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It is a tale of revolution, of the rebellion of a former penal colony on the Moon against its masters on the Earth It is a tale of a culture whose family structures are based on the presence of two men for every woman, leading to novel forms of marriage and family It is the story of the disparate people, a computer technician, a vigorous young female agitator, and an elderly academic who become the movement s leaders, and of Mike, the supercomputer whose sentience is known only to the revolt s inner circle, who for reasons of his own is committed to the revolution s ultimate success Very disappointing 2.5 it s not terrible, but it s weaker than books I award 3 , and I enjoyed it far less.I know of Heinlein as a sci fi author and had heard of some interesting language type things that make this novel unique, principally a Lunar dialect Although it s mostly set in a lunar prison colony, just over 100 years after it was written and 60 ahead of now , it sof a political story, and the Lunar dialect is just a slightly stilted pidgin whose most notable features are the Very disappointing 2.5 it s not terrible, but it s weaker than books I award 3 , and I enjoyed it far less.I know of Heinlein as a sci fi author and had heard of some interesting language type things that make this novel unique, principally a Lunar dialect Although it s mostly set in a lunar prison colony, just over 100 years after it was written and 60 ahead of now , it sof a political story, and the Lunar dialect is just a slightly stilted pidgin whose most notable features are the omission of articles and pronouns, and the odd Russian influenced word.GOOD START, BIG IDEASIt starts off promisingly, immediately introducing big issues around artificial intelligence Mike short for Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock s brother is a supercomputer who enjoys jokes and playing pranks, which is an entertaining concept, but does he also have self awareness, free will, emotions, personality and so on The other principal character is Manuel aka Mannie and Man , who is Mike s chief programmer and engineer Oh, and a stupidly named woman, Why Not albeit spelt Wyoming Knott, but usually abbreviated to Wyoh.Then it threw in issues of prison, punishment, freedom, civilisation, redemption, and some of the practicalities of living on the moon low gravity, habitats, air, economics Oh, and different types of marriage necessitated by a society with a huge gender imbalance polyandry, clan marriage and line marriage though the details and differences were not clearly explained In this community, the scarcity of women gives thempower in relationships, which is a nice idea, but the opposite of what seems to be the case in China, decades after their one child policy was introduced, with reports of young women being abducted and forced into marriage.Most of the humans living in tunnels on Luna are free either the descendants of deported criminals, or they have served their time In either case, they are too acclimated to return to the high gravity of Terra There is no need for actual prisons, or even laws, because there is nowhere to escape to The main industries are ice mining, and hydroponic farming for the latter, they import fertilizer from Terra and then export the grain But why go to the expense of all the transport to and from Luna, when they could do the same in tunnels on Terra POLITICS, COLONIALISM and MORE POLITICSUnderstandably, some of the Loonies as they call themselves want independence from the exploitation of The Authority and its Warden, sent from Terra.Cue LOTS of socio political stuff It s not a long book, so I ploughed on, assuming it would return to form, but it didn t Instead, I read endless discussions of political theory and tactics it s all about the cell system and money laundering , meetings and diplomatic missions, and eventually view spoiler war hide spoiler There are plenty of parallels with GB and Australia, but nothing startlingly original.One thing Heinlein did get right was the fundamental importance of communications, including mobile and covert and also social media not that he called it that, but irreverent propaganda was used to undermine the Authority and create unrest However, everything seemed too easy Mike was such a super supercomputer, and he had no competition I kept waiting for something dramatic and unexpected to happen, but Mike was TOO omniscient and omnipotent for dramatic tension.ENDINGA few final paragraphs tried to bring it full circle, by contemplating computer consciousness and emotions, but it felt forced and rushed TANSTAAFL There ain t no such thing as a free lunch.My three favorite books of all time are in no order Heart of Darkness, The Dispossessed, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress When I first read this years ago I loved it, I could not put it down As Stranger in a Strange Land was a Robert A Heinlein vehicle for theology, so is Moon is a Harsh Mistress to ideology And just as The Fountainhead is the better, though less epic, of the pair with Atlas Shrugged, so is Moon is a Harsh Mistress, the TANSTAAFL There ain t no such thing as a free lunch.My three favorite books of all time are in no order Heart of Darkness, The Dispossessed, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress When I first read this years ago I loved it, I could not put it down As Stranger in a Strange Land was a Robert A Heinlein vehicle for theology, so is Moon is a Harsh Mistress to ideology And just as The Fountainhead is the better, though less epic, of the pair with Atlas Shrugged, so