The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

This is a book I picked up in my ongoing goal of reading through a bunch of the classics of Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Robert Heinlein is considered by many to be one of the greatest writers of Science Fiction, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is one of his better books.  This book won the Hugo Award for best Science Fiction novel in 1967.

Book Stats

382 pages

Science Fiction


The book revolves around four major characters: Manuel (who is also the narrator), Wyoming, Professor Bernardo de la Paz, and Mike.  Wyoming and the Professor are both revolutionaries who would like to see Luna recognized as a free state, and they end up dragging Manuel along for the ride.  Manuel is a computer technician who learned that the central computer controlling nearly everything on Luna has become sentient, and he ends up naming it Mike.  The characters were well written, if not exactly unique in fiction in any way.  Mike was the most memorable individual character, and it was interesting to try and see a computer analyze jokes.


The book takes place in 2075 on the moon.  The Federated Nations of Earth use the moon as a penal colony, and they have developed techniques to grow crops on the moon and ship them down to Earth.  Everything about the setting is brilliantly thought out, and there are many subtle differences in their lives compared to the lives of people on Earth.  But while their culture is different from ours, it works perfectly.


After speaking with Mike early in the book, Manuel gets invited to a rally with a friend of his.  Ultimately this leads him to get involved with Wyoming and the Professor, who are both revolutionaries who want to have Luna recognized as a free state.  Manuel is recruited to their cause, and introduces them to Mike, who also helps them in their cause.  The book is the story of the process that their revolution goes through from conception through revolution through ultimately being recognized as a free state.


To start with, the narrative for this book is told from the first person viewpoint of Manuel, and it has a dialect throughout the story.  As far as dialects go, this one works out decently.  Basically, the inhabitants of Luna cut out a lot of the articles in their speech.  (At least I think the correct term for what’s missing is articles, if not that’s what I’m calling them.)  While I generally hate dialects in books, it wasn’t too bad in this book, definitely easy enough to read once you got used to it.

The story was quite interesting, and in many ways was a bit of an homage to the US struggle for independence, complete with signing their Declaration of Independence July 4th, ’76 (although it’s 2076 as opposed to 1776).

There was a lot of interesting stuff going on in this book.  The system they used to set up their underground movement was quite interesting.  They start with the primary 3 members, and they all choose 3 members below them, who each choose 3 below them, and so on and so forth.  Because no person in the pyramid knows more than 6 other people (their 3 subordinates, the other 2 in their group, and their leader) it’s impossible for any one person to compromise the entire operation.

I’m not always the biggest fan of political intrigue, but this book does a good job of mixing it with Science Fiction.  If you’ve a big fan of Science Fiction or political intrigue in books I’d recommend this book.  I’m more of a casual fan of both of those, but I still enjoyed the book even if it wasn’t always ripping me through the pages.

Overall Grade

Not for everyone, but a very well written book.  I think I need to check out more of Heinlein’s Science Fiction.


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  1. From your review I’m unsure why you didn’t even give it a passing grade 😉 I mean, you found it readable and intriguing although not amazing…. Perhaps I just don’t understand your rating system.

    One of Heinlein’s best and I dislike a majority of his works….

    • I consider a 6 to be an average book, not necessarily passing. In my rating system (here’s a link to the page where I explain it) I list a 6/10 as a book that had some good parts but for whatever reason didn’t work for me, which is pretty much what I thought about this book. It’s not one that I’d suggest to everyone, but not a book I would steer someone away from if they were thinking about reading it.

  1. June 2012 Month in Review « Reviews and Ramblings

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