Stranger in a Strange Land

Stranger in a Strange Land

by Robert A. Heinlein
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Stranger in a Strange Land 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 340 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
First published in 1961, this book has been accused of being a product of the 60's, but what we think of as 'the 60's' didn't begin until mid-decade. Amazingly, it sprang forth from the late 50's, where the American mind-set was neo-Puritanical, and women's and men's roles were well defined. If anything, it helped shape the 60's, not the other way around. Sure, the language is a bit stilted by today's standards, and the allegory of the 'Man from Mars' is a bit heavy-handed. But several of the book's themes, including the concept of strong, intelligent, sexually liberated women, were quite radical at the time. Don't expect hard science fiction. The science is secondary to the human drama and the social commentary, which borders at times on satire. And yet the Fosterites, which I had thought were quite absurd when I first read this, are shockingly similar to many personality-cult religious movements that have enjoyed wide popularity since then. This book successfully mixes biting satire with a positive, even naive, view of how humans might live together in peace if they can learn to 'grok in fullness', to be freed from the slavery of their petty jealousies and narrow, ugly world views. While shining a glaring spotlight on some of humanity's less pleasant characteristics, it still manages to leave you with a hopeful vision of how things might truly be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is NOT the proper, unabridged copy that was published at the writer originally intended. It's still an okay book. But it's simply not the same with almost 1/3 of the book missing.
kaol More than 1 year ago
I just reread this after many years absence from Heinlein. I must have read everything he wrote by the time I was 20, so now that I'm...not 20...I thought I'd see whether he was actually the storytelling virtuoso I remembered, and also how the science-fiction elements of this particular story had held up. He scored on both counts. In regard to the second, he was just vague enough about the details of things like flying vehicles and various electronic devices that they could fit just as easily into the future as the past. But finally on page 401, while Miriam is describing the effort to produce a Martian dictionary, Heinlein slips: "[we] worked out a phonetic script for Martian, eighty-one characters. So we had an I.B.M. type worked over, using both upper and lower case...I type touch system in Martian now." But though there's that mechanical typewriter at large in this otherwise future-sounding time isn't so bad given all of the other things he manages to work into the story without making it sound dated. Looking for stuff like that, though, was just fun on the side. The story itself, and the telling, is as fresh now as it was way back when. He does what a good writer should do by making an implausible situation and not a few implausible characters, sound everyday real, and interesting enough to keep turning those pages (or thumbing that touch screen). And that's why, almost 40 years after this was first published, and 22 years after Heinlein's death, this is still around, and being read by yet another generation. With many more to come.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book at a library's used-book sale for fifty cents, thinking it looked a bit interesting. I figured even if I didn't like it, oh well, no harm done, since I could just donate it back to the libary and they'd sell it again to someone else. Now, I wouldn't dream of giving it away or even selling it it's one of my favorites and has a permanent place in my book collection. I loved the mixture of science, religion, politics, and humanity. Valentine Michael Smith is a human who grew up on Mars. (He was the child of two of the people who went on a mission to explore the planet.) The other humans on the mission were killed and he was brought up by the Martians. On another mission to Mars, Valentine (now an adult) is brought back. He knows nothing about Earth or about humans, so he teaches them the way Martians do things. From him, his friends (who he calls 'water brothers') learn about love and 'grokking.' Heinlein usues the book and Michael's journey to express his views on religion, politics, and humanity. As we see humanity through Michael's eyes, we see it in a different way than we did before. I enjoyed it so much that I recently purchased the uncut version, based on Heinlein's original manuscript, which was cut down drastically for the first edition. This is a great book and I would definitely recommend it. Even if you don't like science fiction and don't agree with some of the things in the book, you'll still enjoy this book. Just come to it with an open mind and you'll 'grok' the greatness of Heinlein's 'Stranger in a Strange Land.'
