Read Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein Online


NAME: Valentine Michael SmithANCESTRY: HumanORIGIN: MarsValentine Michael Smith is a human being raised on Mars, newly returned to Earth. Among his people for the first time, he struggles to understand the social mores and prejudices of human nature that are so alien to him, while teaching them his own fundamental beliefs in grokking, watersharing, and love....

Title : Stranger in a Strange Land
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780441788385
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 528 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Stranger in a Strange Land Reviews

  • Shannon (Giraffe Days)
    2019-07-14 10:37

    Apparently a classic of the sci-fi cannon, I'd never heard of this book until it came up on a book club here. It took me a long time to read only because of lack of time, and a rather annoying trait the author has that I'll go into later.This is one of those books that tells us more about the period it was written in than anything else, so it's important to note that it was first published in 1961 and later again in 1968 - when moon fever was running high and people seemed to have high expectations for human achievement. Events are set in an undisclosed future but the older characters seem to remember the first moon landing, so I wouldn't be surprised if Heinlein was thinking of it being set around about now. With a mix of very daggy technology like "stereo tanks" (TVs) and large, clumsy listening devices, alongside hover crafts and spaceships to Mars, the scope of the setting is hampered by a 50s' imagination. Stranger in a Strange Land is about Michael "Mike" Smith, the "Man from Mars", offspring of two of scientists on board the original mission to Mars, who was raised by Martians. He is more Martian than human, especially in his thinking and outlook and philosophy, when he is brought back to Earth. Heir to a shitload of money care of his parents' heritage, it's unsurprising that the bigshots on Earth are wanting to keep him locked up tight. A nurse at the hospital where he is first kept, Jill, offers him a glass of water and in that one action becomes a "water brother" - the highest accolade for Mike. She rescues him from the politicians with the help of her journalist friend Ben and takes him to the home of a grumpy, reclusive man, Dr Jubal Harshaw, who lives with three young women who serve as secretaries - Anne, Miriam and Dorcas - and two men who take care of the property - Duke and Larry. Mike's particular talents slowly reveal: he can vanish things, including people, if he recognises there is a "wrongness" in them; he can withdraw from his own body and shut down his body so there is no heartbeat; he can teleport and think telepathically; he can absorb books in minutes and regulate his own body, making it muscular and mature at will; and so on. All of this can be done with understanding of the Martian language, which Jill starts to learn. He's completely ignorant of human ways, of human concepts - things like jealousy, possessiveness etc. are all alien to him. He doesn't understand religions and he has never laughed.After months on the road with just Jill, learning and "grokking", he finally knows why humans laugh and how to do it himself, and gets the human condition. It leads him to start his own "church", though it's more of a way of life open to people of all religious denominations, with free love and open mindedness, and abilities gained through mastery of the Martian language. With Mike set up as a new Messiah, a prophet, there's only one logical conclusion for this story.As a story, Stranger in a Strange Land is enjoyable and original. Yet, as a story, it's also bogged down with sermons, with Heinlein's opinions, and a very out-of-date mentality. It reads very 60s and 70s, though it was written before then. Not as far-sighted as it would like to be! It's especially noticeable in the relations between men and women, which have that faintly liberated tinge that's all really lip service, and a great deal of sexist language. Which is ironic, really, considering Mike's free love cult. There's also an affectionate insult for a Muslim character who's nicknamed "Stinky" that I couldn't help but be offended by.It does make it hard to read, though, when you come across lines like this, as spoken by Jill very matter-of-factly: "Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it's partly her fault." (p304) While today the statistics are more like "nine of ten times, a woman's rapist is someone she knows", the idea that it's "partly her fault" is still considered true by way too many people. To hear this come out of Jill's mouth makes it especially awful.Another example is Jubal saying: "Pipe down, Anne. Close your mouth, Dorcas. This is not a time when women have the vote." (p382) Granted, they ignored him and did what they wanted anyway, but there're a lot of these flippant, dismissive remarks all through the book. Product of its times, sure: just not at all futuristic.Then we come to the proselytizing, which the book is rife with. Today, reading this book, the opinions shared are very "yes, so?" - old hat, in other words. Though it is fun to read the rants, the set-up is cringe-worthy. Jubal is the main lecturer, and the characters around him serve as props. There are a great many "Huh?"s from educated and knowledgeable people so that Jubal can share his abundant wisdom. One "huh?" is okay, but when each long paragraph of Jubal is responded to with a "huh?" it gets a bit silly. Frankly, it's bad writing. It reminded me somewhat of The Da Vinci Code, which also uses characters to expound the author's theories on religion etc. at great length. While these things did at times make it harder to read the book, essentially the book is easy to read and often quite fun too. Jubal's sermons (and when Jubal isn't around, other characters fill the role, like Ben and Sam) can be a bit heavy-handed and obvious but a lot of it I agree with, so it wasn't rubbing me up the wrong way. Mike is a challenging character to write, because in order to write a naive, ignorant character to this extent, you need to be incredibly self-aware. Heinlein has fairly good success here, and Mike's growth, maturation, development and resolutions fit the character and work. He has charisma and is definitely intriguing; yet because he lacks the human flaws, he's also somewhat unapproachable and alien: a good balance to achieve.

  • Christy
    2019-07-09 12:48

    This is a book that it seems like I should like. It deals with issues of religion, including a strong critique of religion as we know it, presents socially progressive ideas about sex and relationships, and relies upon a fundamentally humanist, individualist philosophy. In the end, however, I can't get past a few things to really like this book. 1. The word "grok." I understand the meaning and significance of the word within the book and I understand why Heinlein chose to create a new word to carry this meaning, but "grok"? It's an ugly word and it gets used about 150 times too many in the book.2. The use of mystic religious concepts and practices. Heinlein critiques traditional, human religions, but he is unable or unwilling, finally, to leave behind the trappings of religion, relying upon them to bolster his argument. This bothers me because it feels like manipulation, like a man trying to have it both ways by using the religiosity and losing the religion. Michael admits that his philosophy, his truth, "couldn't be taught in schools" and says, "I was forced to smuggle it in as a religion--which it is not--and con the marks into tasting it by appealing to their curiosity" (419). He admits that he is manipulating his audience (just as Heinlein manipulates his) as well as admitting that the people he is trying to save are no more than marks, dupes to be conned. This is entirely too cynical for my taste and does not accord with the whole "Thou art God and I am God and all that groks is God" philosophy.3. The sexism of the text, which is inseparable from its heteronormativity and even homophobia. Despite Heinlein's progressive (especially for the time) ideas about sexuality and desire, he reinforces the gender dichotomy repeatedly, putting women and homosexuals in their place as he does so. Sometimes this is obviously negative and hard to miss, especially for a modern reader: "Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it's partly her fault" (304). At other times this is done with apparently positive statements: "Male-femaleness is the greatest gift we have--romantic physical love may be unique to this planet" (419). A statement like this one is troubling not because of its emphasis on romantic physical love but because of its insistence on the male-female gender dichotomy as a necessary component of that love. A more substantial example arises when Jill discovers that she likes to be looked at it, that it makes her feel desirable. She says, "Okay, if a healthy woman liked to be looked at, then it follows as the night the day that healthy men should like to look, else there was just no darn sense to it! At which point, she finally understood, intellectually, Duke and his pictures" (302-3). The realization that she likes to be looked at is fine as far as it goes, although the immediate leap from there to pornography is definitely a problem (pornography of course having huge and unavoidable issues of power wrapped up in it that this analysis neatly sidesteps). Following Jill's realization of her own desire to be looked at, Mike comes to see that "Naughty pictures are a great goodness" and they go together to strip clubs to enjoy the live version. However, "Jill found that she 'grokked naughty pictures' only through a man's eyes. If Mike watched, she shared his mood, from sensuous pleasure to full rut--but if Mike's attention wandered, the model, dancer, or peeler was just another woman. She decided that this was fortunate; to have discovered in herself Lesbian tendencies would have been too much" (307). Here, Heinlein brings together his progressive, free love ideas about sex itself with his more traditional ideas about gender roles and his leaning toward homophobia. The conclusion Jill arrives at here is that a) sex and desire are good, b) women are the spectacle, never the spectator, and c) lesbianism is completely taboo, even for someone who is otherwise interested in opening herself up to sexual love in its many forms. This one scene simply brings together these ideas that recur throughout the second half of the book. Repeatedly, it is made clear that homosexual behavior is a danger for Mike to avoid and that women's role in sexual behavior is essentially passive. 4. The emphasis on self, whether in self-love, self-pleasure, self-control. There are two basic ideas here. One is stated by Patricia Paiwonski, Mike's first convert, who says, "God wants us to be Happy and He told us how: 'Love one another!' Love a snake if the poor thing needs love. Love thy neighbor . . . . And by 'love' He didn't mean namby-pamby old-maid love that's scared to look up from a hymn book for fear of seeing a temptation of the flesh. If God hated flesh, why did He make so much of it? . . . Love little babies that always need changing and love strong, smelly men so that there will be more babies to love--and in between go on loving because it's so good to love!" (288). Love is wonderful, love is a good goal, but this is a love I am suspicious of, for it is a love based on feeling good, based on happiness. There's nothing wrong with feeling good and being happy, of course, but if feeling good and being happy are the primary goals of life, then that opens the door for abuses of others in the name of love or happiness and seems a rather meaningless goal in and of itself. Hedonism alone is not enough for me. The second basic idea is Mike's final message to the people: "The Truth is simple but the Way of Man is hard. First you must learn to control your self. The rest follows. Blessed is he who knows himself and commands himself, for the world is his and love and happiness and peace walk with him wherever he goes" (429). Again, this is not a bad goal--for once, finally, Mike brings a message of personal responsibility to add to the free love and grokking that has constituted most of the rest of the book. However, to expect the rest to follow from that kind of responsibility and self-control is just silly. This is The Secret, this is "name-it-and-claim-it" theology, this is bullshit. Like the idea that God wants us to be happy so if we all try to live for our own happiness, it will all work out, this is a philosophy that believes that YOU are the center of the universe, that everything will work out for the best. This is the complete opposite of the philosophy provided in Kurt Vonnegut's Sirens of Titan. Vonnegut also emphasizes love and finding a kind of happiness, but in his universe, those things are refuges in the midst of chaos, small things we can each do to make the world we live in a little better, a little more livable, not means to become masters of the universe. For Heinlein, God moves from out there to in here, validating each individual person's individual desire and decision; for Vonnegut, there is no God, not out there and not in here. For me, that is much more appealing.

