The Moon is a Harsh Mistress: Review

Robert A. Heinlein is a name known to many. I would think that even the average person on the street has in many cases heard of him and possibly read one of his books. Along with Isaac Asimov, he was the most influential writer of science fiction in the 20th century. His two most well known books, one a warning and one a bold expression of ideals, are Starship Troopers and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. It is the latter that we draw our attention to.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress | The Masculine Epic

Sadly, it is rapidly appearing that Starship Troopers was the more predictive of the two books concerning humanity’s future, but if it is not to be, if we are to resist the forces seeking to destroy our livelihoods and identities, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress provides us with a crucial model to follow in our efforts.

Point being, I no longer believe that the democratic process will be enough to address the issues that Western civilization is facing, particularly in Europe. Historically, the democratic, political process has been unable to respond to crises of immense proportions, ones which face the very heart and soul of the nation. The result has often been very ghastly, and it’s a warning that Starship Troopers remains a very real possibility.

But The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a more romantic and even humane book about revolution than that. In many ways, it’s more akin to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 than to the French Revolution of 1789.

The Setting:

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress takes place in the mid 2070’s, with the pivotal year being 2076. There are several lunar cities called “wardens,” that seemed to be established a century prior. Under the auspices of the Lunar Authority, an agency which was set up by a previous regime and then subsumed into the ruling Federated Nations, prisoners were transported up to the moon for their offenses. They were required to then work to supply grain to the world, especially India, shipping it with a lunar catapult.

By the time the story takes place, the moon’s population is around three million. One of the things that will most assuredly strike regulars in this sphere are the descriptions of the sexual market on the moon. With a population of three million, less than a million people on the moon are women.

This has led to a culture of severe white knighting and sexual choice for women:

Women are scarce; aren’t enough to go around – that makes them most valuable thing in Luna, more precious than ice or air, as men without women don’t care whether they stay alive or not.

Mind you, things were even worse when this custom, or natural law, first showed itself back in the twentieth century. Ratio was ten to one or worse then. One thing is what always happens in prisons: men turn to other men. That helps not much; problem still is because most men want women and won’t settle for substitute while chance of getting true gelt.

They get so anxious they will kill for it…and from stories old-timers tell was killing enough to chill your teeth in those days.

What that means, here and now, is that women are scarce and call tune…and you are surrounded by two million men who see to it you dance to that tune. You have no choice, she has all choice. She can hit you so hard it draws blood you dasn’t lay a finger on her. Look, you put an arm around Tish, maybe tried to kiss. Suppose instead she had gone to hotel room with you; what would happen?

They would have done nothing. Shrugged and pretended not to see. Because choice is hers. Not yours. Not theirs. (pg. 164)

Paradoxically, I believe that this is one of the things in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress that leads to a successful revolution, even if Heinlein himself didn’t say it, for reasons to be explained below.

One other curiosity is that “line marriages” are popular on the moon. This is basically a massive family with multiple wives and husbands. Heinlein does not link this to the massive sex imbalance, but I can personally see something like this forming in the face of such a disparity, and indeed, as I was writing this review, I came across a proposal that has shades of it in China. With such unrestrained female choice, getting a few women with perhaps a few more (the precise demographics of these line marriages are not explained) men seems to be a good way of ensuring social stability, so that single, sexless men do not become a problem.

Partaking in one of these line marriages is our protagonist, Manuel O’Kelly Davis. He’s a computer technician who contracts for the Lunar Authority which, despite its being a century later, still oversees the lunar colonies as de facto prisons, even for those descendants born from the original convicts on the moon, who are presumably innocent.

There is certainly no representation for the moon’s people, who call themselves “Loonies” in their own homeland. They are forced to buy and sell from the Authority and ship their grain to Earth at a loss. It is even worse than it appears when the fact that a resource crisis is rapidly unfolding and a food and water shortage will result if present trends continue.

After discovering this, and getting himself into trouble at a rally he attended on behalf of a unique friend, Mannie, a woman he met at the rally named Wyoming Knott, and an old acquaintance, Professor Bernardo de la Paz, agree to foment a new revolutionary movement to overthrow the Lunar Authority and create an independent moon. Mannie is very reluctant, despite his hatred of the Authority, but it seems to be the only way to stop the coming crisis.

