The Moon is a Harsh Mistress Summary
Book 1: That Dinkum Thinkum
Manuel Garcia O'Kelly-Davis, or Mannie for short, goes on a routine computer repair job… only to learn that the super computer has gained self-awareness. It's just another day in a science fiction world, really. Mannie befriends the personality—naming it Mike—and helps it gain an understanding of human behavior. To this end, Mike requests Mannie bring a recorder to a "Sons of Revolution" rally.
When the Warden's bodyguard busts in to arrest everybody, Mannie helps revolutionary Wyoming Knott escape, and like all classic heroes, he gets dragged into a fight that isn't his. The duo hides in a hotel room and eventually contacts another revolutionary, Professor Bernardo de la Paz. Mike reveals to these three that under the Authority's rule, Luna will exhaust its resources, leading to food riots and eventually cannibalism.
Deciding he draws the line at cannibalism, Mannie joins the revolution. The group begins planning for the day they will overthrow the Authority: creating covert revolution cells, laundering money, and setting up an imaginary figurehead through Mike called Adam Selene. After a group of Peace Dragoons rape and murder a Luna woman, the Loonies riot, killing the Warden and the Security Chief and claiming Luna as their own.
Book 2: A Rabble in Arms
Mike sends false information to Earth to buy the revolution time. Meanwhile, Prof creates the first Luna Congress as a governmental front for his own political scheming. Mannie and Prof decide to head earthside as diplomats to convince the Federated Nations to accept Luna as a free state. The night before he goes, Wyoh opts into his family as the sixth Davis wife.
On Earth, Mannie and Prof embark on a public tour to garner support for Luna. They also enter committee meetings with the Authority to state their side of the story, which goes about as well as you'd expect. Eventually, Mannie is arrested for polygamy, and he and Prof must escape back to Luna.
En route, Prof tells Mannie that failure was always the goal. Mannie's arrest and the Chairman's attempt to bribe him rally the Loonies under a banner of patriotic spirit—the revolution is now on like Donkey Kong.
Book 3: TANSTAAFL!
The Federated Nations send troops to reclaim Luna, but the fierce Loonies fight them back. Mannie begins Operation Hard Rock, and Mike begins launching moon rocks at the earth's surface to warn the nations there that the moon can—and will—fight back.
The Federated Nations attack with war cruisers, destroying the catapult, but Mannie and Mike have a secret weapon: another catapult. A game of galactic cat and mouse begins. Mannie continues launching rocks while trying to keep the catapult's location hidden from the F.N. cruisers, and just before he runs out of ammunition, the nations of Earth begin recognizing Luna as a legitimate state. The Loonies win.
But victory comes at a cost: Prof dies immediately after claiming victory for the state, and Mike's self-aware personality is deleted after his hardware takes damage. Withdrawing from politics all together, Mannie contemplates what life would be like on the frontier of humanity—the asteroid belt.
Book 1: That Dinkum Thinkum, Chapter 1
- On Monday, May 13, 2075, one Manuel Garcia O'Kelly-Davis is hanging out with his computer pal, Mike.
- Awesome Snack: May 13, 2075 will totally be a Monday.
- Mike and Mannie first met when Mike issued a check to a janitor for $10,000,000,000,000185.15 and Mannie was sent in to troubleshoot the problem.
- By talking with the computer, he discovered two things: The computer became self-aware, and it had a sense of humor. Well, it was working on its sense of humor at any rate—Mannie helped the computer begin to develop an understanding on how jokes work.
- To keep in contact, Mike sectioned off a secret phone line for the two of them to use.
- Mannie goes to the "Sons of Revolution" rally with a recorder "merely because Mike was curious" (2.8).
- He has a little trouble getting in until a friend of his, Shorty, vouches for him.
- Shorty introduces him to Wyoming Knotts, and Wyoming gives him a kiss on the lips. (She seems friendly…)
- The meeting starts, and after the songs calling for liberty, several farmers share stories of how bad life is under the Lunar Authority.
- Wyoh talks before the crowd and claims they must have a free market and kick the Authority off Luna.
- Professor Bernardo de la Paz stands up to speak and respectfully disagrees with Wyoh. Sure, he believes they need to get rid of the Authority, but they must also stop exporting food and become a self-sufficient society.