is Moon is a Harsh Mistress, thefocused and simple of the two, better than Stranger in a Strange Land I liked the setting, the use of libertarian principles and of course the brilliant work of the Grandmaster himself.This is a virtuoso science fiction futuristic re telling of the American Revolution Told from the first person recollection of a computer technician with thick Russian accent and of the birth and progress of the Lunar independence.The Moon Luna to it s residents who call themselves Loonies has been a penal colony for decades It is the perfect prison, get outside the underground warrens and beyond the air locks and you re on the moon Without a pressure suit, you re dead There are very little rules and no real laws, so a hardscrabble anarchy has created a loose but tough and resilient populace who want freedom.Certainly this libertarian paradise could have become an anarchistic hell, but in Heinlein s hard loving hands, his creation is the Free State of Luna This story tracks with the American Revolution with unfair and distant landowners, inept and uncaring provisional governors the warden and even a declaration of independence on the fourth of July Students of revolutionary movements will also see an allegory for throwing rocks as a statement about the earliest stages of discontent and reaction.First published in 1966, this was written at the zenith of his considerable powers and stands as a true classic of the genre I just re read this one the very few books that I have readthan once and may re read it again it s that good 2018 addendum it is a testament to great literature that a reader recalls the work years later and this is a book about which I frequently think A friend commented about Heinlein books and I realized as we talked that when I think about Heinlein, my mind automatically defaults to this book When I read SF I project this on that book and I wonder if that author read and was inspired This is on my short list of all time favorites and I think this should be on a very short list of greatest SF books of all time The Moon is a Harsh Mistress what a title, sometimes I wonder if this book is considered such a classic in large part due to that title Despite some imperfections, it does have much to offer, especially being published in the mid 1960 s The setting revolves around a former Lunar penal outpost, which has evolved into a highly functioning colony with ice mining and successful grain farming The colony is tightly managed by the Lunar Authority which is controlled from Earth Set in the later The Moon is a Harsh Mistress what a title, sometimes I wonder if this book is considered such a classic in large part due to that title Despite some imperfections, it does have much to offer, especially being published in the mid 1960 s The setting revolves around a former Lunar penal outpost, which has evolved into a highly functioning colony with ice mining and successful grain farming The colony is tightly managed by the Lunar Authority which is controlled from Earth Set in the later 21st century, Heinlein imagines an intriguing future, publicizing some groundbreaking technology and ideas We not only have sentient computers, rail guns, fusion power, space battles with laser guns, we also have a Lunar dialect, unique family and marital structures, and different social norms, sprung out of living in a harsh and compact environment After establishing this future, the book explores a lunar revolution Take the American Revolution narrative, mix it with the Australian evolution from a penal colony to an independent nation, stir in some libertarian ideology and you have the plot.When I first read this book in the mid 1980 s it was later high school or early college years, I can t quite remember I was astonished by the concepts in this book I was intrigued by the sentient computer and the concept of using a rail gun for space travel supply logistics Moreover, It was the first time I was truly interested in politics and political principles I mean, I had some lessons in high school around government, but I found it mind numbingly boring This book triggered something intellectually that made me think deeply about government philosophy Since then, I ve considered the book one of my favorite science fiction books, if not overall favorite books So, I almost regret this reread, afterwards, as I just couldn t ignore some of its flaws.The primary issue with this book is sexism I m sure at the time of its writing it was probably considered progressive in terms of how it treated female characters I mean one of the central figures of the revolt is a woman And the women on the moon control large, extended families with polygamous relationships Women are revered and sexual advances are not allowed without permission Advanced thinking for the early 1960 s, right Well, unfortunately, you only need to go one step deeper to dig down to the issues Women are only revered and not touched or raped due to their scarcity The constant threat of other males tossing violators out an airlock is what creates this situation It s still socially acceptable to catcall and ogle women, and in this reality, women enjoy this type of lecherous attention because they don t have to worry about rape While one of the central characters is one of four founding members of the revolution, her role is often to gain interest and support due to her attractiveness And when miners are reluctant to main defensive laser positions, the solution is to provide pretty women at the posts as well, problem solved Another issue includes a tremendous amount of exposition It does help that its