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The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress | [Robert A. Heinlein]

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

In what is considered one of Heinlein's most hair-raising, thought-provoking, and outrageous adventures, the master of modern science fiction tells the strange story of an even stranger world. It is 21st-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 that's the problem with the inevitable: it always happens.
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Publisher's Summary

In what is considered one of Heinlein's most hair-raising, thought-provoking, and outrageous adventures, the master of modern science fiction tells the strange story of an even stranger world. It is 21st-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 that's the problem with the inevitable: it always happens.

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.

©1965 Robert A. Heinlein; (P)1999 Blackstone Audio Inc.

What the Critics Say

  • Hugo Award, 1967

"Adrenalizing, mind-stretching, conviction-testing...unmatched by any contemporary!" (Theodore Sturgeon)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Peter Ann Arbor, MI, USA 12-04-06
    Peter Ann Arbor, MI, USA 12-04-06
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    "Heinlein's Masterpiece"

    This is quite simply the best book Robert Heinlein wrote. While the premise is somewhat implausible (ship convicts to the Moon? More economical to ship hydroponic grain from the Moon than to grow it on Earth? - I don't think so), it serves as a platform for Heinlein to explore topics in politics and philosophy. These include: what does it mean to be human? What is the relationship between duty, responsibility and rights?

    Heinlein is able to pull this off by embedding the "politics" in a real page turner about a revolt by colonists on the Moon against the tyranny of the home planet. Heinlein keeps the plot zipping along with plenty of action and "gee, whiz!" techno gizmos that are only slightly dated today (the book was first published in the mid-60's).

    The characters in this book are the among the most fully realized in all of Heinlein's work. The narrator is a one-armed computer repairman, whose best friend is only sentient computer in existence, Mike. Heinlein treats Mike's alienation and attempts to become "human" with a light hand and sympathy.

    The first person language used in the book contains a rich argot from the dozen or more nationalities that make up the lunar colony. This contributes greatly to make the setting believable and real.

    As good as the book is, Lloyd Jones improves on it. His vocal characterizations are wonderful, and brought out elements of the character that I never noticed before, despite having read the book at least a half dozen times in the past.

    I would recommend this book whether you are coming to it for the first time, or if you have read it many times before. It puts a fresh face on one of "the Grandmaster of Science Fiction's" greatest works. If you love science fiction, you owe to yourself to give this book a listen.

    47 of 51 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gerald United States 10-25-08
    Gerald United States 10-25-08 Member Since 2008
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    "Very Good Interpretation"

    I was initially surprised by the use of the Russian accent for the narrator but it works and works well. I'll never read the book again without hearing that accent. And his other "voices" for the main characters - especially "Mike", was right on. This was a very well done reading of a must read classic.

    16 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    DJM Franklin, TN USA 01-19-07
    DJM Franklin, TN USA 01-19-07 Member Since 2006
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    "Very Enjoyable Listen"

    I first read Mistress as a high school student in the sixties, and then reread it many times over the years. Probably my favorite Heinline book. Lloyd James' performance gave it a new life that insures that it will be one that I now also listen to again and again.

    15 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    kuaikuai North Carolina 04-19-09
    kuaikuai North Carolina 04-19-09
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    "This books is better in audio translation"

    Heinlein once wrote (in _The Number of the Beast_ that Tolstoy's works gained from translation. That I cannot judge, but _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress_ which is one of my favorate books and one I reread periodically, gains from Lloyd James's translation. In particular, his voice for Mannie sounds both authentic and more multi-dimentional than the voice I imagined when reading the book. His brief chuckles punctuate Mannie's sly humor beautifully.

    I know this is an audio version I will be listening to again. In fact, I imagine I will pull it out every time I go back to reread the book.

    As for the book itself -- if you only read one book of Heinlein's in your lifetime -- this is the book you should read. Seriously.

    29 of 32 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Harry San Antonio, TX, USA 08-12-09
    Harry San Antonio, TX, USA 08-12-09
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    "Reasonable adaption, but pauses in funny places"

    Fidelity is reasonably good; just a little muddy. I was surprised to find that this recording dates back to 1999.

    Lloyd James is a competent enough reader, but his interpretation of the primary character (Mannie) was a bit jarring at times. I could handle the Russian accent; but he paused at times he should have kept reading and vice versa.

    His Russian accent for Mannie put a new spin on the character for me; along with the French accent for Stu LaJoie. Never really heard those accents in my head while reading the novel, even though I knew that Heinlein had intended it that way.

    Prof's manner of speaking was a bit too drawn out. Wyoh was fine, but I would have liked a bit more femininity in the voice. Mike's voice was done as expected.