- Suddenly, the Warden's bodyguards bust down the door and call that everyone is under arrest; the Loonies immediately fight back.
- Mannie grabs Wyoh and runs. He glances back long enough to see that Shorty has been wounded severely.
- Mannie catches up with Wyoh and wonders where she is heading. Deciding she can't go back to her hotel, they pretend to be a couple and head out of the public corridors.
- With Wyoh standing out too much in Luna City, Mannie buys her body makeup, black hair tint, and a red dress.
- They find a hotel, check in, and order some food. Get comfy, Shmoopers, because the story's going to be in this hotel for a while.
- They start the typical "Getting to Know You" moment, minus the singing. Mannie tells Wyoh about his line marriage.
- Wyoh tells Mannie about her work as a host mother, and she also tells him how her hate for the Authority began.
- During a trip to the moon, her transport was hit with a solar storm because the Authority would not let the passengers disembark. The radiation she was exposed to caused birth complications later—as she put it, "I had birthed a monster because the Authority doesn't care what happens to us outcasts" (3.97).
- Mannie calls Mike to ask him if he'd like to meet Wyoh, a "not-stupid" (3.141).
- While on the phone, Mannie has Mike patch him through to his home. His senior wife, Mum, informs him that Professor Paz called looking for him; Mannie has Mike listen for the professor's voice near any phones.
- Wyoh, having heard the conversation, asks to whom Mannie was talking. He agrees to introduce them, but first, she needs to read a few hundred jokes.
- Mannie tells Wyoh the truth about Mike. She worries about the Authority controlling him since it technically owns him, but Mannie says nobody controls Mike.
- Wyoh calls Mike and introduces herself. Mike agrees she is a not-stupid, and the trio discuss some jokes.
- Mannie has a nap. When he wakes up, he finds Wyoh talking to Michelle, a new personality Mike created just for her.
- Oh, and Michelle is Wyoh's friend and not Mannie's. So there.
- Mike informs Mannie that Professor Paz is trying to call his house, so Mannie has Mike cut him in to the call.
- Prof says he called to warn Wyoh and Mannie that everyone at the meeting is in danger. Mannie, having already figured out the danger part, invites Prof to their hotel.
- The three order breakfast, and Prof updates them on what happened at the rally: The Warden's bodyguards were all killed, and their bodies were, let's say, recycled.
- The three decide that the revolution will need a better structure to stay off the radar. Mannie comes up with a covert cell structure that will ensure anyone being caught will not be able to give away the entire organization.
- After his brilliant idea, Prof asks Mannie if he'd like to lead the revolution.
- Mannie declines, but Wyoh opts him in anyway.
- Feeling the matter is not settled at all, Mannie orders drinks.
- While they discuss the matter of Mannie's opting in or out, Prof shares his political view, which he calls "rational anarchism" (6.43). The basic idea is that a person is always responsible for himself and his actions.
- Prof declares the revolution at hand, but Mannie still isn't all in, so Wyoh suggests he call Mike to analyze the situation.
- While they're at it, they share the truth about Mike with Prof. Prof is a little worried, but Mannie assures him that Mike is his own man, er, computer.
- Mike crunches the numbers. He decides that, given current trends, Luna will exhaust its natural resources. In nine years, cannibalism will set in and the moon will become a zombie nightmare set in space… which sounds like a pretty sweet movie, to be honest.
- Not one for the taste of human flesh, though, Mannie sides with revolution.
- He wants Mike to calculate the odds of success, and Mike comes back with the figure seven to one against them.
- They are overjoyed. Not at the odds, those are bad, but that Mike said "us." Aw—he'll be on their side.
- Mike is chosen as chairman of the revolution, and the other three agree to never mention Mike's existence. Their little secret.
- They begin planning the revolution and agree that Mannie and Prof should go about their normal routines. They'll contact each other through Mike, where it's safe and secure.
- Next, they need to settle the basic problem of how they are going to defeat a giant like Terra.
- Mike has a simple solution: They can throw rocks.
- Mike explains that a weapon is about manipulating energy. If they launch lunar rocks from the Moon to Earth, they can create a ton of kinetic energy and heat—or in less scientific terms, big booms.
- With that discussion over, the four break with a "Go, team!" Wyoh goes with Mannie to his house because she doesn't want to be alone in the hotel room. (We're kind of tired of that place, too.)
