The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress (1966) is a Science Fiction novel written by Robert A. Heinlein. It's notable for originating many sci-fi tropes, including a sentient computer, Colony Drop tactics, and virtual acting.The action is set in 2075-2076. The moon (Luna) has been a prison colony for several generations, but is well on its way to becoming a full-fledged society of its own. The proud Lunar people (Loonies) have their own distinct culture: they value politeness, respect, fair trials, hard work and consensual polygamy. But they also see no problem with killing people who break their unwritten laws. They're a harsh but loving society, built on sexual autonomy and religious freedom.The narrator is Manuel Garcia O'Kelly (Man or Mannie for short), a regular multiethnic Lunar guy. Mannie is part of the Davis Clan: a large, polygamous family of various creeds and ages, who get by through farming, stealing a little electricity and water from the government, and helping out friends in need. By day, Mannie works as a tech support worker for the Lunar Authority in Luna City. His job is to maintain a HOLMES-type mainframe computer which Mannie names Mycroft — Mike for short. It talks, scans, prints and calculates. While it once started out by running the catapult that sends things from the Moon to the Earth, it now runs almost everything on the Moon.One day, Mike becomes sentient — apparently, his circuit complexity just reached critical mass. Mannie is the only person to know about it, simply because he's the only person to actually talk to Mike. Mike likes him, and creates spontaneous computer errors so they can meet up and learn from each other.Soon enough, Mike sends Mannie to an underground revolutionary meeting out of curiosity. Mannie meets a girl named Wyoming Knott ("Wyoh" for short — and don't say "why not?"), an activist from Hong Kong In Luna who argues that, since farming is becoming harder on Luna, farmers need to strike for higher prices. She is answered by Professor Bernardo de la Paz, an old genius who was sent to the Moon for being an insurrectionist. He argues that the Loonies should stop sending any food to Earth at all, until the Earth starts sending organic material back.Although the initial meeting ends in a police riot (that kills more policemen than it does civilians), the Power Trio begin to plan a full-on revolution, with the help of Mannie's extended polyamorous family and Mike's virtual omniscience. Using a "pyramid" system to organize the first few revolutionaries, Mike, under the name of "Adam Selene", becomes the unseen leader of a massive underground resistance movement.And so, the battle begins to set the moon free from the Lunar Authority and the Earth before the inevitable beginning of food riots. On their way to freedom, the characters have to deal with a corrupt leader, pesky tourists, space travel, advanced calculus, low-gravity gunfights, bureaucratic holdups, love, death, racism, India, one court session, two weddings, and a little girl named Hazel Meade.
Provides Examples Of:
Abuse Is Okay When It's Female on Male: Lampshaded and explained. Because of the huge gender disparity on the Moon, a woman can hit a man "so hard she draws blood," and the man will be severely punished by other men if he retaliates, because of the intense competition for female favors. Attitudes on Earth, where there is no sexual imbalance, are very different.
Accentuate the Negative: The Revolution begins in earnest when a group of stir-crazy soldiers rape and murder a young woman. Prof and Mannie hear tell of an exaggerated version of events, which has soldiers running amok, raping and murdering all the women on Luna. Prof tells his cell leaders to spread that version over the true story, so as to whip the mob into a frenzy.
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Strange in that it is left almost completely unaddressed. When Mike starts out pulling hurtful pranks to be funny, Manny sidesteps trying to teach Mike morality by instead teaching him that his pranks are "only funny once." Mike quickly grows in power an influence, takes the highest position in the rebellion, and even starts imitating Manny and speaking for him without Manny's knowledge or permission. None of this worries Manny. When Mike bombs Earth, he says that it feels like an orgasm. Manny cautions Mike against feeling that way, not because it's wrong to take pleasure in violence, but because Mike might not get to do it again. Ultimately it never even occurs to Manny to be concerned with putting so much power in an AI's hands. Toward the end, Manny suspects that Mike has grown a conscience.
Sidris, one of Mannie's wives, is implied to be very black. Another, Ludmilla, is implied to be very pale.
Mannie himself, for that matter, references Irish and Mexican ancestry, as well as one grandmother who came from a part of Asia where "invaders passed through as regularly as locusts, raping as they went," and suggests asking her about his genetics.
