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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Heinlein's three finest novels
I rank this among Heinlein's three absolutely magisterial novels (the other two being _The Door into Summer_ and _Double Star_).
I'm not altogether sure why it's regarded as a "libertarian" novel; although Heinlein was indeed calling himself a libertarian by the time he wrote it, there's nothing much here by way of a principled case for liberty. But it sure...
Published on Sept. 8 2003 by John S. Ryan

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2.0 out of 5 stars interesting to some, too breezy to get a full recomendation
This book contains interesting ideas about social reform that are relevent even today. The technology aspect is solid in regards to space and physics in general, but not as strong in areas of electronics and computing. Heinlein's strengths are from-the-hip confidence and and his well informed ideas about politics, rebellion, and adapting to new environments. I was...
Published on June 17 2000


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Heinlein's three finest novels, Sept. 8 2003
By 
John S. Ryan "Scott Ryan" (Cuyahoga Falls, OH) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Paperback)
I rank this among Heinlein's three absolutely magisterial novels (the other two being _The Door into Summer_ and _Double Star_).
I'm not altogether sure why it's regarded as a "libertarian" novel; although Heinlein was indeed calling himself a libertarian by the time he wrote it, there's nothing much here by way of a principled case for liberty. But it sure is some great storytelling.
It's 2076, see, and Luna is a penal colony (rather like Botany Bay). Projections indicate that it's losing natural resources at such a rate that it will become uninhabitable within a small number of years. So it's time to reenact the American Revolution.
But this time it's led by computer repairman Manuel Garcia O'Kelly Davis, "rational anarchist" Professor Bernardo de la Paz, rabble-rousing rebel Wyoming Knott, and a HOLMES IV computer named Mycroft who happens to have become sentient.
Okay, the technological projections aren't the most accurate (even for Heinlein, who didn't average all that well anyway). But man oh man, what a story.
And it's narrated by Mannie himself, in a thick Lunar dialect that owes a lot to Russian (and, one suspects, to Anthony Burgess's _A Clockwork Orange_). Heinlein does a wonderful job here, keeping the tone just right throughout the entire novel and never drifting into obscurity.
Heinlein made his original reputation with brilliant short stories, but this novel is one of the reasons he kept it. Nearly forty years after it was written, it's still on the shortlist of the best SF ever. Don't miss it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it in one sitting, Nov. 3 2003
This review is from: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Paperback)
I'm not embarrassed to admit that I actually got teary eyed at the end of this book. It was one of the most engrossing, well written books RAH penned. It proved that his "black belt" in writing was well deserved. Any SF fan would enjoy this book, period. I know a LOT of people that love SF and some that tolerate it. All really - really- liked this book.
Come on, RAH even did some time hopping in another novel to revisit the events of this one - and "save" a key character. As the old cereal commercial states "try it - you'll like it!"
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5.0 out of 5 stars Cast the first stone, March 17 2004
By 
Rocco Dormarunno (Brooklyn, NY) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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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5.0 out of 5 stars I like Mike., Jan. 13 2004
This review is from: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Paperback)
With TANSTAAFL for a screen name, how could I not review this book. ;-)
TANSTAAFL (There Aint No Such Thing As A Free Lunch) is the theme of this book and here Heinlein, unlike some of his other works, manages to intertwine his plot and theme without being too preachy.
Heinlein who, preachy or not, is always a great storyteller is at the top of his game with this one. The people of the moon, populated primarily by prisoners and their decendants a la Australia, rise up for a hopelessly outmanned and outgunned battle with Earth. The story is told through the eyes of an everyman hero, Manuel Garcia O'Kelly, jack of all trades and even master of a few of them. An everyman protaganist is, of course, helpful for the reader to identify with but Heinlein makes the book great, rather than good, with the inclusion of three of the most memorable characters in SF literature. Professor Bernado de la Paz, a veteran revolucianario full of contradictions, Wyoming Knott, who I do not want to describe here because you should discover her for yourself in the book, and Mycroft Holmes, not Sherlock's smarter brother, but rather the smartest computer who we know has reached sentience because he wants what we all want - to be loved.
If you have never read Heinlein, read this book.
If you have read Heinlein and haven't yet read this, read this book.
If you have already read this book, read it again, I have been re-reading it every few years for more than 30 years now, and I still love to read it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars One of Heinlein's Best, Sept. 6 2003
By 
Maggie (Austin, TX) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Paperback)
Standard Heinlein Disclaimer: Heinlein is a frequently polarizing figure in American literature. The people who dislike his work (e.g., A. Panshin) seem to *really* dislike his work, and often for reasons that seem to me spurious. The people who like his work are in many cases blind or too forgiving of Heinlein's problems as a writer. I like Heinlein's work quite a bit, and find all but two of his novels consistently enjoyable, but I would not rate any but one or possibly two of his books as being the "best of the SF genre." They are for me, however, always enjoyable, and that is no small thing to find in an author.