  • Lyn
    2019-07-13 14:45

    One must read Heinlein's signature work to understand what all the fuss is about, from both sides. For the RAH fans and Sci-Fi crowd, this is an excellent book, a masterpiece of the genre. For the opponents, and I understand there are many, he systematically makes a lot of folks mad, from conservatives and theologians, to feminists, and even pro-government liberals. He was way ahead of his time, and yet also rooted in a pre-war mindset that was probably infuriating to young baby boomer readers and especially to the baby boomer’s parents. But the influence on the genre and on the larger culture is unmistakable.And the next thing is that this really transcends the science fiction genre. Heinlein, excusing his later life meanderings into the weird and sexually uninhibited, was a great writer. He uses a Sci-Fi story about a man from Mars as a vehicle for him to explore and to expound upon a great many subjects, most notably theology, ideology, social and sexual mores, and popular culture. Love it or hate it, and this work will no doubt inspire strong emotion, this is a powerful book and a must read for SF fans.

  • Kate
    2019-07-11 15:50

    (Note: Original pub date is 1961)Fuck you, Heinlein!!! That's like 3 or 4 hours of my life I'm NEVER GETTING BACK. This isn't a book, it's a pompous recitation of every one of your pet peeves and pet theories, delivered through the mouths of your utterly two-dimensional "characters" during the course of a nonexistent plot. You can throw all the orgies and kinky sex you want in there, but it doesn't make your book edgy or profound, and it sure doesn't make you a good writer. Although, bonus hilarity points to Mr. Heinlein for putting tons of lesbian stuff in there, but going out of his way to say that the men don't touch each other AT ALL, because that would totally be GAY, and I'M TOTALLY NOT INTO THAT, OKAY? HEY, HOW 'BOUT THEM NAKED CHICKS? Yeah, whatever Heinlein. Go tend to your masculine insecurities elsewhere. ....Ok, moving on.

  • Keith
    2019-07-13 13:38

    Well, I don't quite know what the hell that was. I'd gotten it into my head at some point that you weren't anything until you got reading this out of the way, but it was probably one of the most odious reading experiences I've had in my adult life -- especially for a book I volunteered to read. One bonus star for the last five pages or so being not-quite-as-totally-awful as the rest of it, and that's about it. And I feel dumb writing a bunch of obvious shit for the five people in the world besides me who haven't read this yet. But for those five people, I can tell you what I've learned:1) If you have a choice between reading the version of a book that got everyone excited about it, or the unabridged version published decades later because it was the author's "preferred" version, LORD GOD READ THE SHORTER ONE. Do not make the mistake I made. "Unabridged" does not mean "cooler." It means "longer." It means "unedited, sloppy, and even questionable." But mostly it means "longer."2) Anyone who says they're able to "look over" the unrelenting misogyny of this book is, like, freaking insane. The misogyny. is. Unrelenting. It is so completely unrelenting that I kept wondering if the whole thing was a put-on. Like, huge swaths of text about how Martian idealism will negate Earthly material needs are interrupted just to mention that even with said idealism, women will never want to stop shopping. I mean, are you kidding me? That can't be anything but trolling, right? Like, I have read books written in the past before, dudes. The delivery date on this book is no excuse for the fact that the women in this book -- I mean, I don't know how to describe it. It's crazy. It'e like they're supposed to be a different species or something. Either Heinlein is pulling the reader's leg, or he's a gender-specific sociopath.3) This is not really a separate point, but since there's like 100 pages (at least) devoted specifically to the beauty of orgies, up to and including lady-orgies, I'm shocked at the lengths Heinlein goes to in order to emphasize that none of the male characters are gay, or would ever consider being gay. Again, it's a dated book, or whatever? But the introduction clearly states how Heinlein was trying to break every taboo he could think of, up to and including cannibalism.Cannibalism. But no gay dudes. Even the Martian is like "Of course, as I preach the power of sexual utopia, I could never ever, never ever, never ever hook up with a dude. But I could totally teach all the ladies to be better at hooking up with dudes. I could do this by having sex with all of them."HELL'S YEAH BRO! ALL YOU BRO!4) Jubal Harshaw. We need to talk about Jubal Harshaw. If you talk to anyone about this book, after you get through the rampant misogyny and the no-gay-dudes and the this-book-is-terrible, some asshole will go "Yeah, but Jubal Harshaw, amirite?" Like the idea that you have one character that sort of has a personality makes up for all the other characters having less than none. Let me frame it for you this way -- at the beginning of the book, Jubal Harshaw is a hack writer living in self-imposed exile surrounded by women who are basically all secretaries / mothers / daughters / girlfriends to him. By the end of the book, the Martian cult members all believe he is the father of their Martian Jesus, and then he gets laid by a young woman who's used her spooky Martian powers to transform herself into a clone of the one female character everyone in the book is in love with. So maybe that sounds like a cool spot to be in, right? Not to mention Harshaw is written as being the smartest person on the planet, negotiating with the media and the government in one swoop in order to protect the Martian Jesus -- not in a pure-holy-genius way, but a this-old-maverick-can-outthink-all-you-whippersnappers-and-corporate-shills kind of way. Like the pure doggone common sense of being a fat middle-aged fiction writer will get you a harem of mom-secretary-daughter-girlfriends, make you more powerful than the UN, and make you the father of Martian Jesus.Heinlein was a fat middle-aged fiction writer when he wrote this. SO IT'S NOT EVEN YOUR WISH-FULFILLMENT. IT'S HEINLEIN'S. AND THAT DUDE'S FREAKING DEAD.4)We need to talk about the Martian sex cult. First, I'm calling it this because it's totally what it is, even thought technically it's a bunch of humans living in sexual utopia through learning Martian mind tricks. But Martian sex cult is funnier and truer. As I said earlier, there's at least 100 pages devoted to an attempt to break down the reader's preconceived notions about sex cults not being creepy, and how they make everyone happier. But look, maybe Heinlein didn't have old episodes of "Real Sex" to watch on the internet, but now we do, okay? And sex cults are creepy, fireals. In fact, 100 pages talking about their non-creepiness does not make them less creepy. Guess what it makes them the exact total fucking opposite of.And I'm just saying, maybe if there'd been one little guy-orgy in all those pages, like to replace all the dudes talking about how they were having sex with each other's wives? I'm just saying that would be a start. But mostly no. Because even then? You have this psychotic group-think thing that is totally mind-wipingly terrible and makes me hate everyone alive for liking anything about this book.5) In reviewing this, I'm going through it in my mind and heart again, and you know? I fucking hate it. I fucking hate this book. I was never actually convinced that Heinlein wrote all this stupid contradictory gender-politics stuff or insane cult stuff in order to troll the reader, which would be the one way I could possibly excuse everything else. The book is ethically dishonest, Heinlein was a scumgoat, and Jubal Harshaw is a turd.But the cover? It's pretty cool.