- Mannie introduces her to the family's senior wife, Mum, and Wyoh is welcomed with open arms.
- That night, Mannie sleeps with Mum. He tells her about the conspiracy.
- Believing every Luna dreams of the day they will be free, Mum joins Mannie's subcell.
- Mannie opens the chapter by considering how the Loonies were "as non-political a people as history every produced" (9.3). That kind of makes it hard to get a revolution going…
- Security Chief Alvarez helped with the problem by asking for reinforcements—he got Peace Dragoons and instituted a passport system—and the added rules and regulations caused the Loonies to begin fighting against the Warden and Security Chief's ways.
- Mannie begins seeing the advantages Mike's manipulation of the phone system will have for the revolution: It keeps information speedy yet confidential.
- The covert cells begin to grow in numbers.
- They decide Mike needs a not-computer face if he is going to be chairman, so Mike fabricates a persona out of thin air—well, thin data at any rate—named Adam Selene.
- Mannie has Mike get "sick" about once a month. This allows Mannie to tinker with his hardware, and as a bonus, it drives Warden crazy.
- Word Snack: When Mannie pretends to find a bug in Mike's circuitry, it is a shout-out to a supposed, though unlikely, origin for the term "software bug"—a fun tale about a moth flying into a Harvard computer back in the day when computers were room size.
- As the revolution grows, party members need to contact Adam Selene more often, so Mike creates a face, body, and even office space for Adam Selene. Of course, this Adam can only appear on television, but that hardly makes anybody less real; Mike even gives the guy a secretary named Ursula.
- The revolution also needs to be funded. Skimming money through a "pyramided swindle" (9.164), Mike launders money into their new—and only real on the books—company, LuNoHo.
- They also construct their own secret catapult. How did they hide it? Right on the surface of the moon, in plain sight so to speak.
- Things change for the revolutionaries as well as the revolution.
- Wyoh is baptized in Greg's church, and Mike takes to writing poetry. Prof gives up betting on horses when Mike takes all the fun out of it by predicting correctly every time.
- Sidris, one of Mannie's wives, joins the revolution, and soon she has a group of kids running information for the revolution, named the "Baker Street Irregulars."
- One of the Irregulars catches Mannie's eye, and he realizes he saw her while escaping the Sons of Revolution rally months back.
- The family adopts Hazel, and she becomes the captain of the Irregulars and an important member of the revolution.
- Mike's poetry pursuits lead him to adopt another persona, that of Simon Jester, subversive poet extraordinaire. His poetry shows up everywhere, even on bathroom stalls (bathroom stalls are how you know you've made it as a poet).
- Adam Selene starts writing poetry, too, and it's high quality, too. The Warden and Security Chief go mad looking for these guys.
- Mannie has a difficult time balancing life, revolutionary life, and preparing to go earthside.
- On top of that, he has to go to Hong Kong to meet Comrade Clayton, one of Wyoh's revolutionary contacts. He warns the cells he meets of the famine six years away.
- On his way home, Mannie stops to meet Judge Brody, and he runs into a group of stilyagi looking for the judge to try a man.
- Mannie accepts judgehood and sets the terms of payment and the jurors.
- The stilyagi claim the man touched a girl, Patricia, inappropriately by putting his hand around her waist and trying to kiss her.
- Mannie's judgment is to fine the man, Stuart LeJoie, fifty bucks for not learning Luna's customs before becoming a tourist. He also fines the youths five bucks each for not teaching the tourist for an honest mistake.
- At the taproom, Stu questions Mannie about Luna society, and the two get to know each other.
- Mannie invites Stu over for dinner and has Mike run a background check on him—based on this information, Mannie believes he's made an important earthside contact.
- Stu proves a hit with the Davis family, especially Mum.
- The revolutionaries continue to stir the Loonies against the Warden.
- Mike, as Simon Jester, rewrites the lyrics to many a revolutionary song, and the Warden bans their playing.
- Mannie runs across Slim Lemke, one of the stilyagi who brought Stu to trial, and learns he's joined the revolution, too—oh, and they're related.
- Stu is recruited into the cause. Conveniently, Stu turns out to be rich, and he offers money to the cause. Lots of it.
- Mike cracks the Wardens communication code and discovers he's desperate for help the Federated Nations are not providing.