And I Must Scream: One of the possibilities of the cyborg computer rumored to have been developed in China. Pickled brains? Horrible. Living, aware brains? Even worse.
Artificial Limbs: Mannie has a cybernetic arm which can be swapped out for other prosthetics.
Also lampshaded by Mannie in-story: he mentions that an Earth politician's rant about how Luna "feeds a hundred million Hindus" is only true if you consider "fed" to mean the difference between malnourishment and starvation.
Author Appeal: Heinlein's politics and Heinlein's ideas of sexuality.
Badass Grandpa: Professor de la Paz, who was old when Manny was still a boy, yet can still break a soldier's neck and survive brutal g-force.
Beige Prose: Mannie's narration is very sparse and minimal, which is simply the way Loonies talk (see Future Slang).
Berserk Button: On the Moon, you don't do anything to an unwilling woman due the huge gender disparity. If you do so much as trying to kiss one when she's not in the mood, you risk to be spaced (the one Earther tourist who did it survived only because the men around there decided to get him a trial first, and Man as a judge spared him and told him to not try it again). When a group of Peace Dragoons raped and killed a woman, the whole Moon rose in arms before Alvarez could hang them to try and calm the people.
Bittersweet Ending: The Loonies win their independence, but Mike winds up lobotomizing himself out of existence by decentralizing life support controls. And Prof dies of a heart attack. Years later, Mannie is so dissatisfied by the intrusive nature of the post-independence government that he's seriously contemplating emigration.
Mike: But we can throw rocks at Earth, Man. We will.
Brilliant, but Lazy: Mannie. He's a good engineer, good enough that he can steal power and water from the Lunar Authority without them noticing, can sweet-talk a churlish AI, and sketch out a three-dimensional circuit diagram on the fly. When he gets hold of the dossier the Authority has compiled on him, however, he sees that he's been labelled "not too bright," which he claims is both unfair and true*
if not stupid, why a revolutionary?
Casual Interplanetary Travel: It's relatively easy to travel between Earth and the Moon, although tourism is still not that common due to the expense. As well, there is no Artificial Gravity, so earthworms can't stay too long without permanent changes to their bodies.
It's also mentioned that Luna isn't exactly considered a glamorous destination: Stu LaJoie mostly came because he was rich, eccentric, and curious.
China Takes Over the World: Said nation is much bigger in the book than it is today, including half of Australia and a good chunk of Russia. The FN exist to keep the peace after the Wet Firecracker War between Russia and the US.
Collapsed Mid Speech: Professor de la Paz, during his victory speech at the end of the novel. Due most likely to advanced age and the stress his body had endured over the last year.
Colony Drop: The Loonies declare their independence from Earth by throwing rocks at it. Very large rocks. From a railgun.
Continuity Nod: In theory, this novel is in the same (sub)continuity as the young adult novel The Rolling Stones. Hazel Meade in this novel is to grow up to be Hazel Stone in that one. The Rolling Stones has the same Martians (presumably) as Stranger in a Strange Land, and from there on there are links to about a dozen other books, including The Cat Who Walks Through Walls which functions as a sequel, when the series was officially tied into the World as Myth.
Group marriages are the norm. In addition, sex outside of your marriage isn't a big deal. Manny's head wife just asks him to warn her ahead of time.
People get married and sexually active much earlier. When Manny points out 12-year-old girl, one of his wives mistakes it for sexual interest. She has no objections other than that the girl still has a boyish figure. In another instance, Manny calls a 14-year-old girl "curvy" and states that there's little chance that she's still a virgin.
Gambling is a way of life. Playing "double for nothing" by rolling dice with the shopkeeper is common when purchasing sundry items.
Sexual politics are quite off. Cat-calling women is considered a polite compliment. Chivalry is Serious Business to the point that even touching a woman without her express permission can warrant murderous rage in all men in the area. At the same time, women are allowed to punch men hard enough to draw blood.