  • Petra X
    2019-07-17 08:05

    "Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it’s at least partly her own fault." The most quoted sentence from this book.He's right it is. A woman should shroud herself in black, even wear a veil over her eyes and for extra protection she should wear a big size of Doc Martin boots so it could be a man under the shroud (Michael Jackson used to do that) and always be accompanied when she goes out. Which should be rarely. Very rarely. When she is in the house (most of the time) she should have the view through windows obscured and a chain on the door. No man who is not related to her should enter. Not workmen, not the police, not her son's friends from school. No one. Then she won't be raped. If she doesn't do all of the above, and she she is raped it is obviously her fault. If she does do all of the above and she is raped, then she should examine her conscience and see if there was something else she could have done to protect herself and didn't. This sounds like Saudi Arabia right? Or Afghanistan or any of those countries. This is because I was reading how there are very few rapes in these countries. It wouldn't have anything to do with the harsher penalties that the courts often apply to the victim rather than the rapist would it? (view spoiler)[Rape in Saudi Arabia worth reading this in it's (short) entirety (hide spoiler)].I suppose if you hold the attitude of it must be her fault '9 times out of 10' her punishment is just and knowing that, she isn't going to complain. Is this the world Heinlen, a large number of British and Caribbean judges (I don't know about American ones so much) would like to see? I don't think so, but then they still blame women. "She was drunk", "she wore a short skirt", "she was out alone at night", or even simply, "she was out", "she opened the door to a workman", she, she, she... Normal men don't rape, they like the woman to enjoy sex too. Rape is a crime of assault and violence. Normal men who like the idea of hard, violent sex like women who enjoy that kink too. Rape is never, ever, ever the response to lust by a normal man. It would be best if a woman home-schooled her daughters so that they are never exposed to risk but since they will not be going out very much, probably education beyond reading, writing and using a computer is pointless as housework, cooking and childcare will be all she really needs and she can get that from the endless reality shows she will no doubt watch as there isn't anything else much to do. A lot of men in the world would like to see this, minus the computer use. A lot of men in the world actually enforce this on women. And they still have rape in those countries.The book was brilliant and I read it years before I had my consciousness raised (horrible phrase). Just glanced at it again today and was reading some reviews and this rant just bubbled up, as they do.5 stars for being a brilliant book. 1 star for attitude towards women, total misogyny. Average 3 stars.

  • Kelly H. (Maybedog)
    2019-07-17 13:04

    Nowadays, most people seem to either love or hate Heinlein. Many read his children's books like Podkayne from Mars, Red Planet and The Rolling Stones, enjoyed the adventure and moved on to his adult stuff just to get more. The politics, sexism and lack of depth went over their young heads. To them, his books were just great adventure. And yes, for the era in which they were written, they were great adventure and less sexist than most SF at the time. My intro to the man was a little different: I was dallying at the library because I wanted just one more book (I was 12 I think). My mom was trying to get me to leave so she glanced at the paperback rack where I was standing, grabbed "Stranger in a Strange Land" and said, "If you want to know how weird your father is, read this book." How could I turn that down? I grabbed it and devoured it as soon as I got home.I loved it, the free love was eye-opening, and I announced when I was finished that I was bisexual. I've never turned back, although my mom was understandably disbelieving, never really even hearing me. (She was later shocked when I first dated another woman.)The book affected me profoundly but I am afraid to read it again because I'm sure I'll hate it. So I have a love/hate relationship with Heinlein. He was my second favorite author by the time I graduated from high school having read everything he wrote. By the time he died, I had wised up and realized what he was really about. Libertarian politics anger me. His twisted sexism, the kind where a woman tells a man he's smarter because he needs to believe he is and yet has very little power, makes me want to vomit. And I hate to think what kind of racist drivel I'd find.But if there was a book that actually changed my life, this is it. Yes, I was 12, and yes, I would have come out eventually and yes, I would probably strongly dislike the book now. But Stranger was my favorite book for a long time. For its place in my past, my enjoyment of it at the time I read it, and the effect it had on my life, I must give it five stars. Just don't ask me to defend it.

