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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 ratingMentions
8,668154635 (4.13)346
Winner of the 1967 Hugo award, this novel marked Heinlein's partial return to his best form. He draws many historical parallels with the War of Independence, and clearly shows his own libertarian political views. In what is considered one of his most hair-raising, thought-provoking, and outrageous adventures, the master of modern Sci-Fi tells the strange story of an even stranger world--twenty-first century Luna, a harsh penal colony where a revolt is plotted between a bashful computer and a ragtag collection of maverick humans--a revolt that goes beautifully until the inevitable happens. But the problem with the inevitable is that it always happens.… (more)
  1. 152
    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. 00
    Constellation Games by Leonard Richardson (bertilak)
  4. 11
    Freehold by Michael Z. Williamson (enrique_molinero)
  5. 00
    Moving Mars by Greg Bear (aspirit)
    aspirit: Similar themes but with a Mars/Earth conflict.
  6. 00
    Radio Freefall by Matthew Jarpe (psybre)
    psybre: Lunar mayhem, and not just due to rock and roll, either.
  7. 11
    Illusions of Tranquility [short fiction] by Brendan DuBois (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: This short story puts a new twist on Heinlein's libertarian moon colony.
  8. 01
    Moon of Mutiny by Lester Del Rey (infiniteletters)
  9. 01
    Pallas by L. Neil Smith (enrique_molinero)
  10. 01
    The Merro Tree by Katie Waitman (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For the seeds of revolution.
  11. 02
    The Unincorporated Man by Dani Kollin (MyriadBooks)

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» See also 346 mentions

English (150)  Swedish (2)  Slovak (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (154)
Showing 1-5 of 150 (next | show all)
"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."

Revolutionary moon men!
( )
  CatherineMachineGun | Jul 31, 2020 |
For a 1960 sci-fi book, it was pretty good. A treatise on economics and politics in a completely new society on the moon. Interesting and insightful. Heinlein is one of the masters, and this one is pretty good. ( )
  JohnKaess | Jul 23, 2020 |
Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is on many lists of the best sci-fi works of all time, and likely it is. In fact, it’s considered by some to be Heinlein’s greatest work. Not by me, or those with a brain, but by some. It introduced a few new ideas, like the sentient computer stolen borrowed in 2001 a Space Odyssey.

On the other hand, it reintroduced an old idea – stupid, sexist bullshit. Sorry, I love Heinlein, but this book makes me hurl. Here’s the plot up to page 143:

Manuel O’Kelly is the best computer technician on Luna, the moon colony that has evolved from being solely a penal colony to one where most of its residents are free. Manny has been tasked with fixing the master computer that keeps the colony operating. However, Manny knows something no one else knows: Mike, the computer, has come “alive.” No one else knows about Mike because he has somehow decided they are all “stupid” and won’t talk to them.

Manny attends a meeting, which turns out to be a rally for a group of revolutionaries wanting freedom for the moon colony. There, he meets a woman revolutionary leader, and an anarchist professor. The police raid the rally, but somehow the cops are all killed and the three heroes escape. The three meet later and decide to form a full revolution. They enlist Mike’s help, and we learn all the important details of how they will structure their cells of revolutionaries so no one knows more than a few people involved, and how they will set up their phone communication.

Those two paragraphs took 143 pages. Oh, there’s other stuff, like how the males show a female respect and appreciation for her beauty by looking her up and down and whistling (and she loves it, because women always love being lusted after by strangers), and how polyamorous marriages work (I think Manny’s senior wife is his mom – Ew). There’s also the fact that women seem to be for 1) sex, 2) looking pretty, and 3) leading groups without actually doing anything useful. It’s all very disappointing given his tendency for strong, independent female characters.