Mike, the Secret Weapon:

Mannie outlines the structure of revolution very precisely, impressing even the “Prof:”

Take same cells, arrange in open pyramid of tetrahedrons. Where vertices are in common, each bloke knows one in adjoining cell – knows how to send message to him, that’s all he needs. Communications never break down because they run sideways as well as up and down. Something like a neural net. It’s why you can knock a hole in a man’s head, take chunk of brain out, and not damage thinking much. Excess capacity, messages shunt around. He loses what was destroyed but goes on functioning.

Look at base sketch. Each vertex of each triangle shares self with zero, one, or two other triangles. Where shares one, that’s its link, one direction or both – but one is enough for a multipli-redundant communication net. On corners where sharing is zero, it jumps right to next corner. Where sharing is double, choice again is right-handed.

Now work it with people. Take fourth level, D-for-dog. This vertex is comrade Dan. No, let’s do down one to show three levels of communication knocked out – level E-for-easy and pick comrade Egbert. Egbert works under Donald, has cellmates Edward and Elmer, and has three under him, Frank, Fred, and fatso…but knows how to send message to Ezra on his own level but not in his cell. He doesn’t know Ezra’s name, face, address ,or anything – but has a way, phone number probably, to reach Ezra in emergency.

Now watch it work. Casimir, level three, finks out and betrays Charlie and Cox in his cell, Baker above him, and Donald, Dan, and Dick in subcell, which isolates Egbert, Edward, and Elmer, and everybody under them.

All three report it – redundancy, necessary to any communication system – but follow Egbert’s yell for help. He calls Ezra. but Ezra is under Charlie and is isolated, too. No matter, Ezra relays both messages through his safety link, Edmund. By bad luck Edmund is under Cox, so he also passes it laterally, through Enwright…and that gets it past burned-out part and it goes up through Dover, Chambers, and Beeswax, to Adam, front office…who replies down other side of pyramid, with lateral pass on E-for-easy level from Esther to Egbert and on to Ezra and Edmund. these two messages, up and down, not only get through at once but in way they get through, they define to home office exactly how much damage has been done and where. Organization not only keeps functioning but starts repairing itself at once. (pg. 78-9)

Did you get all of that?

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress cell structure
A good illustration.

Still, despite this, Mannie refuses to take part in a revolution. He says that the odds need to be at least one in ten in his favor. No Loonie would ever miss out on a one in ten bet, but anything more is foolish.

Wyoming, termed “Wyoh” by Mannie, then prompts him to ask “Mike” the odds. Prof is curious, and Mannie eventually explains Mike’s true nature – he is a self-aware supercomputer with a human-like personality, and by human, I mean more on the end towards a child.

Still, Mike calculates that the odds of overthrowing the Lunar Authority and getting an independent moon are about 7 to 1 against them, which causes a jump for joy. Mannie is all in, and he, Wyoh, and Prof agree to form an executive “B” cell under their chairman, Mike, who for revolutionary purposes, goes by the moniker of “Adam Selene.” While all the members of the organization can call “Comrade Adam” for necessary purposes, only Mannie, Wyoh, and Prof know “Comrade Adam’s” true nature.

What I found most fascinating about this part of the story is just how much detail Heinlein went into in outlining the “science” of revolution through the personages of Prof, Mannie, and Mike. I even thought about drawing a diagram to keep up and had to read the passage a few times. Fortunately I found the one above.

The key lessons in the chapter were data manipulation (something seen also in Ghost in the Shell), and the fact that you do not win radical changes by enlisting the masses. There’s always a shadowy hand to guide them in the right direction.

The Shadowy Hand:

And so the four masterminds behind the nascent lunar revolution embark on the first and longest stage of the game – preparation. This involves filling up the cells. In this, the rule was simple: people could not be trusted with anything, but Mike could be trusted with everything.

The cell structure was alphabetical. Mike was at the top as “Adam Selene.” Mannie, Wyoh, and Prof were the B cell (Mannie was called “Comrade Bork”), and so on. Each cell member knew only three other people – the members in his own cell and one person in an upper cell who recruited him. However, each member was given a phone number to contact “Adam Selene” and one member of an adjacent cell. This meant that secure information could be distributed very rapidly.

What follows is all sorts of manipulation and subversive acts. One of the things that caught on were poems written by Adam Selene, and far more subversive, but humorous material written by “Simon Jester:”

That’s how “Simon Jester” was born. Mike picked it apparently by tossing random numbers. But he used another name for serious verse, his Party name, Adam Selene.