  • Apatt
    2019-06-25 08:46

    “Democracy’s worst fault is that its leaders are likely to reflect the faults and virtues of their constituents—a depressingly low level.”Now, why does that resonate so hard? Great line even though it is not representative of Stranger in a Strange Land’s major theme.Stranger in a Strange Land is Heinlein’s, best known and most popular book. It is not his most controversial novel but seems that way because it is the most widely read one. His later booksFriday andI Will Fear No Evil are, to my mind, much more controversial, but also verges on being unreadable. This is not the case with Stranger in a Strange Land, which is a hoot from beginning to end.Robert Heinlein did not want Stranger in a Strange Land to be labeled as science fiction because he wants readers to view the novel as a sociopolitical allegory exploring the origin of a new religion, social mores, sexual liberation and other challenging themes. It is very easy to find stacks of in-depth analyses of this book online, but when I first read it in the 80s I was unaware of the themes, subtexts etc. At the time I only read sci-fi for the escapism and this book did not disappoint.Looking at the basic plot it is not surprising that Stranger in a Strange Land is labeled as science fiction. The story concerns Valentine Michael Smith, known to the public as “the Man from Mars”. Mike (as he generally referred to by the other characters) was born on Mars, his parents and the rest of the crew the colonization starship Envoy mysteriously died. 25 years later another expedition from Earth discovers Mike as the lone survivor, having been raised by Martians. Mike is brought back to Earth, he is soon taken into the care of bestselling author Jubal Harshaw. This is where he learns—at superhuman speed—the English language and the peculiarities of human culture. Once he “groks”* humanity he sets out to found a new religion based on Martian philosophy, featuring learning the Martian language, developing telekinesis, polygamy, “thou art God” and various other alien practices. His “Church of All Worlds” picks up many followers but is viewed with disdain by the authorities and followers of the established religions, who are out for his blood.Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov are often referred to as the “Big Three” sci-fi authors. During my formative years as a sf reader, Heinlein was my favorite of the three, followed by Asimov then Clarke†. He just seemed like the funniest, the most “badass”. A couple of years ago I reread hisStarship Troopers, a book I enjoyed very much as a teenager, and found it to be overly didactic and consequently rather dull. Prior to this Stranger in a Strange Land reread I half expected to be similarly disappointed. This turns out not to be the case, the didacticism is there, but presented in a much more entertaining package. I particularly enjoyed the early parts of the book when Mike is depicted as a sort of space Mowgli. His sudden withdrawal into a corpse-like meditative state, his incomprehension of nudity, money, ownership and all social mores in general, makes for some great comedy. While the book is not exactly densely plotted I enjoyed his development from idiot child to a Crocodile Dundee-like character, and eventually to a messiah. Art by SharksDen The first half of the book reads more like a conventional sci-fi romp, the second half, which consists of more dialogue than plot, is where Heinlein throws his challenging ideas at the readers. From the several discussion forums I have read, quite a few readers decided to abandon the novel when the sexual issues come in thick and fast. As a more mature reader I could not help but notice the sexisms in the book, a lot of the bantering in the dialogue is fun, but the female characters are often talked down to by the men. The (non-graphic) depiction of free love is also cringe-inducing. As for the seemingly libertine ideas put forward by Mike, Jubal and several characters I would have to be crazy to agree with them all, but Heinlein’s intent was never to convince the readers of these ideas but to provoke them to think, to try looking at “conventional wisdom” from new angles, even crazy ones.Heinlein’s literary skills are ahead of most of his sci-fi contemporaries when he is not busy being sexist, his prose and dialogue fairly sparkle. Jubal Harshaw is probably the most vivid and vibrant character I have ever encountered in a sci-fi book; he obviously has all the best lines, probably because he acts as an avatar (self-insert) for the author. Valentine Michael Smith is almost as memorable because of his oddness. Unfortunately, none of the female characters are well developed or believable. For me, Stranger in a Strange Land is a flawed gem that sensitive female readers will probably find distasteful and feminists will find intolerable. I suspect Heinlein would have approved this state of affairs, as his intent for the book is to challenge the readers through satirizing the accepted social mores. If you can tune out the sexism (a product of its time) it is well worth reading; certainly required reading for anyone who wants to be “well read” in science fiction.Notes:* “Grok” is the most famous neologism from this book. In essence it is a level of understanding so profound that the subject (or object) of this understanding becomes a part of you and vice versa.† The ranking is the reverse these days, I like Clarke best, then Asimov, then Heinlein. Lately, I have come to appreciate Clarke’s epic hard sci-fi plot and speculations more than the other two biggies possibly because I read very few Clarke books in the 80s, at the time finding him too dry and not very humorous.• This review is of the “uncut” version as Heinlein first conceived and written it, first published in 1991. The abridged version was published in 1961, both versions have their fans (and detractors ). I read the 1961 version in the 80s, unfortunately I can’t remember what the differences are; but I do think some of the dialogue in this uncut edition is rather longwinded. The 1962 Hugo Award was, of course, for the abridged version. Thanks, Denis for raising this issue.• Some of the background info for this review was gleaned from this Mental Floss article.• An interesting Goodreads group discussion about this book, which remains a problematical read for many, and Heinlein would not have wanted it any other way.• From Quora: Why are Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov called the Big-Three of Science Fiction?Quotes:“The Universe was a damned silly place at best . . . but the least likely explanation for its existence was the no-explanation of random chance, the conceit that some abstract somethings “just happened” to be some atoms that “just happened” to get together in configurations which “just happened” to look like consistent laws and then some of these configurations “just happened” to possess self-awareness and that two such “just happened” to be the Man from Mars and the other a bald-headed old coot with Jubal himself inside.”“When one is of my age, one is necessarily in a hurry about some things. Each sunrise is a precious jewel . . . for it may never be followed by its sunset.”“Gratitude is a euphemism for resentment. The Japanese have five different ways to say 'thank you'-and every one of them translates literally as resentment, in various degrees.”“could not avoid having government, any more than an individual man could escape his lifelong bondage to his bowels.”Valentine Michael Smith

  • Robin Hobb
    2019-07-14 07:58

    I will state, without apology, that I have enjoyed every Robert Heinlein book I have ever read.Do I always agree with his philosophy or his observations on life. No.But he tells me a story, and while he is telling it, I don't put that book down.I don't read books to find authors who agree with me or match some political template.I read books for stories. And diversity in story tellers is good.

  • Jareed
    2019-07-10 09:48

    “Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it’s at least partly her own fault.” (511)Perhaps this is the single most quoted statement from this work, and also the statement by which Heinlein is critiqued and berated, the same statement by which this philosophically charged work is sullied by 1-star ratings. Whether by inadvertent straying into a faulty conception and erroneous application of intentional fallacy or the failure to recognize that Heinlein sought this work to stand as historicization of the prevailing attitudes at the time of writing juxtaposed with those of the future, as represented by the Man from Mars, the loss of substance predicated upon such mistakes are saddening. Most reviews needlessly nitpick this book by implacably quoting sexist remarks offered to us by a cantankerous Jubal, who symbolized the attitude of a bigoted past, but that is missing the big picture, and missing the very idea this book seeks to impart. That is the point, to present homophobic, sexist, resistant-to-change personas that stand for the past, because in the end, we see that Jubal, is opened up to a new philosophy, divested of all improprieties and finds himself realigning his beliefs, a belief which is open to change. By doing so, Heinlein, through Jubal and the Man from Mars, asks the reader, by extension, to reexamine beliefs and conventions. To disregard this by literally focusing on the sexism is to lose the quintessential aspect of the book. See beyond the literal. Challenge the conventions. This book is included in The Hugo Awards Reading ListThis review, along with my other reviews, has been posted at imbookedindefinitely

  • Markus
    2019-07-09 13:54

    I don't even...I might try one of these books again in the distant future, and I might try the last of this guy's classics, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress at some point. But for now I can only say that Robert A. Heinlein is one of my least favourite writers of all time.I might write a real review, but considering that I'm not particularly fond of reviewing thoroughly negative experiences, I don't know if I can be bothered.

  • Otis Chandler
    2019-06-23 13:03

    I really enjoyed this book. The concept of a man who had grown up on Mars and never seen another human until he was in his twenties is such a fun idea - and a rich canvas. Watching Mike try to grok humans gave a Heinlein great opportunities to point out some of our faults - and our advantages.I think my favorite part of this book is the word 'grok'. I would bet that there are deep discussions over the true meaning of this word - but I will contend that its closest meaning in English is 'to be enlightened about something'. If you grok God you have reached enlightenment. If you grok music you truly understand in the way that Mozart understood it. If you grok another person you love them. If you grok programming then you truly love and are really good at programming - that, and you're also a probably a pretty big nerd for using a word like 'grok' :) I used it in front of my girlfriend and she still hasn't forgiven me, since I had to explain that it was "a Martian word"!One thing that I grokked (yes I'm going to keep using it dammit) after finishing this book is that it is kind of a 60's manifesto for free love. I wasn't alive in the 60's, but given everything I know about the 60's from movies, books, etc it seemed that my grokking was right.

  • Jim
    2019-07-18 13:02

    I just re-read for the SF & Fantasy book club. I've read it a several times over the years. Worth the time & was no effort. It's incredible to me that he captured the 60's so well & it was first published in 1961. It would have been a lot less shocking toward the end of that decade, but he actually foresaw so much of the societal upheaval we had. Typical of Heinlein, one of his main characters is a crusty old genius, Jubal Harshaw, who pontificates a fair amount. Heinlein kept his sexual revolution within limits that I could accept, unlike his works a decade later & beyond. He takes our basic preconceptions about society & religion out & examines them closely, often through Jubal's cynical POV (which I often agree with, so I like it) yet I can never put mine back unchanged. It helps to read this occasionally, if only to gain some perspective to look at my current society.As an SF novel, he does have his gadgets, but leaves the science of their workings to our imaginations. In other words, he doesn't date his work with a lot of pseudo-science that is outdated. It helps this book stand the test of time a lot better. While the setting is sometime in the near future, it easily stays that way - it has since I first read it 35 years or so ago, anyway.He also has Psi powers, which are available to any person who has the intellect & discipline to learn the Martian language & logic systems. The characters are interesting, if not particularly deep or complex. A lot is left up to the reader, which I prefer. He sketches the outline & let's me fill the character in with my own prejudices. Occasionally, he swats them down.All in all, it's an excellent book & a must read.