    Was surprised (and pleased) to hear the English accent for the Authority chairman; made a nice touch and really differentiated him from the other characters. James also does Oriental accents well.

    Chapter divisions on my iPod were not marked according to the chapters in the book.

    As this was my first Audible audiobook, I was pleased to find that there were some stops built into the book; and even more pleased that the iPod remembered where I had left off when I switched to music.

    20 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kimberly Taylor USA 06-21-07
    Kimberly Taylor USA 06-21-07

    Mad Scientist

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    "Great story, wonderful narrator"

    I read "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" in high school,and now that I'm "reading" it again 15 years later I realize how much I missed the first time. Heinlein has written a literate sci-fi classic that delves into philosophy, Revolution and other always current topics. Narrator Lloyd James clarifies my biggest problem with the book: protagonist Manny's sometimes odd language and syntax. When Manny speaks with a Russian accent, all is clear. Recommended for lovers of sci-fi and good stories!

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeremy Bolesky Portland, OR 11-24-06
    Jeremy Bolesky Portland, OR 11-24-06

    Jerm

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    "Dazzling political sci-fi"

    If you like Sci-Fi mixed with politics, this is a great listen. It reminded me in many ways of _Dune_, which framed political intrigue and social commentary within a sci-fi story line. Having some historical perspective on this piece makes it even more interesting. This was originally published in 1966, before the first moon landing--before I was born. The exploration of politics so left as to be right is as interesting as the subtle and comic development of an artificial intelligence from child-like naivete to nearly omniscient wisdom. The narration is very good, especially considering the abrupt changes in accent necessary to separate the characters. Highly recommended.

    11 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 04-04-13
    Ryan Somerville, MA, United States 04-04-13

    Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.

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    "A classic novel of unattainable ideals"

    Though I have my issues with Heinlein’s views, I found this book to be a classic example of science fiction's potential to explore political ideas, to challenge readers' assumptions about the how world should work. While showing its age in places, this 1966 novel deals with a lot of themes that still remain as fresh as ever: machine consciousness as an unplanned phenomena, how to overthrow an unjust system, what kind of laws and rights a society should provide, family and living arrangements that fit a society's needs, and how to find the weak spots of a much more powerful but clumsier opponent. And, of course, there's Heinlein's ability to create a polyglot culture, and his signature wit, taking the form of memorable catch-phrases and quips.

    The story imagines the moon as a 2075 penal colony, a dumping ground for Earth's undesirables. Inhabitants live a tough life, growing crops to export to Earth at artificially low prices, but have evolved their own informal customs for managing their affairs, including polyamorous marriage arrangements to deal with the 2-1 male-female ratio. Enter Mannie, a lowly engineer who maintains the Lunar Authority's main computer, named Mike. Somehow, Mike has achieved self-awareness without anyone but Mannie noticing. Heinlein has a lot of fun developing Mike as a character, including his naive efforts to understand humor, his existential loneliness, and his ability to adopt different personas, some of which come to influence his own behavior.

    Meanwhile, discontent on Luna begins to boil, and Mannie finds himself drawn into a revolutionary independence movement. With him, naturally, comes Mike, whose ability to disguise communications and perform complex calculations give the movement chances it wouldn’t have had otherwise. But can Mike be trusted? Can a war of independence succeed against the far better-armed nations of Earth? It was fun to watch the plotting unfold.

    Heinlein, of course, is a controversial author and I didn’t love everything about this novel. For one thing, I there are his attitudes towards women. While I admire that he wrote capable, independent heroines before it was in vogue, he doesn't entirely break away from traditional ideas about gender and has male characters mansplaining things to female ones.

    However, my main issue with this book is that Heinlein seems so intent on demonstrating the merits of his libertarian-anarchist ideals that he does a lot to stack the deck in favor of his heroes, which I find a weakness of both the story and his argument. Between Mike's unique ability to wreak Anonymous-like mischief, engineer new weapons, and make long-term predictions, and the Professor's brilliance as a tactician and political strategist, there's never much doubt what the outcome of the revolution will be. In addition, he makes the opposing side so abusive, distant, corrupt, and incompetent that no one seriously defends its merits. Also, I found Heinlein's apparent approval of murder, as deemed necessary by the enlightened, a little repugnant. (Where, oh where have we seen problems with THAT sort of thinking before?)

    Yet, in the last chapters, Heinlein seems to step back and recognize that ideals and pragmatism can reconcile only so much, when the benevolent dictatorship that ran the revolution sees that it can't hold the reigns forever. And therein lies the inherent contradiction of libertarianism: that giving people perfect freedom to choose will inevitably lead to more laws and government. This is what makes the book's signature phrase, "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch", so wonderful -- in the end, the multiple meanings becoming clear. I also enjoyed how beautifully the bittersweet conclusion to Mike's story fit in, though I won't spoil it.

