time Heinlein put into the ideology of government. It almost felt like a salute to Machiavelli's The Prince in how it describes the way to establish a revolution and then the resulting government. How to rule, one might say. I love how Heinlein put in opposing theories and then made them clash a little. The Loonies's faux Congress was fascinating in its infancy - especially because I could understand why Man gave the ultimatum to fire the yammerhead idiot, but Prof almost resigned if that happened. Freedom of speech, even for idiots, or a much-needed smackdown of idiots. Situations like that really made the book for me. Things like implementing a monarchy over democracy, or using an honest man to lie for you unknowingly, or the motivation of man and revolutions. This book was layers deep. Not just an easy story to read, unless you felt like skimming through the book. But it holds so much potential for thought. Lovely.

I also noted a lot of references from this book! "Salty" and "Simon Jester" were both like red flags when I read them. I was surprised that it stemmed from this book.

I vaguely mentioned this before, but I was really surprised at the first person dialogue. It's been a while since I've read such a first person limited, dialogue-heavy book. It's not common at all. I... was very uncomfortable with this style of writing for the first 100 pages or so. It felt clunky (and it didn't help that the slang sounds really uneducated and sloppy). But I did settle into it. It helped that Man was a person that the reader liked and wanted to succeed. Sometimes it frustrated me because I'd rather have a clever protagonist that makes the situations than one that falls into place. Mike was more the director than Man for the majority of book. But this sort of first person limited perspective made the revolution and raw emotional side of the book more realistic. It gave more impact of what kind of people (ex-convict and unwanted) were stranded on Luna. It was different. And I do think it worked quite well. And I did appreciate the obvious humor than the main character's name was Man. Ha.

I must say, though, I didn't really like Mike. It was rather cute at first when he was shyly creating his own jokes and such. And then he turned into the mover, the shaker of the story. And I prefer my main character to do the action. So I got a little bored in the middle when things were always going within his calculations. But only a little, because the next stages of revolution were quite interesting. I wish the interaction between Mike and Man was more fleshed out in the story. A couple times that Man felt annoyed at Mike... I feel like there was something underlying there. Sometimes it seems that Heinlein only put Mike there was for a computer ex machina to actually give the Loonies a fighting chance. Rather than an insight into science fiction exploration of what it means to have artificial intelligence and all of the implications it might have on humanity. But eh, I guess you can't fit everything into one book.

I think the ending was a bit of a cop out, to not let us see what would happen with a supercomputer that would potentially outlive everybody, that would be in control of everything, that could potentially grow bored.... but I suppose that is another story in itself. At least the story did wrap up quite nicely.

3.5 stars, rounded up. It was very good. But it didn't click with me entirely. But honestly, if I were rating purely on the writing and plot and the story, I'd give it a solid 4 stars. However, I read books for enjoyment, edification, and eh some sort of resonance. The book has to resonate with me to rate it highly. I feel a little silly basing my rating just on feelings rather than statement facts, but it really didn't grip me. Is that enough reason to not give it a higher rating? Maybe. Maybe not. But it's enough for me to dock it half a star. So there's that.
Definitely recommended for those who like sci-fi (be aware it's less fantasy than modern sci-fi). Classic book. ( )
  NineLarks | Sep 15, 2014 |
I expected something much different from the synopsis. I imagined something more similar to HG Wells's The Time Machine. Probably because I categorize these two books as "old sci-fi books", even though they aren't even in the same century ha. But I imagined something dense with a lot of description and old sci-fi style. Instead, I got culture shock, first person dialogue, a subtle treatise on government and revolution, and a theoretical question about the meaning of sentience. It was fascinating.

At first I was annoyed at two specific things: the language and the attitude towards women on Luna. The dialogue slang felt like a cheap trick that was just hacked off English plus a smattering of references to other languages. And the obnoxious whistling and treatment towards women seriously threw me off. But then about two hundred pages into the book, my annoyance dissipated somewhat. It's always a little difficult to sink into the world when it's radically different. And I think the Loonies's slang and cultural differences is definitely something that needs a lot of time for the reader to adjust. I guess it also helped that the seemingly-chauvinistic attitude was more of blatant appreciation. Crude on "Terra", but normal on Luna, I suppose. Like I said: culture shock. But I made my peace with these problems and found myself more enraptured by the plot. But please note, I did not like ANY of the female characters. So I might have made peace with it, doesn't mean I approved entirely.

I was definitely not expecting how much time Heinlein put into the ideology of government. It almost felt like a salute to Machiavelli's The Prince in how it describes the way to establish a revolution and then the resulting government. How to rule, one might say. I love how Heinlein put in opposing theories and then made them clash a little. The Loonies's faux Congress was fascinating in its infancy - especially because I could understand why Man gave the ultimatum to fire the yammerhead idiot, but Prof almost resigned if that happened. Freedom of speech, even for idiots, or a much-needed smackdown of idiots. Situations like that really made the book for me. Things like implementing a monarchy over democracy, or using an honest man to lie for you unknowingly, or the motivation of man and revolutions. This book was layers deep. Not just an easy story to read, unless you felt like skimming through the book. But it holds so much potential for thought. Lovely.

I also noted a lot of references from this book! "Salty" and "Simon Jester" were both like red flags when I read them. I was surprised that it stemmed from this book.