  • Julio Genao
    2019-07-02 09:05

    seminal.also: legit-legit crazy.but important on too many levels to was the right book at the right time—fifty years shaped my earliest musings on the nature of sexuality and the path towards a future that didn't compel me to get my dick sucked in random alleyways and decrepit porn theaters after school—while still making it back home in time for family ties; never mind the pointed exclusion of homosexuality from heinlein's philosophical flatulence.appallingly dated ideas about women; incredibly forward-thinking ideas about women also.which means he knew what he was doing, didn't he, old jareed: keep something fling-able to hand, just in case.

  • Olivier Delaye
    2019-07-05 10:57

    I'd heard about this Science Fiction classic for years before I finally decided to give it a whirl. For some reason I had always put off reading it... and to be totally honest I should have listened to what my gut was telling me. Now, I'm well aware of the fact that Stranger in a Strange Land came out in 1961, a period in time when values and mores were different, but the level of sexism and homophobia in this book is simply too much for me to bear.Just read the following passage: "Jill had explained homosexuality, after Mike had read about it and failed to grok—and had given him rules for avoiding passes; she knew that Mike, pretty as he was, would attract such. He had followed her advice and had made his face more masculine, instead of the androgynous beauty he had had. But Jill was not sure that Mike would refuse a pass, say, from Duke—fortunately Mike’s male water brothers were decidedly masculine, just as his others were very female women. Jill suspected that Mike would grok a ‘wrongness’ in the poor in-betweeners anyhow—they would never be offered water."And another one: "After looking over a bushel or so of Mike’s first class mail Jubal set up a list of categories: (…) G. Proposals of marriage and propositions not quite so formal … Jill brought a letter, category “G,” to Jubal. More than half of the ladies and other females (plus misguided males) who supplied this category included pictures alleged to be of themselves."And yet another--hold on to your seat, this one is a biggie: "Nine times out of ten when a woman gets raped it's partly her own fault."Really, Heinlein, really? A DNF for me.OLIVIER DELAYEAuthor of the SEBASTEN OF ATLANTIS series

  • Jason Koivu
    2019-07-03 12:01

    Stranger in a Strange Land thinks more than it moves. There's tons of dialogue on philosophical topics only rarely broken up by the occasional plot-pusher. It often reminded me more of Plato's Symposium rather than the sci-fi novel I expected. I'm not saying that's bad, but sometimes when you're hit with the unexpected it throws you off and lowers the enjoyment level of the whole thing slightly. About halfway through I realized what was happening, readjusted my expectations and enjoyed the book for what it was. So, no harm, no foul.Sex, religion, politics...all those tasty taboos and touchy topics are discussed, dissected, and often lampooned. However, without delving too deep into spoiler territory I will at least say that going in I would've expected the examination to be centered on (view spoiler)[an alien culture and people. Instead planet Earth and its people are put under the microscope. Religion receives a right going-over. Although I personally try to avoid the stuff when possible, that was the subject that, in the end, garnered most of my interest. For example, although I found it a tad melodramatic and obvious in its final culmination of the Jesus parallel Heinlein was working with, the ending took me by surprise. I mean, I "saw it coming" in a way, so perhaps it was surprise at my own emotional attachment. As "talky" as I felt the book to be and as detached as I thought I was, I found I cared about the main character Smith more than I thought I did. "No! Don't let it end like this!" might have slipped out of my inner monologue. (hide spoiler)]That being said, the book is docked one star in the rating, because in my opinion the preponderance of philosophy bandied about through out Stranger in a Strange Land is almost too much to bare. Some of it was downright delicious, some I could swallow, some I refused, while some I spat out as idealistic nonsense. Heinlein was not so naive as to believe all the dogma he wrote. He created characters to voice these disparate ideas, values, opinions, etc. Take them as you will, he seems to be saying. The important thing is that you listen with an open mind.

  • Bradley
    2019-06-25 07:50

    This one transformed and cemented me as a young adult, totally screwing me up and enlightening me at the same time, showing me that living in a crazy christian culture doesn't mean I have to stay there, or that great imagery can be used soooooo damn subversively. :)And above or below that, it was a fantastic tale of striving for wisdom, learning that semantics MEANS something, and that I can be blown away by the fact that so much philosophy and striving and understanding, (read Grok,) could be thrown into one single novel and still be a wild tale.So why all the hate, Ya'll? Oh good ole' Jubal is a stand-in for Heinlein's soapbox tendencies, sure, but he's also a wild character in the sense that he is what he is. He loves women, but says awful things, but on the other hand, these women respect him enough to throw him in the pool and blow raspberries at him, too. As we all should, today, to all men who act as a Mad Man from 1962, all heavy-drinking, heavy-opinions, and "apparently" sexist. But no one really believes that about him when they get to know him. He's a good man and a loudmouth author and all his other progressive ideas like equality between the sexes are SHOWN to us, repeatedly and repeatedly, by actions and deeds and a closer look at all the philosophies. It's the difference between expression and reality. He expresses as the time allows, but in reality he supports everyone. That's Jubal for you.But he's not even the main character, just the most loud one.Mike is. He's an alien, yo, born of man but raised by Martians with heavy-ass psychic powers, yo. And he's innocent of mankind, too.This is his story. Who tries to capitalize on the man who owns Mars, who protects him, how he learns to adapt and later to understand us crazy humans, and what he does with his gifts.The novel could be an indictment of modern times, a brew-on of absurdity when it comes to religion and religious thinking, a wildly prescient vision of the sexual liberation movement just a few years down the road, (or perhaps the seminal novel that informed the sixties love movements,) or it could be a wonderful shout-out to us all to start trying to UNDERSTAND one another, for grok's sake.So I think it's wonderfully delicious. You know. To say that Heinlein is a sexist reactionary? When he, like, is the spirit of the sixties? Huh, water-brother? You Grok?This is easily one of my favorite, if not my most favorite Heinlein, not just because it got into my soul when I was a kid, but because it's just one of those works that lives and breathes and still brings a big smile to my face. :) Oh, and it's one of my top 100 works of all time and it won the Hugo of '62, not that anyone really cares, because it just SPEAKS to so many people. :)That's controversy for you. :)

  • Donovan
    2019-06-24 10:36

    For me, it would be a more apt title if it were “Strangeness in a Strange Book.” Of all the books I’ve read on the list so far [and I’ve skipped around, been reading them as I can find them], I enjoyed this one the least. Overall, I was enjoying the ideas the book was putting forth about religion and politics and community prior to Mike’s intellectual ascent [descent?] as a Man rather than a Martian. I was extra disappointed with it because the premise the book set up in Sections One and Two seemed very interesting and then, somehow, everything became weirdly psychedelic and communist with a side of evangelicalism thrown in.Once he became Man, I became more and more uncomfortable with the book. I don’t know. Maybe I’m repressed, but I doubt it. Some of it probably stems from the fact that I didn’t live through the Free Love Era and the boom of Communism. Both have always been, for me, fabulous ideas that did not work; so to read about them working seems both contrived and naïve. Some of it also stems from the fact that I think Heinlein wanted to think he had some insight into the sexual feelings of women and I think he missed the mark by a long shot. Of course, you can’t win many points with me when one of your main female characters says, “Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it’s partly her fault.” [pg. 304] Plus, I’m not into losing my individuality, regardless of whether or not it makes me a member of a peaceful society.I had the brilliant idea while reading this book to put in little markers about what I wanted to talk about. Unfortunately, it’s now about 2 months since I finished it and I no longer remember why I put the markers on some pages. I marked the section where Mr. Heinlein points out the ritualistic cannibalism in Christianity, but I forget what point I was going to make about it. I also marked the passage about Jubal’s feelings towards Fosterites and other Earthly religions. I think Heinlein was using Jubal as the adherent to Science as a religion, setting up all belief systems currently at work on Earth, pre-Martian Man, to be resolved under the power of human mental oneness i.e. “grok.” I put a marker on a page that used “grok” a lot and I think it was to remind myself to make the same point Liz made about “grok” sticking in her head and becoming really annoying. [Just wait till Ringworld for new words that will stick in your head.]At one point in the book, I stuck a Post-It note on which I wrote, “I suppose I take it for granted that reading comprehension requires a certain level of knowledge and a certain level of common sense.” The pages to which it was stuck referenced things like Julius Caesar, the S.S., and Hemophiliacs. I realized that if I didn’t know what those things were a lot of this book would not make sense to me. It wasn’t just Stranger in a Strange Land that cause this revelation though. I was reading Ulysses by James Joyce at the same time, and, if it hadn’t been for my love of Irish ballads and history, I would really have had NO CLUE what half that book was about.I’m always intrigued by the levels of future advancement presented in sci-fi. It’s very interesting to see what predictions have come to pass, what things are still distant dreams for us, and what things are totally wrong. On pg. 229, Heinlein mentions a star exploding and Earth not noticing. Right before I read that, I’d just finished reading an article in the Smithsonian about how astronomers have systems set up to alert them when a super nova is occurring so that they can observe the gamma ray bursts. But we still don’t have flying cars.