    In sum, definitely a book worth adding to a tour of sci-fi history. The audiobook narration is decent, but I really liked the producers' decision to give Mannie a Russian accent. It just works. Mike also has a nice "machine" personality, but not an overly mechanical one.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dale Spokane, WA, USA 12-08-08
    Dale Spokane, WA, USA 12-08-08
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    "A classic"

    I agree with the reviewer who commented on the surprise, but workability of the narrators accents. It explains alot about the syntax Mannie uses. You'll quickly get used to it, and it goes far in letting the listener track WHO is talking.

    What can I say? It's classic Heinlein at his best. The anachronisms are a bit attention getting, but not so much that it detracts from the story.

    This is a must for any sci-fi buff's collection.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Greg Southfield, MI, USA 02-02-10
    Greg Southfield, MI, USA 02-02-10
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    "Outstanding"

    Loved this. Great narration. This narrator sets the standard. It has been awhile since I listened and the images are still fresh in my mind. It is amazing that this was written in 1966. It could have been written last year. Excellent story with a great message.

    6 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 142 results PREVIOUS1215NEXT
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  • jan819
    10/31/06
    Overall
    "Still Great"

    'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress' is as enjoyable and controversial today as when I first read the book all those years ago. The story has an interesting setting and first person perpective that I found absorbing and there are points in the narrative where I found it all but impossible to put the book down.

    The story is typical Heinlein in that it combines well thought out action and controversial philosophical ideas that are just begging to be discussed and argued over.

    I had some initial doubts about Lloyd James as a reader, but having listened to several of his books, I have become used to his voice and feel that he has done this book justice, adding a valuable dimension of characterisation that has helped my visualisation of the story no end.

    This reading should appeal to all Heinlein fans.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Mark
    Bradford, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom
    8/21/09
    Overall
    "The best got better"

    I've always loved this book - and it's as old as I am. The first person style, written in a mishmash of languages, just works as does the telling from the perspective of someone caught up - and eventually leading - a revolution.
    Then you move to the audiobook version. Instantly it comes to life. Most of it is told in a pseudoRussian accent, but quickly you find this switches with the dialogue. The pace is a little slow at times, but very soon you are into the action. And then when the final chapters kick in you are gripped to the end - even if you know what the ultimate end must be.
    Heinlein at his finest? Probably

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Raj
    London
    8/12/11
    Overall
    "Fantastic introduction to Heinlein"

    I was given some recommendations on which Robert A. Heinlein books to start out with. Many people suggested I start with “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress” and I was not disappointed. A fantastic listen; you are left guessing where things will go right up to the end. The narrator does an excellent job. Overall, extremely enjoyable, and highly recommended.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Louise
    CaerphillyUnited Kingdom
    5/15/10
    Overall
    "My All Time Favorite Sci Fi Book!"

    There are many kinds of books. Some are fresh and new, once read, even if enjoyed, you don't want to revisit them. Some you can re-read, maybe just once. Some books you like so much, you can read, and read, and re-read and they become as familiar as a comfy pair of slippers, but remain fresh and new for you every time.

    Such a book, for me, is Robert A Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. This classic mixture of science fiction at its best, and political thriller, held me enthralled from the first sentence to the last.

    I borrowed the book in dog-eared braille copies, and in special audio format, to revisit it from time to time, and now, thanks to Audible, I have it to keep forever. Given, by Lloyd James, one of the finest narations I have ever heard, this book is a must read for anyone who is into Science Fiction. Everyone I ever introduced to it loved it, so go on, add it to your wish list, or download it today!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Jason
    Andover, Hampshire, United Kingdom
    8/24/08
    Overall
    "A great book presented well"

    This was a much loved book of mine already, and it was a wonderful surprise to have Lloyd James reading it - I really like his style of reading, and in particular how he gives a wonderful flavour of the type of person who is narrating it.

    Top marks - thank you!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Ben
    Chesham, Bucks, United Kingdom
    10/16/06
    Overall
    "Llod James cannot read!"

    Terrible reader - listen to the sample before you buy it!

    6 of 12 people found this review helpful
  • Charles
    SchuttrangeLuxembourg
    6/1/07
    Overall
    "Teach Yourself English"

    Yeah, spoken text almost incomprehensible. I used to teach English as a foreign language -- I would have failed a pupil with an accent like this.

    1 of 5 people found this review helpful
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