- The revolutionaries decide they need to speed things up, but find themselves committed sooner than they think.
- With the rape and murder of Marie Lyons, the Loonies revolt against the Warden.
- Once word gets out, Prof calls Finn Nielson and tells him to assemble the men who trained with laser guns to join the riots.
- Taking Prof's advice, Mannie heads to see the riots, though he doesn't participate.
- Mannie meets up with Finn and decides to ignore Prof's advice—he takes a gun.
- The Warden holes up in his complex, and Alvarez is killed. Prof orders Mike to start the next phase and reduce the oxygen in the Warden's complex to knock them out before flooding the building with nitrogen.
- Finn's men enter with p-suits on. Luna's insurrection has succeeded.
Book 2: A Rabble in Arms, Chapter 14
- A wave of patriotism set to a Queen soundtrack sweeps across Luna. Well, at least that's what the history books say, but Mannie says he got the real deal.
- Mike controls communications so the Authority doesn't realize what's happened on Luna—in other words, Loonies still get all the perks of membership.
- As for the Peace Dragoons, well, it still makes Mannie sick to think about what happened to them (14.12). Mort the Wart is still alive, but brain damaged so as to be effectively senile.
- Prof, Wyoh, and Mannie try to decide what to do about Adam Selene and his technical non-existence. Mike decides to create him as a visual image and, just like that, they have themselves an instant revolution chairman.
- Adam makes a speech proclaiming Luna to be free, and he asks the Loonies to be patient as the new government is established.
- The captured scientists manage to rig a system to get word earthside, then Mannie and Finn pay them a visit to destroy some transmitter equipment and set them straight.
- Mannie seems to face endless problems: There's work to be done, but people don't want to do it; authority money drops in value; they need to prepare defenses. The honeymoon with freedom is officially over.
- Science Snack: Moonquakes are totally a thing.
- The Luna Congress is established, and Mannie worries they'll start establishing laws, but Prof assures him that those people were put in Congress because they couldn't pass laws. Sly.
- The Luna Declaration of Independence is signed—after arduous hours of rhetorical debate, Congress gives up, and so everyday Loonies end up signing it.
- It is decided the document needs to be presented to the Federated Nations.
- Mannie asks Mike how he and Prof will get to Earth, and Mike's answer is that he'll disguise them as a shipment of grain in a barge. It's a fifty-hour trip with no bathroom.
- That night, the Davis family opt Wyoh in as their new wife.
- Wyoh spends the night with Mannie, frightened that he won't come back.
- Mannie wakes up in the cramped quarters of the barge.
- He believes Prof might be dead but gives him heart stimulant to help deal with the acceleration just in case. He decides against drugging himself, though—if these are his last moments, he wants to experience them.
- Mannie wonders if he made the wrong decision when experiencing six gees of descent.
- The barge splashes down and is towed into port. Mannie and Prof are taken to a hospital to help them recover from the trip and Earth's extra gravity.
- Stu visits Mannie in the hospital to tell him that they rigged things so Chad (the nation) claims them as citizens (i.e. no illegal immigration).
- They leave for Agra and present their case to the Federated Nations' Investigating Committee; Prof makes the case for Luna being recognized as a free state.
- But the committee decides the "Lunar Authority cannot surrender its trust" (16.87).
- Prof wonders who they'll exile to be the next Warden, and in the argument that follows, he collapses from exhaustion.
- Stu has their illegal recording cut, slanted in their favor, and sent to news outlets.
- During the next meeting, the Chairman reminds Prof that the sessions are closed. Prof retorts they are the only ones who said it was closed.
- The committee asks about the grain shipments, and Prof responds that they are open to negotiations but that the contracts the Authority had before are null.
- Prof makes a speech, the gist of which is that if the committee accepts Luna as a free state and negotiates with it as such, grain shipments will increase.
- That evening, Stu lines Prof and Mannie up for an interview with reporters, placing some of his own men in the bunch to make sure the right questions are asked.
- Mannie has a meeting with the Chinese delegate on the committee, Dr. Chan.
- During the meeting, Mannie hints that if the Chinese were to build a catapult on a tall mountain, the country could dominate trade with the new Luna state.
- Mannie has several similar meetings with other delegates: different country, different mountain, same song and dance.