written in first person, so at least the infodumps are coming from the mind of the protagonist, instead of an anonymous narrator The exposition also serves to move the plot along quickly at times, when complex setting, political, and technical information needs to be established However, it did limit my enjoyment to continuously run into large blocks of narration Despite these flaws, it s still an important book Using science fiction to explore political affairs and alternate social structures set a foundation that many future authors built upon Might we not have The Handmaids Tale without this book Possibly Was it brave in the 1960 s to explore alternate social structures such as polygamy Definitely Did the book popularize some intriguing concepts such as the importance of the moon s weak gravity well, sentient computers, and rail guns Absolutely In the context of history, I still rate this book highly However, I feel compelled to take away at least half a star in recognizing some underlying issues TANSTAAFL Four and a half stars, rounded up to five for this Hugo Award winning, philosophical yet action packed tale Ah, Heinlein SF s great paradox artist I am fairly certain that I have personally held every possible wrong viewpoint on the man Namely, that he was 1 A radically forward thinking visionary of libertarianism2 A raging fascist, homophobe, and misogynist3 Any point on the sociopolitical spectrum in between.It s not my fault Over the course of his career, Heinlein seemed to espouse every possible viewpoint on religion, government, and gender relations obviously, he liked to stick to small t Ah, Heinlein SF s great paradox artist I am fairly certain that I have personally held every possible wrong viewpoint on the man Namely, that he was 1 A radically forward thinking visionary of libertarianism2 A raging fascist, homophobe, and misogynist3 Any point on the sociopolitical spectrum in between.It s not my fault Over the course of his career, Heinlein seemed to espouse every possible viewpoint on religion, government, and gender relations obviously, he liked to stick to small themes , showing little tolerance for moderate opinions Without a blink of irony, he also placed a premium on pragmatism And the balance of pragmatism and idealism or, rather, the illusion that the two can coexist effortlessly is what The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is all about It is the story of a lunar colony s revolt, in the same way that The Fountainhead is a book about architects an insulting comparison Heinlein s prose is significantlyreadable than Ayn Rand s You see, it s really about libertarianism or, as one of the book s heroes characterizes it, rational anarchism So, a small group of revolutionaries attempts to liberate the moon from her Earthbound oppressors, and institute a perfect anarcho syndicalist commune in their stead They set about doing this, of course, with the help of a sentient supercomputer They organize the people of Luna, and succeed in overthrowing the existing government, but in so doing upset the nations of Earth After all, the moon has been shipping grain down to help feed Earth s starving masses, so they re a little cranky when the Lunies threaten to cut off the supply you d be cranky living on 1,800 calories a day too Coincidentally, the ruling philosophy on Luna is the maxim TANSTAAFL There Ain t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch I mentioned that Heinlein was subtle, right So they go to war, and then, in the novel s single biggest twist, the computer doesn t turn evil I could hardly believe it.Although the book is riddled with bizarre moments that nag one s attempts to suspend disbelief the most persistent being Mike the Computer s regular updates as to the revolutionaries probability of success, which starts out at 1 7, and then as everything proceeds to go perfectly to plan drops to as low as 1 100, in unapologetic defiance of all mathematical logic , the plot s weaknesses don t matter Heinlein is a gifted novelist, and a natural storyteller Even when the characters decide to take 10 pages off and simply talk politics for a while, it s enthralling And talk politics they do No one flinches at the notion of attempting to institute a perfect democracy run entirely by a handful of exceptional individuals, who themselves defer to the managerial expertise of a supercomputer no tyrannic potential there, right Nor do they worry themselves with the philosophical contradiction of attempting to forge a pacifistic state by means of terrorism and interplanetary warfare those who raise the issue, and thus violate Heinlein s worship at the Altar of Pragmatism, are conveniently Roslined out of the nearest airlock it s okay, they re wormy enough that you won t miss em But all of this simply serves to illustrate Heinlein s mastery of the ideological paradox He sthan smart enough to recognize the inconsistencies of his own personal politics, and to play with them to terrific effect Notably, Heinlein did not self dentify with the majority of his protagonists Instead, his Mary Sues are characters like Stranger in a Strange Land s Jubal Harshaw and, in the case of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Professor Bernardo de la Harshaw er, Paz They are cynical old men who are, in novel after novel, infallible, brilliant, well connected, and almost disturbingly capable.Exit thought why is it that the computer that makes the revolution possible just happens to share its name with the superhuman hero of Stranger In a Strange Land, both of whom disappear suddenly and inexplicably upon concluding their tasks