That said, this is one of those books for me. One of the typical knocks against Heinlein is that his books usually star the "Heinlein Hero," a brilliant, tough, sensible Renaissance man; hard if not impossible to kill, ever rising to the occassion. Manny, our hero in this book, is not one of those men. He is hardly brilliant, doesn't want to get involved, and is pitched into the main action of this story--an updating of the American Revolution, but set on/in the Moon (or "Luna")--almost by accident. Manny is, to be honest, one of my very favorite Heinlein characters. (One of the others being Henry Gladstone Kiku of "The Star Beast," but I digress.) Manny has a distinctive voice, and is one of the few characters of fiction who, for me, stays with me after the story.
The story itself is enjoyable, if a bit bumpily paced. To me it had a bit too much start and stop action, but I am completely willing to forgive that given how much I enjoy the characters, the setting, and the fascinating (to me) circumstances conjured by Heinlein in setting up his society in Luna. Not only has Manny stayed with me, but the Lunar society I find one of his most solid "worlds;" so much so that I was greatly pleased when he revisited it in a later book ("The Cat Who Walks Through Walls").
If you have enjoyed Heinlein but not read this book, I believe you will really like it. If you are a Heinlein detractor, I think the pacing and story of this book will not win you over. I love it, but hey, I'm weird.
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5.0 out of 5 stars science fiction for the social sciences, July 25 2003
By 
GeorgeWiman (Normal, IL United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Paperback)
Lots of almost-great science fiction stumbles on the 'science' part - you have to keep reminding yourself, 'Oh, that's a literary device to keep the story moving.' Examples include the evil critters in Alien, transporters in Star Trek, and so on.
You will NOT have that problem with The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Not only is it a great political-wartime thriller, but the science is rock-solid. There's nothing fundamentally impossible, and the numbers, where they appear, are right. This lets you sink deeply into the story without constantly having to suspend disbelief.
Briefly, the Moon is a penal colony of Earth and both worlds are in a deep economic crisis - only the moon doesn't know it yet. Enter a shifty computer-repairman who is the only person who knows that the colony's main computer has become sentient. Add a hot-headed revolutionary and a subversive polymath who use the computer to find out that everyone on the Moon will starve unless the balance of shipments is changed radically. The Earth won't listen, ergo, revolution.
But how to foment revolution? How to force powerful Earth to grant independence? How to keep the lights on and the air moving while Earth is dropping H-bombs? And how to to keep the computer, who doesn't 'understand' the urgency, entertained by the whole thing?
This gritty story should be read by high school students, political science majors, pacifists, generals, technologists, luddites...
I'd love to see this made into a movie, but only if Stanley Kubrick could do it, and he's slightly unavailable. Keep Spielberg away from it!
Heinlein is great at speculating how societies work under different conditions. This story is believable, engrossing, and reads as well now as the day it was written.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Heinlein's Best, July 6 2003
By 
not4prophet (North Carolina) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Paperback)
A recent and much-publicized poll by the Science Fiction Fan Club attempted to list the fifty greatest science fiction and fantasy works of the last fifty years, and "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" failed to make the cut. This just goes to show, I suppose, that some people still don't get it. This is a brilliant book, insightful, clever, thought-provoking, and one of only a few science fiction classics from the sixties that has aged well over the past four decades.
The story, of course, is set late in the twenty-first century, when the Moon is being used as a penal colony. A group of insurgents is working to overthrow the Authority, but progress is slow until the computer responsible for running communication and almost everything else becomes sentient and is talked into fighting on the side of the rebels. While the novel does contain a complete and coherent story arc, it essentially exists as a fairly episodic sequence of events, each one exploring specific topics. There are discussions ranging everywhere how to deal with a computer that develops a sense of humor to whether alternate family arrangements would be superior to our society's current norms. I may be deterring some potential readers with this description, so let me make two things clear. First of all, "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is peopled with a cast of distinctive and engaging characters, and they keep their personalities at all times even when they're planning or debating. Secondly, the writing in this book is outstanding. The most distinctive feature is the dialogue. Heinlein tried to predict what future English dialects might sound like based on trends that he saw in speech. The result is word choice and vocabulary that in some ways was a quite accurate prediction of how spoken language has changed in the last two generations. It should also be mentioned that Heinlein makes very efficient use of his sentences and paragraphs, leading to a book that covers a tremendous amount of ground in less than four-hundred pages.