- While they wait for the committee to recall them, Prof and Mannie go on a public tour to garner support for the Luna cause.
- Prof buys a brass cannon during this time and hopes to one day see it on the Luna flag. (Click over to our "Symbols " section to read why.)
- The Terrans question Mannie and Prof about Luna life as though they live on Mars or something.
- One woman finds the idea of a line marriage completely foreign, so Mannie explains his family structure to her and shows her a picture of everybody.
- The next morning, Mannie is arrested for the crime of bigamy.
- Stu flies in for the rescue as Mannie's Get Out of Jail Free card.
- The committee recalls Mannie and Prof, and tells them a new code of laws is being drafted for Luna—the free state will not be recognized.
- Mannie is surprised that Prof is not arguing with the proclamation.
- After the announcement, the Chairman asks Mannie for a word in his private office. He offers Mannie the job of Protector Pro Tem, if he'll go back to Luna and convince everyone that the new setup is pretty sweet. Of course, it's a secret, just between them.
- Mannie doesn't answer but asks for the paperwork so he can look it over; he immediately goes to Stu and Prof and tells them what happened.
- Stu puts his escape plan into action, and all three board a transport and rocket themselves moonward.
- It takes two days of space travel, but they eventually make it home.
- Prof has a little confession to make during this time: He's been getting updates from Mike about the odds of success, and the numbers have been getting steadily better because they failed at their mission to get the Federated Nations' recognition. Huh…
- Mannie supposes he'll never understand high-level tactics.
- Prof also tells Mannie about his plans to stop grain shipments to Earth when it is most advantageous.
- The Davis family gathers to welcome Mannie home.
- At the station, a crowd has formed to cheer for the returning heroes; Prof delivers a speech and leads the crowd in patriotic song.
- The core revolutionary group gets down to planning the next step. Due to the success of Prof's speech, Mike recommends pushing the embargo through Congress immediately.
- Wyoh updates Mannie that the Congress has now been elected into office. Oh, and it's hinted that Mike rigged the elections so that Mannie, Wyoh, Prof, and eighty-six percent of their candidates won seats.
- Mannie wonders when they start throwing rocks at Earth, but Mike points out the Federated Nations need to be the first ones to throw the punch—it's how you play the game.
- Around midnight, Congress passes the embargo.
- The embargo goes into effect. Grain is still purchased but nothing is sent earthside, and the Loonies prepare for war.
- Mannie tries on his new job as Minister of Defense and sets his mind to what he knows he can do.
- Prof discovers some members of Congress are actually creating subcommittees and doing stuff. What?
- He goes before the new Congress and speaks, asking them to not do the same-old, same-old but to try something new.
- Ever one to soapbox, he also talks toward the dangers taxes hold for government.
- Stu jokes that he's happy Prof wants to step down as President because he wants to nominate him for king.
Book 3: TANSTAFFL!, Chapter 23
- On Monday, October 12, 2076, Mannie is heading home when six ships land on Luna. L-City is under attack.
- He checks on his family and dons his p-suit, laser gun charged and ready; entering the fray, he kills two enemy soldiers.
- Chaos ensues as the Loonies fight back against the Terran troops. Loonie men, women, and even children get in on the action with whatever weapons they have at hand.
- And then the shooting stops—the Loonies defeat the soldiers before they even make it down the ramp.
- Well then.
- More than two thousand troopers and three times as many Loonies die during the battle. Mannie credits the win to the Loonie's fighting spirit.
- After the battle, Mannie contacts Mike and learns the dinkum thinkum machine took advantage of the attack and created a story to "kill off" Adam Selene, figuring it was as good a time as any since the figment of his circuitry had to go someday.
- Mike asks Mannie if he'll take up researching humor when the war is over, and Mannie agrees. Who doesn't love reading knock-knock jokes?
- Using a laser beam, Mike burns the sensors of an attacking ship. When the ship gives Mike control to land them, the computer decides to crash them into the surface instead.
- Mannie heads down to visit Mike. There, he executes Operation Hard Rock.
- Operation Hard Rock will assault the Earth's surface with rocks, with a goal of maximum destruction and minimum loss of life. The first target is North American Directorate.
- To ensure a minimum loss of life, they send warnings to Earth for three days straight.