“Simon’s” verse was doggerel, bawdy, subversive, ranging from poking fun at VIPs to savage attacks on Warden, system, Peace Dragoons, finks. You found it on walls of public W.C.s, or on scraps of paper left in tube capsules. Or in taprooms. Wherever they were, they were signed “Simon Jester” and with 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.”

Simon appeared all over Luna same day and from then on never let up. Shortly she started receiving volunteer help; his verses and little pictures, so simple anybody could draw them, began appearing more places than we had planned. This wider coverage had to be be from fellow travelers. Verses and cartoons started appearing inside Complex – which could not have been our work; we never recruited civil servants. Also, three days after initial appearance of a very tough limerick, one that implied that Warden’s fatness derived from unsavory habits, this limerick popped up on pressure-sticky labels with cartoon improved so that fat victim flinching from Simon’s pitchfork was recognizably Mort the Wart. We didn’t buy them, we didn’t print them. But they appeared in L-City and Novylen and Hong Kong, stuck almost everywhere – public phones, stanchions in corridors, pressure locks, ramp railings, other. I had a sample count made, fed it to Mike; he reported that over seventy thousand labels had been used in L-City alone.

Simon’s verses were such a success that he branched out as a poltergeist and neither Warden nor security chief was allowed to miss it. “Dear Mort the Wart,” ran one letter. “Do please be careful from midnight to four hundred tomorrow. Love & Kisses, Simon” – with horns and grin. In same mail Alvarez received one reading: Dear Pimplehead, if the Warden breaks his leg tomorrow night it will be your fault. Faithfully your conscience – Simon” – again with horns and smile. (pg 149-150)

This struck me because it mirrors some of the things our corner of the internet has done successfully to mock the cultural Marxist hegemony that stifles our discourse. Pepe the Frog is a good example. By using these humorous memes, we are slowly breaking out of the box of left wing assumptions and parameters that have held back opposition for so long, and as we saw with GamerGate, it has made a difference.

This needs to keep continuing, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress shows how effective this subversive and even crude propaganda is. It not only makes the revolution fun, it unites people around it in doing so. As we remember from another seminal work – be a source of pleasure to be powerful.

The agitation did what they were designed to do – get people pissed off enough to actually risk their lives to overthrow the Authority, as Mannie explains:

Never was a time, even at last, when all Loonies wanted to throw off Authority, wanted it bad enough to revolt. All Loonies despised Warden and cheated Authority. Didn’t mean they were ready to fight and die. If you had mentioned “patriotism” to a Loonie, he would have stared – or thought you talking about his homeland. Were transported Frenchmen whose hearts belonged to “La Belle Patrie,” ex-Germans loyal to Vaterland, Russkis who still loved Holy Mother Russia. But Luna? Luna was “The Rock,” place of exile, not thing to love.

We were as non-political a people as history ever produced. I was as numb to politics as any until circumstances pitched me into it. Wyoming was in it because she hated Authority for a personal reason, Prof because he despised all authority in a detached intellectual fashion, Mike because he was a bored and lonely machine and war for him “only game in town.” You could not have accused us of patriotism. (pg. 117-18)

The Loonies in effect are explained as having no identity, so agitating for revolution was hard. In a way, I think that the situation we’re facing is similar, and perhaps Heinlein was too frighteningly prescient with his moon being essentially a prison. The globalist forces have worked very hard to undermine national identity for these kinds of reasons, so we may have to take a page out of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’ playbook.

The Role of Women:

Women took an active part in the revolution, and perhaps the most critical part. Besides Wyoh (who is not actually explored much in depth – one of Heinlein’s weaknesses in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is the overall lack of character development), other women take very active parts in instigating the revolution, and, when that revolution is underway in its later phases against earth, form groups to participate and raise the morale of the male fighters manning the primary defenses, such as the Ladies from Hades and the Lysistrata Corps.

Mannie, when explaining his motivations to actually revolt, writes:

They say a face once launched a thousand ships. I do not know that Wyoh used anything but argument on Stu. I never tried to find out. But Wyoh had more to do with committing me than all Prof’s theory or Mike’s figures. If Wyoh used even stronger methods on Stu, she was not first heroine to do so for her country. (pg. 173)

There can be no doubt that women are an important part of revolution in general, for the simple reason that nothing will motivate men to do things so much as women and sex. One can call this “gynocentrism” all they like, but that is the reality. I contend that the impotence and immaturity of the “MGTOW” movement is precisely because they disavow women so vehemently. One who does not care about his women does not care about his nation.

