The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

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Heinlein, Robert A. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. New York: Putnam's, 1966. New York: Berkley, 1968. (Shorter version published in If, l965-66.)

The lunar AI computer Mike/Michelle aids the Revolution freeing the people of the Moon from Earth's jurisdiction and control. The mechanized "warrens" on the Moon are positively contrasted with the hive-world (our term) on Earth. See esp. 87 and 211 in Berkley edn. For discussions of MHM, see under Literary Criticism C. W. Sullivan's "Harlan Ellison and Robert A. Heinlein: The Paradigm Makers," and H. B. Franklin's Robert A. Heinlein: America as Science Fiction (162-70).

In his review of Omnitopia Dawn, Ed Carmien notes in that book "AI awakening akin to Heinlein's Mike" or Michelle (SFRA Review #294 [Fall 2010]: 11).[.[1]] See also Farah Mendelsohn's The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein.


A close reading centering on the economics of the novel can be found in Brian Williams's “Automating Economic Revolution," pp. 73-92 in Economic Science Fictions, William Davies, editor (London, UK: Goldsmiths Press, 2018), reviewed by Bruce Lindsley Rockwood, SFRA Review 50.4 (Fall 2020).[2] Rockwood notes that

[...] Williams explores how economic change could be “automated” and “create utopia in the midst of [. . .] depression” (76) and argues that Heinlein’s novel demonstrates how this can be accomplished, relying on the centralized computer AI personality of Mike, who creates the blueprint for revolution that the prison colonists on the Moon are able to implement with Mike’s help (77-92). The “revolutionary cell group” with Mike as its center (almost like a god) is one version of how automated revolution could occur (80). Williams shows parallels in Heinlein’s novel to Norbert Wiener’s cybernetics [...].[3]. 

We will call attention to the word choice of Mike/Michelle as "almost like a god," which for some readers will glance at Hamlet's line in his encomium to man, "how like a god,"[4] and which incorporates a cybernetic version of the SF trope of "the mechanical god".

RDE, Initial Compiler, edited 29Dec18 & 5Dec19; 3Nov21