- Okay, we know what you're thinking, why don't the Federated Nations just bomb them with ships? Well, Mannie explains that ships are expensive and sending them up to the Moon adds to the cost. Also, you remember what happened to the last ship, right?
- On the day of the bombing, Mannie leaves Mike alone so the calculations can go smoothly, and goes out with some binoculars to watch the moon rocks hit.
- He doesn't really need the binoculars, though, since he can see the explosions with his naked eye just fine.
- Federated Nations ships plan to hit them hard on Sunday, though Mike can't quite calculate what targets they'll aim for yet.
- Prof calls to have Mannie join him the Warden's Office.
- There, Howard Wright, Liaison for Arts, Sciences, and Professions, informs Mannie that the plan has gone wrong—apparently thousands of people show up to watch the event and were killed in the blast.
- Wright accuses Mannie of using atomic weapons, and Mannie loses his patience and shouts that the attack was simply vast amounts of force, mass, and velocity.
- He then, to paraphrase, tells Wright to shut up and let him do his job.
- Prof calls a meeting of the War Cabinet. Everyone leaves the room except the cabinet members, which just happens to include the revolutionary inner circle.
- Wright leaves, but not before backing down from a duel with Mannie.
- Mannie agrees to meet the cabinet for an update after some sleep.
- After his rest, Mannie receives the news from Earth that people indeed did ignore the warnings and showed up to see the boom—fifty thousand people are dead in North America. Terrans are calling for Luna blood.
- The Tycho Under evacuation isn't going well either, as people refuse to leave. Prof and Mannie have a small tiff about this, but Prof stands firm that they will not use coercion. They decide to warn everybody and keep guards posted.
- The bombardments continue as planned, but people wise up and don't try to sightsee the devastation.
- At the War Cabinet meeting, each member has a different opinion about how to deal with the situation. After some chit and a bit of chat, they decide to carry out the bombardment.
- Mike wants Mannie to go to his idiot son so Mannie can properly program it if things go wrong.
- Mannie calls Prof to see what he thinks. Prof informs him that whether Luna City is destroyed or not, Mike loses his radar or even dies: "Mike still gives Luna even chances if Little David's Sling can operate—and you are there to operate it" (27.89). So, no pressure.
- Wyoh and Stu meet Mannie at Mike's son (a.k.a. a less awesome computer) with luggage and everything they'll need. They're in it for the long haul.
- The first ship, FNS Espérance, attacks Mike's radars. Brody's boys burn the ship's eyes out, and the ship crashes; two radars are knocked out in the explosion.
- Mannie gets the information from Mike, who informs him that a second ship will be visible in about three hours.
- Mannie gets to work.
- The second ship comes around and takes potshots at the catapult and knocks it out of commission. Brody's boys laser its eyes and ears, and it crashes later.
- Without up-to-date information on the situation, Mannie can't determine whether or not to hit China again.
- He calls the members of the War Cabinet that are with him, and orders a sky watch without radar, since radar would give away their position.
- Stu is of the opinion that they shouldn't bomb China—he expects Dr. Chan to contact him to discuss terms—but Mannie decides they'll still attack China, believing they've only come as far as they have by looking strong and steadfast.
- The bombardments continue as scheduled, but with a change: Mannie will be hitting Federated Nation offices hard.
- Running out of moon rocks and with a cruiser flying over their heads, Mannie takes the game into "extra innings" (28.92).
- The gamble pays off, and one by one, the nations of Earth begin to recognize Luna as a free state.
- Prof sends a message calling Mannie home at once.
- On the way to Luna City, Mannie begins to see how Prof's plan fit together, both for the revolution and after.
- There's a celebration in Luna City, and Prof delivers a speech to dedicate the historical day. As soon as he proclaims Luna's freedom, though, he dies.
- As the new Prime Minister, Mannie tells the celebrants to go home. He announces a day of mourning and silence.
- Mannie tries several times to contact Mike but gets no answer—the computer's self-awareness has disappeared for unknown reasons.
- While still in politics, Mannie and Wyoh manage to pass a flag for the Luna state, one featuring a brass cannon.
- Mannie informs the reader that the "yammerheads" didn't follow any of Prof's ideas and fell back into the old ways.
- As for himself, Mannie is looking toward the new frontier, the Asteroids. He hears it's not too crowded out there.