It was indeed the death of a woman, 18-year-old Marie Lyons, that was the spark that lid the powder keg that Mannie, Wyoh, Prof, and Mike had spent over a year meticulously building. Recognizing the opportunity, the four of them pulled the lever and went on with the revolution, creating mobs of thousands that stormed the Authority’s headquarters and killed the Peace Dragoons. The Warden was left in a permanent vegetative state. Within a few minutes, the Authority was kicked off the moon and “Luna was free.”

The lessons offered here are twofold. First is that preparation and logistics are the most important things, if not the most glamorous. The climax of action lasts only a few fleeting moments by comparison. The side that usually wins is the side that’s better prepared and spends grueling time making those preparations.

The second is that women are one of the most indispensable parts of morale, and should be utilized as such. I imagine that one of the things, and the most important thing, that would finally wake up the people of Europe in particular is how their women will be treated by these “refugees” that their traitorous “leaders” love so dearly.

Women should be recruited and utilized for all they’re worth.

You Must be Prepared to go All Out:

The most crucial part of the preparation phase is perhaps being mentally prepared to do everything that’s necessary. Often the other side is not.

The best example of this is during the climax of the story. The Federated Nations, earth’s overall governing body (which seems to be a federal structure of sorts, with some important exceptions), launches an invasion of the moon, but it is repelled. The F.N. then launches a nuclear attack at the lunar catapult, from which the Loonies are launching rocks akin to meteors with the explosive power of old-style fission kiloton nuclear bombs (as compared to the F.N.’s megaton level hydrogen bombs).

The attack is a success, blowing the old catapult to smithereens. And with this triumph, the F.N. is sure that they have the Loonies licked.

What they did not account for was the fact that the people on the moon built a second catapult, under the nose of the Warden, through the subversive activities in the first act. Though the Loonies consciously avoid heavily populated areas, launching their attacks adjacent to them as a sign of their might, the F.N. is obviously greatly alarmed. Cheyenne Mountain, home of NORAD today and the successor of it in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, is totally destroyed by repeated attacks.

The F.N. does not know it, but the Loonies are on the verge of folding. There are only five shots to spare, but the bluff at the end, after the nuclear attack, paid off. One by one, the nations of the world denounced the F.N., recognized Luna as an independent entity, and brought the war to a close.

The Loonies were willing to go for broke and the earthlings were clearly not:

Was down to twelve rocks but decided was safer to run out of ammunition than to look as if we were running out. So I awarded seven to Indian coastal cities, picking new targets – and Stu inquired sweetly if Agra have been evacuated.

Egypt was told to clear shipping out of Suez Canal – bluff; was hoarding last five rocks.

Then waited.

Impact at Lahaina Roads, that target in Hawaii. Looked good at high mag; Mike could be proud of Junior.

And waited.

Thirty-seven minutes before first China Coast impact Great China denounced actions of F.N., recognized us, offered to negotiate – and I sprained my finger punching abort buttons. (pg. 371)

The other nations followed suit. The Loonies were just about to be beaten but through a show of strength and will, the Earthlings folded despite their own strength because they didn’t want it as bad as the Loonies did.

That is the most fundamental lesson of all.

Who wants victory the most? The side that does will often win. It is how time and again, forces that were less well-armed and trained than their opponents have prevailed. Just when it seems you are on the verge of defeat, a few bold moves that disguise your weakness can end in victory.


I put Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress in the “fundamental” category because it teaches its audience subversive techniques and strategies that can use to undermine the authorities and result in meaningful change. Whether they occur in a work of fiction or not, they are valid all the same.

It’s a vital book to read, particularly for those in Europe, because the left has now pushed us so far to the point of insanity that I no longer believe that change will come purely through the democratic process. Techniques of subversion, humiliation, disobedience, retaliation, and more that I won’t say, increasingly appear necessary. Certainly the tactics used in the first part of the story should and must be utilized.

When your identity and civilization is under assault, it is the duty of men to rise to its defense in the proper manner. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a crucial guide for providing such defense. That’s why I recommend it to all my readers.

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