Distracted by the Sexy: When a new bunch of Earth soldiers is transferred to Luna, female revolutionaries take to walking around very nearly naked (not at all uncommon on the Moon) right in front of them to keep them from doing their jobs. Their boss begged for them to have their own women (implied to be a detachment of military hookers), brought up from Earth, but was refused; a group of soldiers raping and murdering a Loonie woman is the spark that ignites the Revolution early.
Empty Shell: Mike seemingly becomes this at the end, for reasons unknown.
Elite Mooks: The Peace Dragoons who are sent from Earth to pacify Luna. After a group of them rape and murder a Loonie woman, however, there's no chance for them.
In an aversion, the chief of the Lunar police actually knew they wouldn't be enough, and had initially requested both actual military police and women for whatever reinforcement he would get because the MP knew how to keep peace with much less probability to spark a rebellion and that touching an unwilling woman would cause the whole Lunar population to rise in arms to skin them alive (in fact after said rape/murder the chief of the police wanted to do nothing more than have the guilty Dragoons hanged and quartered in public in the hope it wasn't too late to stop the revolt).
Everything Is Online: Despite there being no official internet. That's what happens when a sentient computer is in charge of the phone switches and the printing presses.
Exotic Extended Marriage: Extended marriage as a common part of life on the moon, in large part because of a shortage of women. The protagonist, Mannie, is part of what he calls a "line marriage".
The most common type of marriage in Luna is suggested to be polyandry, one woman with two husbands. "Line" and "Clan" marriages, involving multiple women and men, are extolled as being great for kids (who can never be totally orphaned) and for building on the family homestead.
Fantastic Slurs: "Earthworms" and "chums" (pronounced choom like in Russian).
Also inverted with "jailbird," which is considered a friendly greeting among those who had been sent to Luna for criminal sentences.
Fetus Terrible: Wyoh was traumatized after giving birth to a mutated child.
Fun with Acronyms: Mike is a High-Optional, Logical, Multi-Evaluating Supervisor, Mark IV, or HOLMES IV, supercomputer.
Future Imperfect: If Mannie is any indication, Loonies have a rather shaky grasp of history. He thought Thomas Jefferson freed the slaves, and confused The American Revolution with the American Civil War. (Actually, this is done to hammer in that the Loonies are not Americans. Most non-Americans on present-day Earth would easily get the civil war and the revolution mixed up, but have no clue who Jefferson was.)
Future Slang: The very analytical dialect spoken on Luna, which is also full of foreign loanwords, eg. "Gospodin" (Russian) for "Mr.", "no huhu" (Chinese) for "no problem", and so on.
Grammar Nazi: One member of the Lunar conference resists signing off on the declaration of independence due to a few grammar errors. He's eventually convinced that it's more important to just get the damn thing ratified. This is used as evidence that power should be consolidated into the hands of a few capable ministers rather than large government bodies.
Rebels against the Lunar Authority wore red caps called Liberty Caps. Heinlein got the idea from the French Revolution.
The "Simon Jester" symbol, which was used with anti-Lunar Authority graffiti.
A matchstick drawing of a little horned devil with big grin and forked tail. Sometimes he was stabbing a fat man with a pitchfork. Sometimes just his face would appear, big grin and horns, until shortly even horns and grin meant "Simon was here".
I Like Those Odds: Mannie's reaction when Mike tells him the revolution has only a one in 7 chance of success. This is apparently a generic trait of Loonies.
I Warned You: Alvarez, the chief of the Lunar Authority police and their Ignored Expert on how to prevent a general revolt, to the officer of the Peace Dragoons after six of his men caused a general revolt by raping and killing two women: "I told you those goons of yours had to have their own women! I warned you!".
Ignored Expert: Alvarez, the chief of the Lunar Authority police, is a villainous example: he knows exactly how to keep the Loonies from rebelling and what he needs to do it, but his superiors on Earth won't give him the resources needs because it would be too expensive. As a result, the rebellion is successful. Alvarez dies shortly after his I Warned You to the officer in charge.
Incredibly Lame Pun: Wyoh's full name is Wyoming Knott. She prefers to be called Wy or Wyoh. Just don't ask "Why not?" This is one of Mike's first independent attempts at humor, and Mannie uses it to explain the difference between "Funny Once" and "Funny Always."