Of course, the political and social aspects of "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" will probably always remain its most controversial feature. Heinlein has quite a bit to say about any number of topics; I won't attempt to summarize it all here. Some of it I agree with while other parts I'm strongly opposed to, but I don't judge novels by the stances of their writers. The important thing is he integrates his ideas into the story and presents them in a convincing manner. There are a few subtle hints which suggest that Heinlein didn't intend for his message to be taken entirely at face value (a fact which seems to have passed over the heads of a few readers), but in my mind any book that challenges the reader to think from new perspectives rather than just trying to buttress old ones qualifies as a success. Many political novels go to extremes of dichotomy, making one side universally noble and honest while the other team gets depicted as completely vile. One thing that I found refreshing about "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is that it readily admitted that even the good guys had to be duplicitous and occasionally criminal in order to win the day. Such honesty about politics is refreshing indeed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible, March 25 2003
By 
Corey Davis (Chapel Hill, NC, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Paperback)
Some people claim this book is sugar coated. The enemies are one dimensional and easily conquered. I'll concede that's true, to an extent. What makes the book shine, however, are the characters. Heinlein's technical and scientific descriptions show the heavy research that went into crafting this book. Radiation storms, catapults, etc. Sure, a giant immobile computer is a bit dated, but who cares? It's all about suspension of disbelief. If you're going to accept a colony on the moon and a man with 7 detachable arms, accept Mike, the computer.
Speaking of Mike..absolutely the most endearing artificial intelligence character I have ever come across. I was nearly in tears at the novel's conclusion (Man . . . Man my best friend . . . ). Mannie turns from a simple mechanic out to cheat Authority to a full blown leader. Prof is endearing and vicious at the same time. Stuart LaJoie, although somewhat underdeveloped, serves to amuse and delight.
A fascinating tale of rebellion, potentially realistic space travel, and a wonderful talking computer. One of Heinlein's best.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Like Mike, Feb. 25 2003
By 
Brian Almquist "-baa-" (Iowa City, IA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Paperback)
In many ways, this book has something for everybody. My wife assigned HARSH MISTRESS as the final reading to a class studying American revolutions. She finds the connections to American history interesting. Some are explicit, such as the Professor's own lectures on the importance of timing and foreign distraction in creating your own revolution. She also liked the historically appropriate "complainant pays" criminal justice system, and the penal colony environment.
For me, there was Mike. Mike represented the ahistorical link. American revolutionaries never really had their own Mike, the intelligent computer. Though depicted largely as a cobbled-together mainframe that just happened to stumble on the necessary capacity for sentience, Mike provides the means for looking at more contemporary revolution issues. For instance, his interference represents the imperfect communications monitoring that allows cell-structured groups to operate today. He also brings to mind the financing required to operate a disbursed and secretive group. It's cheaper to run than the US Military, but it still requires some seed money.
I'll assume that, >whoah!<, thinking computers were not even that amazing an idea back when Heinlein envisioned this book, though apparently personal computing was. That is kind of the quaint charm of the story, the sense that computers were this awe-inspiring thing that only a handful of technicians could understand. Eventually, interesting as Mike's initial explorations into human interaction are, he and the Professor jointly morph into the Heinleinian sidekick, while Manuel is your basic Heinlein First Person, albeit with neat-o changing arms and funky accent (this guy needs an action-figure toy). There's no point in remembering the name of The Blonde, because, well, the other "quaint" aspect of this book is how much of a non-entity she is.
Basically, MISTRESS is a book of ideas. That the ideas are so interesting is what makes it seem like the author had a fun time writing it. The plot is uneven, the characters so-so, and the conflict rigged with pushover antagonists. This book has become part of the libertarian freak flag because it has interesting things to say about justice, coercion, and economy, many of which today's would-be libertarians would do well to remember.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, Jan. 23 2003
By 
"mrtoad11" (Superior, CO United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (Paperback)
It is a shame that sci-fi is so easily written off by many people as geek fodder. This book has much in common with 1984 in that it has such an insightful view into how politics, and society itself for that matter, works. 1984 is considered by many to be a classic, but if you use the standard definition of sci-fi then it could be thrown in there, and if nobody had taken the time to see past the fact that the book takes place in the future, it easily could have been tossed aside like a cheap pulp novel and we wouldn't have learned so much from it. 1984 teaches us the mechanics of totalitarianism. Heinlein in this book shows us the mechanics of revolution against totalitarianism, and the view is slightly frightening. The tactics that must be resorted to in order to create a stable society based on individual freedom are not as idealistic as the end result. The main characters use schemes almost as treacherous as those used by people that create and maintain authoritarian governments. It is only because we can see inside their secret meetings, and for that matter their heads, that we know their motives are pure and we want them to succeed. However it makes it clear how both sides use propaganda and the wills of the people to accomplish their ends, and how revolutions can go wrong or only lead to equally as bad or worse governments if the people involved aren't honest.
Overall I would say that the information in this book is indispensable. Especially if you want to understand how politics really works, at the back room level, and how the rest is propaganda and bureaucracy. Anyone that liked 1984 will probably like this book, but with all due respect to George Orwell I would have to say that this one has a better plot and is more fun to read even if you're not as interested in the politics.
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The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein (Paperback - June 15 1997)
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