I vaguely mentioned this before, but I was really surprised at the first person dialogue. It's been a while since I've read such a first person limited, dialogue-heavy book. It's not common at all. I... was very uncomfortable with this style of writing for the first 100 pages or so. It felt clunky (and it didn't help that the slang sounds really uneducated and sloppy). But I did settle into it. It helped that Man was a person that the reader liked and wanted to succeed. Sometimes it frustrated me because I'd rather have a clever protagonist that makes the situations than one that falls into place. Mike was more the director than Man for the majority of book. But this sort of first person limited perspective made the revolution and raw emotional side of the book more realistic. It gave more impact of what kind of people (ex-convict and unwanted) were stranded on Luna. It was different. And I do think it worked quite well. And I did appreciate the obvious humor than the main character's name was Man. Ha.

I must say, though, I didn't really like Mike. It was rather cute at first when he was shyly creating his own jokes and such. And then he turned into the mover, the shaker of the story. And I prefer my main character to do the action. So I got a little bored in the middle when things were always going within his calculations. But only a little, because the next stages of revolution were quite interesting. I wish the interaction between Mike and Man was more fleshed out in the story. A couple times that Man felt annoyed at Mike... I feel like there was something underlying there. Sometimes it seems that Heinlein only put Mike there was for a computer ex machina to actually give the Loonies a fighting chance. Rather than an insight into science fiction exploration of what it means to have artificial intelligence and all of the implications it might have on humanity. But eh, I guess you can't fit everything into one book.

I think the ending was a bit of a cop out, to not let us see what would happen with a supercomputer that would potentially outlive everybody, that would be in control of everything, that could potentially grow bored.... but I suppose that is another story in itself. At least the story did wrap up quite nicely.

3.5 stars, rounded up. It was very good. But it didn't click with me entirely. But honestly, if I were rating purely on the writing and plot and the story, I'd give it a solid 4 stars. However, I read books for enjoyment, edification, and eh some sort of resonance. The book has to resonate with me to rate it highly. I feel a little silly basing my rating just on feelings rather than statement facts, but it really didn't grip me. Is that enough reason to not give it a higher rating? Maybe. Maybe not. But it's enough for me to dock it half a star. So there's that.
Definitely recommended for those who like sci-fi (be aware it's less fantasy than modern sci-fi). Classic book. ( )
  NineLarks | Sep 15, 2014 |
It’s not easy writing a short review of a major classic in the science fiction circles. It’s almost as if you have to write a positive review to really be “accepted.” Fortunately that’s not this review!

I like Heinlein’s shorter novels such as Farmer in the Sky, Starship Troopers and Space Cadets. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, story of a revolution against the harsh yolk of Authority from Earth, is a drawn-out ramble in deep need of editing.

Despite the rambling dialogue and pages & pages of family life and long commentaries on social etiquette on the Moon, there are several interesting themes throughout.

Manuel is an engineer and is disabled, and is able to put on various “arms” that he uses in his work. He has an extended or “line” family where you can have several wives and different levels of husbands. This gets confusing but is fun to read about. Heinlein’s version of new future relations no doubt. These are frowned on when Manuel gets back to Earth looking for acceptance for his new government on the Moon, even to a point of a jail sentence for polygamy!

Manuel’s friend is a computer that has achieved sentience -- Mike! Mike slowly learns the personalities of those around him as he develops his own. Unlike “computer comes to sentience and kills his creator”-type of stories, Mike becomes indispensable in rallying the humans to throw off the yolk of oppression.

Heinlein’s commentaries on governments, libertarian ideals and forcing acceptance through meteor-throwing are also interesting. Lots of people die in this novel – certainly not a young adult book! – But the reader does not have time to mourn as we move on through the book.

Bottom Line:

The book makes some very discussion-worthy comments on marriage & relationships, government oppression, the true meanings of freedom and what that costs and the realization that there really is no such thing as a free lunch!

Recommended for its place in science fiction and being brave enough to tackle the themes of the day, but be prepared for a long and at times tedious read!
( )
  jmourgos | Sep 12, 2014 |
Stranger was pervasive when I was a kid and I knew it by heart along with the crowd. Had I read this then, who knows? I’m almost to sorry to have visited Heinlein again now, as I’ve thought ‘grok’ the greatest of invented words, and I owe him an introduction to Rodin’s sculpture (his descriptions of which I nearly know, still, by heart). As for the gist of the story, strictly I’ve forgotten, but I was in the spirit at the time.

I remember I ‘read around’ the women, ignored their presence… I kind of pretended they were pets. That must have been the habit of the day, to cope with such as Heinlein: I’ve lost that trick these days, and have to slap on this book a warning label for Graphic Sexist Content. My God. But let’s move on.

Maybe, against any sense or sanity, I’ll go back and find out what that other Mike was about (this book has Mike the Computer, everybody’s favourite character). My very bones rebel in me against what this book was about. But my bones are inarticulate, and I probably should have known better than to read a Heinlein at my age. I was tempted in by ‘prison moon throws off its shackles’ but this was a strangely unimpassioned revolution whose cause was material self-interest and whose slogan, of course, you know. I might have been into his polyamorous families, except that his emphasis is on family values (familiar ones), the single life is despised as usual, and snippets like the information that no male in this ongoing group family has ever washed the dishes, undercut the project for me.

I enjoyed the yarn. Rattling along with dialogue; one scene of dialogue straddled three chapters, I swear; I think he even dispensed with stage directions. I’ll happily listen to people talk and interact, for whatsoever page count you like; on the other hand, the equal page count of communications technology was for another audience than me. Living in a convict colony myself, I note the Aussie slang. I did want to see more of Mike. ( )
  Jakujin | Aug 22, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 99 (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 (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Heinlein, Robert A.primary 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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Epigraph
Dedication
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.
Quotations
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 7 descriptions

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