  • Richard Derus
    2019-07-14 13:05

    I gave it 4 stars for memory's sake. Now the folks at Syfy are adapting for TV! Amazing to me that, once considered too racy for publication unexpurgated, it's now a TV-able property. For all its many faults, I'm glad Society has caught up with Heinlein's libertarian 'tude towards sex. decided to give it more of a review at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud:

  • Kasia
    2019-07-16 09:56

    Mixed feelings here. The first half of the book reads like a suspenseful mystery/action flick with some sharp observations about language and culture clashes. And I loved it. The second half deals with whacky religion and uninhibited sex. Public nudity, open marriage, sex used for growing closer - it's all very out there and provocative, especially for 1960s. But since it's 1960 you also get a fair share of sexism. Women are often excluded from male conversations, patronised: "girl", "dearest", "child" - that's apparently the way to talk to a grown woman; and given the roles of caretakers only - cooks, secretaries and nurses. And of course the heights of their ambitions outside the church is marriage, within the church there's no place for ambitions but sex with holy people*. So yeah, Heinlein made my inner feminist groan a lot. "Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it's partly her fault." - charming, isn't he? And don't even get me started on his ideas about religion... But the book gives plenty food for thought, technology and gadgets aren't as outdated as you'd think, and the conspiracy plot was truly gripping. So Stranger in a Strange Land - despite being irritating and infuriating at times, was never a waste of time. And I think I grok it.______________________________________Does that sound Mormon like to you Gretchen? I know little about Mormons, I doubt they are that extreme, but I kept imagining them as I read. And I guess they do stick with that outdated, little sexist attitude towards women. So your friend's mother definitely has a point.

  • Paul Bryant
    2019-06-24 10:52

    I read this. Yes. When I was young. At the time it appeared to be fascism for hippies. Proto-Manson, then. I'm struggling to remember anything. He comes from mars and he starts a new religion and he eats people. No - he gets eaten by people. I think that's it. A bit like Jesus. If Jesus was a fascist. You know what - I can't remember a thing. It's late.

  • Manny
    2019-07-18 12:56

    Robert Heinlein was a good friend of AI legend Marvin Minsky (check out his people page! It's interesting!), and I've heard that they often used to chat about AI, science-fiction, and the connections between them. Here's a conversation I imagine them having some time between 1961, when Stranger in a Strange Land was published, and 1966, when The Moon is a Harsh Mistress appeared:"Bob, this book's not so bad, but I felt it could have been so much better! OK, love the idea of the guy from Mars, who doesn't understand how people work and has to learn the most basic things about emotions, society, etc from first principles. You have some good stuff there. But I think you got a bit distracted with the super-powers and the sex. Sure, put in sex, all for it, but don't get Mike so involved in that part of the book. He should be more abstract I think. And I wasn't so thrilled by the fact that he never actually does anything much with his powers, except for start a minor cult and get martyred. Seems a bit negative. What does his martyrdom achieve, exactly?Wait. I have an idea. Why don't you rewrite it so that he's an artificial intelligence? Really, that makes more sense. He's even more alien than a human raised by Martians. Oh, don't worry about that, I can help you with the technical details. Feel free to drop in at the AI Lab any time, we're all huge fans. People will be delighted. So, yes, as I was saying, he needs to do something. Maybe he's... the central computer in a future Lunar society? And he helps them start a revolution, and break free from Earth's tyranny? Even though what he's really most interested in is understanding how humor works? I don't think you need to change that much else. Call him Mike again by all means, so that people see the link. And you should absolutely martyr him at the end. Only, I think this time you should do it in a subtler and more ambiguous way. But sure, leave the door open about whether he's really dead.""Hey, thanks Marvin! Terrific ideas! You know, sometimes I think you should be the science-fiction writer, and I should be the AI researcher. I'll definitely come by soon. With a draft, I feel inspired. Going to start as soon as I put the phone down. Take care!"

  • Hope
    2019-07-16 08:37

    I will try to keep this short, but I have a hard time concealing my distaste for this book and what it represents in the SF canon. I think that the idea that an enlightened individual creating a highly sexual new spirituality is a fantastic idea. That's just it, though. The premise is outstanding. The thing that makes me recoil is that this is a story with so much potential, that is so affected by its author's worldview that it becomes unpalatable. It's painful to me to read about a future where we have flying personal vehicles and bounce-tube elevators, but where all the doctors are still men and all the nurses are still women in cute uniforms. Or that a main character calls herself a "spinster" at 28. It's not like this was written entirely pre-women's movement -- it's not like it was unforseen that conceptions of gender and power might have shifted. It's just that you get the distinct idea that the author did not want them to shift. Did I mention the film noir-speak? That and the overt homophobia were unnerving. That's my bit. [UDATE, 5 years on. Maybe I'm just older and more jaded, but I feel much less outraged now that an author in 1961 would be sexist and homophobic, or hold this particular vision for a sexual revolution. I'm sure my grandchildren will view me as backwards in a bunch of ways, too, and they'll likely be right. The thing that still bugs me, why I'm not just deleting this whole grammatically problematic post, is that this book is loved as a still-relevant social critique instead of what it is: a museum piece. That's my bit, for now, anyway.]

  • Hadrian
    2019-07-03 08:48

    No, Robert A. Heinlein, women who are raped do not deserve it.No, there is not something 'fundamentally wrong' with homosexuals.These most baffling and now bigoted of statements coincide with almost loving statements about the nature of compassion, truth, and self-sacrifice.Anyone who preaches these first two things combined with the latter platitudes in the 21st century will not, in any sense, be considered a messiah.Heinlein, you were a gifted writer. You definitely worked your magic on a young impressionable teenaged version of myself. But your ideology, perhaps the product of its time, is poisonous.

  • Andrew Dugas
    2019-06-29 08:53

    Wow, a lot of mixed reviews of this book here. First, the edition referenced is the 1991 UNCUT version, which is about 33% longer than the version published in 1961. So for those of you who felt it was over long, there you have it.Second, about those offended by the book's purported misogyny and homophobia, keep in mind it was written in the late 1950s. By the standards of the day, this book was comparatively forward-thinking. Should we fault Shakespeare for his politically incorrect foibles? Read Catcher in the Rye lately?Third, the social impact of this book is given short shrift in these reviews, especially in regards to the early psychedelic adventurers around the SF Bay Area whom adopted the word "grok" to describe the contemplative aspect of the LSD experience. Throw Free Love and waterbeds into the mix while you're at it.Fourth, as a work of fiction, this book has tremendous scope. A rich diversity of characters whose stories come together with that of Michael Valentine Smith, a well-imagined future that perfectly comments and satirizes the present one. (Consider the focus of the public imagination on the various happenings of celebrities and their excesses, satire still valid nearly 50 years later.) And most of all, the intimated future destruction of Earth at the hands of the Martians, not unlike what happened with the planet that has since become an asteroid belt.As far as the book's take on religion and spirituality, Heinlein has borrowed less from the Eastern traditions (as so many other reviewers have indicated) as early Christian ones.Remember, religion is a human construction. A church is a human institution. Those who confuse church and religion with the Mystery they are intended to honor deserve what they get.

