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on 16 April 2015
If you like Heinlein, you'll like this. Slightly annoying vernacular but I've read worse. One of his best.
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on 29 August 2014
probably the best SF ever written.
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on 31 December 2015
I couldn't finish this book, it has a great premise but it was just too hard to get to grips with the story line.
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on 18 May 2015
Amazing book
perfect delivery time
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on 24 April 2015
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.
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on 31 July 2015
One of the problems I have with a number of Robert Heinlein's books is that they tend to be episodic - a series of episodes rather than a complete integrated narrative. This would be fine if the next episode began before the previous one ended. That sort of overlap works for soap operas and would probably work for books too. But with Stranger in a Strange Land and Friday, the storyline seemed to evaporate halfway through before a new storyline began. With The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, it is different. There is ONE coherent storyline about the struggle of a former penal colony (think Australia) to secure independence fro Earth as the politicians down there are thinking about their own interests and not those of the nominally free people in the colony. Whilst the episodic stories have interesting aspects, I found them hard to finish. Stories like this are infinitely more enjoyable.
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on 11 January 2012
Luna is the Australia of the future. Populated largely by criminal transportees and their families, it supplies critically-needed food to a near-starving Earth. The "Loonies" are governed by a dictatorial warden and his small army of security guards. Luna seems like the most secure prison colony ever founded. There is truly no escape.

Mannie O'Kelly-Davis works for Luna's administration as a contract computer trouble-shooter. When the central computer achieves self-awareness and begins calling itself "Mike," Mannie is the first one to notice. Advising Mike to keep a low profile about his new-found sentience, Mannie becomes his "first and best friend." And they both get caught up in a revolutionary movement to free Luna.

I liked this when I read it as a kid. Rereading it as an adult was a thought-provoking experience. Luna's "revolution" is organized into COMINTERN-style cell system with elaborate security procedures and more than a little lying to and stealing from innocent people. A few even get killed. All of this highlights how young people can be drawn into such dubious enterprises in real life. As Mannie observes, "Kids will do anything which is mysterious and fun." All of this sneaking around has a Tom Sawyerish feel to it.

Disturbingly, everyone proceeds with the fanatical assumption that everything is secondary to the revolution. This allows lying, killing and stealing to proceed with few second thoughts. A less extreme stance might at least have had the revolutionaries struggling with these moral concerns a bit. Better would be having them proceed while balancing a number of concerns and values--like real, non-fanatical people do.

Still, it is a classic and worth reading. There are some recognizable early-Heinlein patterns. There is the "wise old man" who always knows the answer and advises the other characters. Nobody notices when he is inconsistent or just plain wrong. There is Heinlein's signature dualism in treatment of female characters. He praises them to the skies, then doesn't give them much more to do than bring coffee and ask the male heroes naïve questions. And there is all the talking. Characters are always describing things to each other. It's an okay technique, but in moderation--please!

Heinlein fans and scholars of mid-twentieth century science fiction: Buy it and read it! Other science fiction fans: Check it out of the library sometime. Knowing about it is a science fiction cultural literacy requirement.
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on 16 November 2003
This is my favorite Heinlein novel, and I've read all of Heinlein's works. It is a great mixture of adventure, humor, politics, technology, some thought provoking looks at alternate types of marriages, and the most lovable sentient computer ever to grace the pages of a novel. Mike (the computer) is really the star of this book, from loving to tell jokes, to deciding to help a group of revolutionary-minded Luna 'citizens' actually accomplish their dreams of freedom because the human interaction would keep him from being lonely.

Along the path to revolution, Heinlein, (as usual), inserts thoughts and ideas that challenge your basic assumptions about what is right, normal, necessary, or appropriate. Is a representative democracy the only 'good' form of government? What's so sacred about a 'majority'? How should a government finance itself? (Maybe make the representatives pay for their pet projects out of their own pocket - taxes not allowed!). Are polygamy, polyandry, or other forms of multiple marriage wrong or can they be used to help preserve the stability of a child-rearing environment? How do you most efficiently organize a revolutionary group that must be kept secret from the authorities (given the assumption that there will always be 'stool pigeons')?

Heinlein creates some great characters to go along with his re-worked story of the American Revolutionary war. Mannie Garcia, a computer maintenance man - the only 'real' one on Luna, is the focal character, an average, everyday person (for a Loonie) who gets caught up in the events almost in spite of himself. Professor Bernardo de la Paz is an intelligent, dry man, quiet but stubborn and with some radical ideas about government and individual responsibility, who becomes the intellectual heart of the revolution. But Mike steals the show, running all the myriad details of coordination, propaganda, logistics, and banking for the revolution, but painfully wanting contact with 'not-stupid' humans, trying desperately to understand just what it is to be human. It's these characters that make you want to root for the revolution to succeed, as they embody something deep within everyone, the feeling of hope in the face of impossible odds, the will to fight for what is perceived as right and correct.

Some have quite correctly noted that this book should not be read by ultra-grammarians, as it is told in first person Luna-speak, an odd pidgin mixture of English and Russian, with occasional items thrown in from Chinese, Finnish, and several other languages. Far from being a detriment, I consider this to be a great accomplishment. Most writers have trouble accurately portraying the dialect, say, of the Deep South in a convincing manner. Here, Heinlein has created his own dialect of the future - and makes you believe it.

This book is not quite as deep as Stranger in a Strange Land, one of Heinlein's other great books, but it has a faster, more action oriented pace, and characters that you will get emotionally involved with. I cried at the end of this book the first time I read it (and the second, and the third...) and I think you will too. TANSTAAFL indeed - but in this case, you will get more than you paid for, one of Heinlein's great gifts to the world.

--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd
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on 2 October 2010
You may be surprised that I'd not read this before, but I have been put off reading Heinlein by reports that his books were really just extended childish political rants. Those reports are, at least in the case of this book, wrong. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress does indeed contain something of a political manifesto, but it's not childish (I disagree with it, but it's not childish), and is only part of a well-told, gripping tale, with engaging characters: you could ignore the politics entirely and still have a good read, although it would, obviously, somewhat damage the characters if you were to remove some of their motivation!

Talking of which, the four primary characters are fully-realised and believable, even if some of the lesser ones are a bit samey or a bit stereotyped and hence easy to confuse, but that doesn't detract from the story. They're background. They're not meant to require your attention, so the story works fine with that confusion. Something that many authors fail at, especially science fiction authors of Heinlein's vintage, is giving characters their own voice. All too often characters sound like the autho and like each otherr. Not here. Heinlein has a great way with voice and dialogue. I'll be reading more of his stuff, and I can whole-heartedly recommend that you, if you're not already familiar with him, start right here.
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on 8 April 2000
I recall trying to read it first when I was about twelve, a time in my life when the at times quite peculiar "Looonie" language went straight over my head, and the political intrigue was a bit too deep for me. Since then, I must have read this story dozens of times... I think it's about time I treated myself to a new copy, the old one is falling apart!
When, oh, when, is someone going to turn this book into a film? There are so many parallels with the Internet theme that its time has surely come!
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