There’s nothing else in the book that didn’t either bore me or annoy me. It would have been fun watching Mike grow, but being a supercomputer, he grew in leaps. Mostly, it was like watching CSPAN. Too much of the book is basic libertarian bullshit. Government bad; Hulk smash. Yeah, we get it. There are also other themes, like a racially diverse moon society where prejudice based on race doesn’t exist. However, Heinlein, in 1966, couldn’t foresee a world where others didn’t think this a horrible idea. So in 2075 Earth, our hero meets the same old prejudices when he visits the home planet and they learn of his interracial lifestyle.

Heinlein should be credited for creating a world (in a twisted, Gene-Roddenberry-on-sinsemilla kind of way) free of some of the societal confines that existed in his time. However, the book still comes across as vaguely racist, strongly sexist, and overtly kinky. The thing about creating a new society is that you have to actually believe such a society can be stable and embrace the fact that most people living within the context of the story will accept the rules you create irrespective of how alien they might be. I would be hard-pressed to believe a society that discards judging people by color, religion, or ethnicity would value woman based on how well they switch their hips when they walk. (No, I’m not making that shit up.)

Here he’s created his libertarian utopia, but it’s oppressed by the rest of mundane society. And rightly so. Nothing happens in it, except a bunch of preachy people bemoaning society.

I’ve come to two conclusions. The first is that writers take their “intellect” way too seriously. I’ve also come to the conclusion that once anyone of influence tags a book important, few ever have the guts to object. Well, let me object: I’ve read a lot of Heinlein’s books and this is one of his worst.

So that’s two “master works” this month, if you’re keeping score: Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Boredom and Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Jiggly Ho. In them, we learn 1) the writers think thinking is more important than doing, and 2) if you make an intellectual book, no matter how boring, there are those who will love it, in order to feel superior to the “peons” who think books should be interesting, and 3) brilliance is perishable. Let’s hope that in 75 years, no one is teaching our great-grandkids why Twilight was the 21st century’s master work.

If you review a book, and it makes you think, but you’re secretly bored, don’t be ashamed to admit it. My name is Bill. I think for a living. I don’t want to think that hard when I’m off work. This book didn’t suck, but neither did my accounting text. It just wasn’t fun, although I wanted it to be. ( )
1 vote billjonesjr | Jun 25, 2020 |
"A Book set in the future" ( )
  expatb | Jun 8, 2020 |
What do you want us to do? Throw rocks at them?

Nah, but we could have a tea party.

Wow. I'm still amazed at how good this Revolution novel has held up over the years. I had read it twice before this latest re-read, but it hasn't lost any of its charm.

Of course, I love Heinlein's heavy reliance on self-reliance, libertarianism, and TANSTAAFL. I'm lucky to have read him early so as to be fully indoctrinated in this gung-ho politicism of Rational Anarchy and I can laugh and whoop and grin foolishly all the while.

But I'm weird.

Still. When it comes to the story, the most amazing thing about this novel is not that it's set on the moon or that it has been populated with all of Earth's undesirables, or that they're economic slaves to the Earth. Nope. It's amazing that this book is actually a How-To-Guide on how to stage a successful revolution against a technologically and militarily superior foe, from initial planning, leverage, sleeper cells, and of course, political preparation, communication, diplomacy, and economics. And, of course, the resulting MASS DEATH of so many innocents. Can't forget that.

But I suppose the one thing that sticks in my mind most strongly is the planetary computer, Mycroft. What a guy/gal. He/she always gets me in the feels. That's leverage.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I keep on seeing tons of good revolution books or modern SF still stealing from this classic, either knowingly or unknowingly. Perhaps all AIs that show up in SF are a reply to Mycroft in one way or another. Who knows? This is the one that stands out supreme in my mind and perhaps always shall.

Call me a Lunatic. I dare you. ;)

This one won the Hugo in '66, but I also place it firmly in one of my top 100 novels of all time. :) Great stuff. :)

( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 150 (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
Bradbury, Raymistaken ascriptionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
James, LloydNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lippi, GiuseppeContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moore, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Patrito, MarcoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pinna, AntonangeloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warhola, JamesCover artistsecondary 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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