  • Kristjan
    2019-07-12 08:51

    I seem to be hit-or-miss with Heinlein. I have read and enjoyed Starship Troopers and The Glory Road; however I couldn't finish Job: A Comedy of Justice and was not impressed with Stranger in a Strange Land (SISL) ... It is simply NOT good Science-Fiction (even if it is a fair piece of satire). The book is divided into five (5) parts ... Part One [His Maculate Origin] was a good Sci-Fi plot that I actually enjoyed ... the premise being that of a lost human boy raised by non-humans (in this case Martians) along the lines of Tarzan of the Apes and The Jungle Book (which is thought to have been his original inspiration for the story). Next to nothing is actually revealed about Valentine Michael (Mike) Smith's time with his adoptive people, but the story keeps humming along with a little political intrigue and mystery. Unfortunately the plot begins to sink after this until it practically disappears by the end. The koolest concept here has to be the 'Fair Witness' characters ... A very limited version of human machine proxies that could easily be the precursor to the better developed Mentats of the Dune saga.Part Two [His Preposterous Heritage] introduces what is arguably the true main character in the story and Heinlein's alter ego, Jubal Harshaw, who proceeds to introduce 'Mike' to all the ills of human society. This wasn't all that bad a satire actually, even when Jubal waxes on the sermon a bit too much (it had the feel of watching re-runs of "Abbott and Costello', 'I Love Lucy' or 'The Dick Van Dyke Show.') Mike really takes a back seat here so that Jubal can pontificate at will, but the humor of it all was still mildly entertaining. Presumably Jubal's female secretaries provide the strong gender examples that Heinlein is noted for ... They are also incredibly shallow and boring (or as presented in one discussion thread ... They differ by a haircut). There is absolutely NO character development for anybody except Mike from here on out; and as far a Mikey is concerned, all of his character development happens all at once as he is 'wondrously converted from Tarzan/Mogli into the next Messiah of humanity. We also get two main plot items ... The term 'grok' which became a cult classic in the late 60's and the revelation that Mike has a super power to go with his naiveté that just about blows any plot discipline out of the water for the remainder of the story."Thou Art G-d" saith the Man from Mars ...The rest is a complete Grokk.Part Three [His Eccentric Education] was an attempt to develop Mike a little further so that he learns the 'art of the con' that is apparently required to make a go of any religion. Mike needs this, because he wants to harness such shams to 'trick' humans into accepting his rather dubious views on human society (which social change has now exposed as mildly sexist and homophobic). Part Four [His Scandalous Career] Here is where Jubal comes back on stage in order whip the reader with guilt to make it easier to accept Heinlein's free love society. That is really all that you find here. We get such gems as: "I can at least see the beauty of Mike's attempt to devise an ideal human ethic and applaud his recognition that such a code must be founded on ideal sexual behavior ..." Really? Even if accepted as true, Heinlein completely FAILS to explore this concept other then to say that it is obviously good. To support his claim, he gives us a voyeuristic look into his 'Nest' (aka Harem) where such physical contact is open, natural and without jealousy BECAUSE everyone is an equally great looking sex god following the true path to happiness. The problem? We the reader get NO insight into how Mike's disciples change their thinking. They just do ... Possibly because they now see the inherent 'rightness' of the concept once it is properly explained to them (the only instance we get of that is between Jubal and Ben Caxton and that is left unresolved at the end of the encounter).Part Five [His Happy Destiny] After such a stinging rebuke of Christianity (specifically) earlier in the story, it seems surprising the Heinlein would so blatantly force the 'Passion of Christ' upon his protagonist here; and with very little rationale other then some need to highlight one of his more hypocritical definitions of 'grok' that includes consuming the physical body of a person in order to truly know him. Add to this a complete moral bankrupcy where it is okay to cheat, steal and kill as needed and I do not see any appeal what so ever to Heinlein's proposed utopia. Sure ... I get the fact that the story is not supposed to be realistic (it is supposed to be satire) and that it was not intended to be a guide to a practical utopia, but that just doesn't save the later half of the story from being so preachy and simpleminded that it not only obscures the "important questions" about contemporary social mores (specifically sex and religion), it actually fails to entertain with its long-winded monologs defending the 'rightness' of the title character's views on the subjects. While Heinlein may not have intended to provide convenient answers to the questions he thought he was raising, that is in fact what he did, displaying a remarkable ignorance of basic human psychology that ultimately dooms his 'social commentary' to failure.

  • Paul
    2019-07-09 13:44

    Lifes too short for this. Maybe some books just age terribly and time hasn't been kind to this. I liked the concept but just found it a terrible pain to read, and it was just annoying in large parts.The political satire the author tries to make are just a bit too ham fisted and the story just doesn't seem important at all. The whole grok word thing just felt cheap randomly substituting one word for for other random words doesnt hint an Alien language just a lazy author and it just got really old really quick. None of the characters even the Martian lead Smith were worthy of giving a crap about and just plod along with nothing interesting to do but occasionally philosophize in an overblown way. It may have had impact at the time of its release but the quality of scifi has increased infinitely since this was seen as top drawer and it pales in comparison to what has followed .This book reminded me of those times you are stuck talking to a drunk who thinks he is vastly superior to you and is imparting untold wisdom of the ages but is really just talking crap. Basically you can grok this book up your grok and grok it.

  • Evgeny
    2019-07-17 13:50

    I know it is a classic. Still I cannot give it more than 1 star. The apologists say it had to read in early sixties, when it was written. It is probably so. For those who want to read it for the first time: do not.