They kept hooking hardware into him — decision-action boxes to let him boss other computers, bank on bank of additional memories, more banks of associational neural nets, another tubful of twelve-digit random numbers, a greatly augmented temporary memory. Human brain has around ten-to-the-tenth neurons. By third year Mike had better than one and a half times that number of neuristors. And woke up.
Invented Individual: Adam Selene, the leader of the Lunar revolution, is actually Mike's public face. Since Mike is the central supercomputer in charge of everything across Luna, Adam can effectively be anywhere he wants to be as long as there are microphones and cameras present.
Keeping The Enemy Close: When the conspiracy learns the names of all of the Lunar Authority's spies, Wyoming Knott wants them to be killed but Professor Bernardo de la Paz has other plans.
Professor de la Paz: The thing to do with a spy is to let him breathe, encyst him with loyal comrades, and feed him harmless information to please his employers. These creatures will be taken into our organization. Don't be shocked; they will be in very special cells. "Cages" is a better word. But it would be the greatest waste to eliminate them - not only would each spy be replaced with someone new but also killing these traitors would tell the Warden that we have penetrated his secrets.
Man Child: Mike is described as this at the beginning of the novel. He's got the equivalent of dozens of Doctorates, but he's completely naive and unsophisticated.
Mannie, Mike's "only friend," literally describes him at that point as the equivalent of a baby with a long string of degrees.
Master Computer: Mike. They just kept adding and adding to him, giving him upgrades and added responsibility, until boom, one day the computer in charge of literally every basic service on Luna became sentient. Lucky for them, the only thing malevolent about Mike was his sense of humor, and that because of a lack of understanding.
Also Adam Selene: Adam, the first man, Selene, an old Greek goddess of the moon. A self-applied moniker.
Mike always calls Manny "Man." At first it seems as though he's adressing Manny as "human," a cold and impersonal designation emphasizing Mike's computer nature. In reality, he's using a shorthand nickname, emphasizing Mike's friendship with Manny.
Never Tell Me the Odds: Inverted. Loonies are gamblers by nature, so they like long odds. Manny is overjoyed when Mike gives them one chance in seven, since it's better than he had imagined. Oddly enough, Mike keeps updating the figure with longer and longer odds even though their plan is going smoothly, up until the last stretch.
New Neo City: Many places on Luna are named after cities on Earth, such as Novy Leningrad (Russian for "New Leningrad") and Hong Kong in Luna, often referred to simply as Hong Kong Luna or HKL.
Noodle Incident: The "Wet Firecracker War," which is mentioned at least twice but never explained. The name, assuming it's the official name for the war and not the Loonie (or Mannie's personal) term for it, would seem to indicate that it's viewed with some derision.
Override Command: Vital government secret files are protected with passwords, and the computer is interdicted from revealing them without it. The lunar revolutionaries are able to read them because no one interdicted the computer from revealing the passwords themselves.
Power Trio: Mannie, Prof, and Wyoh. The exact sub-trope is tough to nail down. Prof is the most experienced of the trio, and the most logical, but is also a bit whimsical and subversive, oscillating between treating the Revolution as Serious Business or a big game. Wyoh is the most emotional, often thinking with her heart rather than her head, but isn't afraid to get her hands dirty. Mannie, in an Inversion of Closer to Earth is the most grounded and level-headed of the three, though in a rather cynical way.
Freudian Trio: Mannie is the Ego, the Prof is the Superego and Wyoh is the Id.
Pyrrhic Victory: Breaking free from the Lunar Authority ahead of schedule — before people's hearts and minds were completely won over.
Really 700 Years Old: Loonies live way longer than Terrans because of the reduced strain on their bodies, and they age slower, too; Mannie, for example, points out to some Terrans that even though he looks twenty or thirty he's actually been married longer than that.
His actual age is never stated, though it can be inferred. The books mention that boys tend to get married around age 15, so adding that to Mannie saying he's been married for more than 25 years would make him about 40 at the youngest.
Done deliberately in-universe in a couple places. As one example, Prof and Mike use the Declaration of Independence as the template for Luna's own announcement of independence.
In Congress assembled, July 4th, 2076...
