Ironically, the most interesting, sympathetic, and human character in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is the sentient computer Mike. On one hand, he is a deus ex machina who organizes, finances, and leads the Loonie revolt. On the other hand, he is a child with great knowledge but no real understanding of human beings. His great desires at the beginning of the novel are to comprehend the illogical nature of humor and to find friends, both of which are satisfied by his involvement with the revolution. Mike is an intriguing combination of vulnerability and supreme competence, somewhat like the youthful misfit geniuses in earlier Heinlein stories such as “Waldo” and “Misfit.” The origins of Mike’s consciousness are never fully determined. His whole existence may be simply a cosmic joke. This allows Heinlein to make interesting speculations on the nature of intelligence, humanity, and man’s place in the universe. Mannie does not claim that Mike is truly human because he cannot find a workable definition of humanity. Rather, the friendship that he has for the computer makes it human for all practical purposes. When Mannie, addressing a God he may or may not actually believe in, asks if a computer is one of His creatures, he implicitly grants Mike the tragic status of being human.
Mike’s first and closest friend, appropriately, is Mannie, who is himself partly a machine: He has lost an arm in a mining accident, and he replaces it with various prosthetic devices for different occasions. The reader views the story through Mannie’s eyes, and the entire novel is told in Mannie’s dialect, which reads like...
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