  • Jason Pettus
    2019-06-26 11:43

    The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write reports on whether or not they deserve the labelEssay #66: Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), by Robert A. HeinleinThe story in a nutshell:Conceptualized in the early 1950s, but not written and published until 1961 (supposedly so that "society could catch up with it," according to the author), Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land is a classic example of a science-fiction (or SF) novel acting as a premonition to its real-world times, only moderately successful when it first came out but eventually a must-read touchstone among the hippies of the Countercultural Revolution a decade later. It starts with the first-ever manned mission to Mars, which because of its length was crewed only by couples, which ended tragically with the unexplained deaths of all on board; but when a second team finally arrives twenty years later, they discover that one of these couples had secretly had a baby, one Valentine Michael Smith, and that the lone survivor was raised by the insanely unhumanlike native Martians as one of their own, guaranteeing his re-introduction to the human race being as awkward as Tarzan being returned to Greystoke Manor.And in fact, surprisingly the entire first half of this long novel is dedicated merely to the complicated legal questions that have arisen by Smith's appearance, including what powers he exactly has to grant property and mining rights to individual nations or even to commercial interests, cleverly reflecting the real debates that were going on at the time over these same questions in regards to the Soviet/US race to the Moon. And so this is how the gentle, confused man-child eventually becomes friends first with the feisty nurse Gillian Boardman at the hospital where he's being kept; then her sometimes lover, brash journalist Ben Caxton; and then Caxton's friend and one of the most memorable characters in all of modern American literature -- lawyer, doctor, curmudgeon, millionaire hack author, angry libertarian, proud sexist, sculpture collector, Poconos-mansion-owning octogenarian Jubal Harshaw*, who eventually invites the whole party to an extended stay at his secluded Austin-Powersesque compound (including a household staff straight out of a James Bond parody -- three beautiful women who also happen to be experts at office management, cooking, engine repair, high diving and more). And indeed, there's a good reason that it turns out to be such a complex battle to get Smith away from the draconian "protection" of the US government; because hey, it turns out that such "psychic abilities" as mind-reading and telekinesis are actually ho-hum scientific principles, as easily accomplished when you know what you're doing as solving a hard math problem is, just that no human had been smart enough to "crack the code" until Smith was basically raised from birth with the knowledge by the evolutionally superior Martians, skills that the US Army are awfully anxious to learn themselves.It's when the action switches to this compound, then, that the much more famous second half begins; because with Smith being the curious, inquisitive soul that he is, of course the first thing he wants to do once gaining his "freedom" is to tramp across the country vagabond-style, exploring as much as he can about human life and sampling a wide variety of traditional and mystical religions, trying to find something that can adequately explain the curiously hippie-like belief system the Martians adhere to, and especially the all-important concept in their culture of "grokking" (not quite the simple act of understanding something, not quite religious revelation, not quite a profound connection between two living creatures, but a sort of combo of them all, impossible to fully understand unless you can actually speak Martian yourself). And indeed, this is exactly what Smith ends up doing, is creating his own religion (the Church of All Worlds) dedicated to teaching humans to speak Martian so that they can fully grok this new, enlightened way of living, which apparently also includes a nudist lifestyle and lots and lots of hot group sex…or, er, communal free love, I mean. (Man, those Martians are some real swingers.) Needless to say, this doesn't sit well with most of the other religions of the world, including the suspiciously Scientologist-like "Fosterites" who Heinlein also explores in depth in the book's second half, leading to an easily anticipated martyr-like death for our perpetually misunderstood hero; but not before Smith has a chance to let his followers know that what he's really done is kickstart the next step of human evolution, and that those who refuse to learn the new ways will eventually become as obsolete and then extinct as the Neanderthals are to us.The argument for it being a classic:Well, for starters, it won the prestigious Hugo Award the year it came out, with Heinlein himself the very first winner of the Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America (in fact, when people refer to the "Big Three" SF authors of the 1960s, Heinlein is one of them, along with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke); plus the Heinlein estate claims with some authority that this is the biggest selling SF novel of all time, with it certainly undeniable how much of an influence it's had on the culture since, including the introduction into the general lexicon not only of "grokking" but the phrase "Thou art God"**. And that's because, fans claim, Stranger in a Strange Land is a perfect example of genre fiction as metaphor, of a fantastical story that actually helps guide us in our everyday lives; that its perfect combination of humor, drama, action and philosophy preaches important lessons about self-determination, loving your neighbor (in all sorts of ways), and the facile nature of so many traditional religions, to say nothing of fringe cults that prey on the weak-minded. A landmark publication in the history of Libertarianism (and with Heinlein in general the originator of the "Libertarians in SPAAAAAACE!" trope now so common in science-fiction), fans say that its lessons of thinking for yourself and rejecting bureaucratic BS couldn't be more timely, the rare book that can be positively cited by both the Tea Party and the Occupy movement; the fact that it almost single-handedly pushed the entire SF industry into mainstream respectability is mere icing on the cake, simply an external sign of just how important this novel is. The argument against:Ahem. "Oh, are you freaking kidding me, you stupid grokking hippie trash?" That's an attitude you heard from a lot of people in the years after this book first came out; and while the vitriol has calmed down some in the 51 years since, it still remains the most effective argument against it, that this silly ode to long-hair orgies and Stickin' It To The Man isn't nearly as well-written or as important as its fans claim, and that it mostly has the reputation it does merely because Heinlein was damned lucky to have put it out right at the exact moment in history when mainstream society was most clamoring for a story like this (an accusation we've heard before in this essay series, don't forget, when we were discussing Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer). And this didn't get any better at all, they claim, even after Heinlein's widow in 1991 managed to get over 60,000 words from the original manuscript put back into the official bookstore version, after originally being cut in the early '60s for being "too scandalous;" because almost all of this cut material happens to be from the novel's infuriatingly repetitive and digressive second half, with literally hundreds of pages in the modern edition now dedicated to dated, rambling explanations of this group's adherence to free love, public nudity, water-based sharing rituals, and the importance of being "one with the universe" (that is, when you're not violently raging against the commies, capitalists, and other SOBs who are trying to steal away all your personal liberties -- oops, sorry, Heinlein apologists, did I just poke a hole in your precious little peacenik logic? Sorry about that!). And besides, say his critics, Heinlein was a cantankerous sexist and military booster who may or may not have been a fan of certain ideas commonly associated with fascism (but see Starship Troopers for a lot more on that), so you're officially forgiven for not buying into his luvey-duvey New Age charlatanism.My verdict:So for those who aren't familiar already with the fine points of SF history, perhaps it's best to start with the following to understand my thoughts today about Stranger in a Strange Land -- that between the early days of this genre, when it was considered good for not much more than empty kiddie crap, and our own post-Star Wars age when we just take it for granted that a genre project can have millions of fans and generate billions of dollars, there was a perfect storm in the 1950s and '60s (aka "Mid-Century Modernism") when an obsession with rationality and philosophy, a weariness over dogma-fueled wars, the explosive birth of the Electronic Age, and the sudden maturing of American literature all came together in a glorious mess in the world of science-fiction, a "coming of age" moment in which the genre was suddenly the single hottest thing in the entirety of the arts; and Heinlein had a huge role in helping to make this happen, demonstrably the very first genre author in history to get published regularly in conservative, mainstream, middle-class publications like The Saturday Evening Post, and also one of the first people in history to write SF stories where the fantastical science was simply a given, the stories themselves exploring the more underlying human-interest subjects that would naturally come with such innovations (now known as "social science fiction," and again not reaching its true apex until the Countercultural Era a decade later).So for Heinlein to put something as shocking and subversive as this out in the Kennedy years, after having a following of millions for his generally suburban-safe post-WW2 "juvenilia," was very much like the Beatles putting out "Sgt. Pepper" a mere three years later; a game-changer, in other words, not just a new project but a literal gauntlet that forced other writers to catch up, a line in the sand that served as an easy litmus test in those years to determine whether someone could "dig it" or not. And indeed, reading it for the first time a half-century later, this is still a very funny, thought-provoking and above all highly entertaining novel, full of intelligence and wit and great surprises; and sure, its critics have a point, that the second half does get bogged down occasionally with Heinlein's love for pontification (plus overly detailed descriptions of hippie orgies), but in an era that gave us Walden Two and Atlas Shrugged, it's important that we be more forgiving of this than we would with a contemporary novel, and understand that overblown philosophical treaties disguised as genre actioners are actually one of the most charming things about Mid-Century Modernist literature in general. Granted, this book inspired a lot of awfulness after the fact, not least of which is the entire trope of "Brilliantly Advanced Space Alien Who Acts Like Sweet Guileless Mentally Challenged Man Child Merely Because He Doesn't Yet Understand The Dirty Ways Of Our Flawed World" (see E.T., Starman, K-PAX, The Man Who Fell to Earth, ad nauseum); but in general, this is exactly as groundbreaking and still inspirational as its fans claim, and I have no hesitation today in declaring it a literary classic that everyone should read at least once before they die, a title that I'm convinced is just going to become more and more important as the years continue. It comes strongly recommended to one and all, as long as you approach it with a little patience and forgiveness, just as you should with all Mid-Century Modernist genre novels.Is it a classic? Yes(And don't forget that the first 33 essays in this series are now available in book form!)*And hey, yeah, just how autobiographical is good ol' Jubal? He sure looks and talks like Heinlein, after all; and in fact many have argued that the main character in this novel is not Smith but rather Harshaw himself, and that the entire Martian premise is just a thinly veiled excuse for Heinlein to essentially rant for several hundred pages on the subjects of women's lib, artists who receive state money, out-of-control central governments, and how much he hates each and every one of them. But on the other hand, genre editor and Heinlein friend David G. Hartwell has said before that Harshaw was based on mystery author and "Perry Mason" creator Erle Stanley Gardner, who like Jubal was a prickly former lawyer who got filthy rich off an endless series of hacky pulp novels.**And speaking of its impact on the real world, here's an amazing piece of trivia I came across that didn't fit well into the main essay: that a year after the book first came out, a man who now goes by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart started a very real church modeled after Smith's fictional one, which like the novel adhered to a strict policy of hedonism and Do What You Want. And they're still in operation!

  • George
    2019-06-26 10:38

    This book is to much a product of its times for me to fully enjoy it, but that night I dreamed of Mars.