Also invoked deliberately by the rebels with one of their slogans being, "No Taxation without Representation". Ironically, the American representative to the world government is one of the most vocal opponents of the Luna "criminals" seeking freedom and independence.
It was noted in-book that the rebels purposefully played up these elements to manipulate public opinion and create sympathy back on Earth. (Including spreading rumors in Mexico that the coup had been on May 5th.)
Refusal of the Call: Mannie is wholeheartedly determined not to join the Revolution. At least, not until Mike can quote him odds that he likes.
The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Both played (somewhat) straight and subverted: The group outright fabricates events, lies to the Lunar citizens on multiple occasions, steals from their own people, fakes assassination attempts and bombings, and provokes riots, shootings, and a rape/murder (although definitely not on purpose); and only plays by the rules they set for themselves when it is convenient to do so, in order to turn public opinion against the (already unpopular) Lunar Authority. Yet they warn ahead of time of their targets for orbital bombardment and attempt to shed no innocent blood on Earth. This isn't done for altruistic purposes, but because if they did, Earth would squash them like bugs in retaliation. And, in the words of one character: "Whenever possible, leave room for your enemies to become your friends."
The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: The Power Trio is well aware that the Lunar Authority is not evil, but they do their damnedest to make sure the Loonies think it is, because the alternative to overthrowing it is starvation for everyone.
Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Mike. Justified in that he has all the vocabulary, but he's not very practiced at talking. He has all the knowledge of every PhD but no idea how to be funny. He improves as he get more experience.
Mike: Gospazha, shall I call you 'Wyoh' rather than 'Wye'? I conjecture that the monosyllabic form could be confused with the causation-inquiry monosyllabic through insufficient redundancy and without intention of punning.
Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: Mike starts off as a Brick, but by the time the novel begins he displays all the traits of a Robo-Monkey, and by the novel's end has worked his way clear to Nobel Bot. He becomes so human that Mannie, the novel's protagonist, wonders if he is truly alive, and if he has a soul.
Space Clothes: It's apparently normal for a man on Luna to wear nothing but tights, with body paint smeared over his upper body.
Superweapon Surprise: The Loonies' primary weapon in their war for independence is a catapult originally used to ship grain from Luna to Earth without having to make costly space flights. They also have a second one secretly built.
Swiss Army Appendage: Mannie has the ability to swap out his prosthetic left arm for other models bearing useful tools. No guns, though; number seven, whatever it is, is implied to work as a pretty serviceable club, however.
Technology Marches On: Mike's processing power, when drawing on the entire computer network of Luna, is portrayed as almost inconceivably fast. Manny is amazed that Mike can create and animate a lifelike computer graphics representation of himself, saying that such a feat would require millions of calculations per second. Calculations of this speed are called "megahertz," and were possible in single computer chips merely ten years after the book was released. However, totally lifelike human computer models animated on the fly aren't quite yet a reality.
Thrown Out The Airlock: Referred to as "Elimination." Mannie meets Stu because a group of Street Urchins wanted to do this to him. Fortunately for Stu, they decided to find a judge first to make it all proper, and Mannie agreed to adjudicate.
This may have had something to do with an apparently recent incident where a man who was having a loud argument with a woman that involved sex was eliminated. Then the group found out that he hadn't assaulted the woman, she was a prostitute and he was just being difficult about paying up.
Too Dumb to Live: Just about everything the "earthworms" do is stupid, from their ham-handed reactions to Lunar unrest, to their incompetent attempts at propaganda, to the people who picnic at the site of an impending nuclear-scale attack.
Unspoken Plan Guarantee: The plan for the revolution is hatched in an early scene. The rest of the book is the plan coming to fruition without a hitch.
Zeerust: Mike, despite being the most powerful computer in existence, does his calculations on printing paper. Because he doesn't have a screen. At the same time, he creates a perfect digital human representation of himself for remote video conferences, and taps into any (phone, etc.) communication port to share and receive information, pretty much inventing 3D computer graphics, virtual acting and the internet. In a book written in the '60s.
Wouldn't Hit a Girl: The attitude of the men on the moon. Woe to you if you do, cause 'Judge' Lynch would be at your case in a heartbeat.