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you read this book and find that you don't like it or perhaps just don't get the point of it all... think less of yourself for this failing and read it again! The chacters are immortal The story is timeless And the message transcendant
Dr_Apollo More than 1 year ago
Stranger in a strange land is a fantastic work of sf about a man raised in an culture incomprehensibly different than any known human culture, who must learn the ways of humanity. And in my opinion that person who said it was utterly boring is most likely nearly illiterate.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Stranger in a Strange land was a good book that I could not close until I finished it. It was interesting, and I can't remember a time in the book that was dry. There was a lot happening, in a little bit of time. Smith was new to everything, and as much as he learned, he taught everyone a lot more. If you want to be a person, you should be someone like Smith.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You've heard the stories where a child is raised by a different family, or even by wolves, well, this child is raised by Martians, and what an interesting story it is.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is fantastic. As the headline states, an absolute classic! The first 80 pages or so are kind of boring, but then it gets really good. If you like books with a lot of witty, smart-assy (yay my own word!) and well written dialogue, you'll love this book. Or if you just like cool science fiction novels, you'll like it. It does, however, have quite a few weird concepts, so if you are really conservative you might not like it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing. This book helps put a new perspective on life and the way we live as humans. All the pain and distruction we cause for power and other useless materialistic junk. Everyone should read this book atleast once. It's another way to look at everything, not just religion or government, but everything. My hat is off to Mr. Robert A. Heinlein and I plan to read the rest of your books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've no doubt that Starship Troopers is Heinlein's best novel, but Stranger in a Strange Land is almost as good. And if you thought Heinlein had a lot to say in Starship, wait to you hear what all he has to say in Stranger. It's the story of a man, Valentine Michael Smith, who was born on Mars, grew up among the Martians, and then came back to Earth. This is the story of how he learns and what he does. And it is Heinlein's theological treatise. I found I liked parts 1 and 2 better, where Mike learns about humans and their culture. After that the book goes real heavy into the religion Smith creates. There it bogs down a little, feels a bit dated, and has the tendancy to be somewhat hypocritical of itself. But those are just a few minor flaws. This book is well-written, and one of my favorites.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If there was ever a list compiled of books you MUST read in life, this would be on the top of the list. I first read this book after being introduced to Heinlein in my freshman year of college. Even then without some of my life experience I loved it. Throughout the years I have re-read it several times, each time 'groking' more of the deep message and lessons in this book. I think each person may get something different from this book. For me I look at it as trying to explain the core essence of what it is to be human if you were raised by non-humans. How do you learn HOW to be human...everyone on the planet is shaped by their environment...parents, family, culture, friends, experiences. Now imagine you are a full grown adult and you haven't been shaped by any of this, but rather an alien life. That is Michael. For those offended by all the sexual references in this book, again look at it from the outside, from NOT being human. Human beings are one of only two species on the planet that have sex for the pleasure of having sex. Like it or not, it is part of being human. Remember, Michael wasn't shaped by human social norms, to him sex is a celebration of life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a phenomenal book. In a season where trash like 50 Shades of Grey is topping the charts (and I thought Twilight was bad enough!!), pick up this sci-fi classic and sink into an alternate future of Valentine Michael Smith and his cronies.
carlosmock More than 1 year ago
Valentine Michael Smith is the son of astronauts of the first expedition to the planet Mars. Orphaned after the crew died, Smith was raised in the culture of the Martian natives, who possess full control over their minds and bodies (learned skills which Smith acquires). A second expedition some twenty years later brings Smith to Earth. Ben Caxton, a reporter to the Post, has been following these developments because he fears for the lad because by the federation laws Mike owns Mars and has a large fortune. He confides in his friend Nurse Gillian Boardman to try to sneak him into Bethesda hospital where Smith is confined because he is unaccustomed to the atmosphere and gravity of Earth. Having never seen a human female, he is attended by male staff only. Seeing this restriction as a challenge, Nurse Boardman eludes guards to see Smith and in doing so inadvertently becomes his first female "water brother" by sharing a glass of water with him; ––– considered a holy relationship by the standards of arid Mars. After Caxton “mysteriously” dissapears, Gillian persuades Smith to leave the hospital with her; but they are attacked by government agents. Smith discards the agents. Gillian, remembering Ben's reference to Jubal E. Harshaw, a famous author who is also a physician and a lawyer, conveys Smith to the latter. Smith continues to demonstrate psychic abilities and superhuman intelligence coupled with a childlike naïveté. When Jubal tries to explain religion to him, Smith understands the concept of God only as "one who groks", which includes every extant organism. This leads him to express the Martian concept of life as the phrase "Thou art God", although he knows this is a bad translation. Many other human concepts such as war, clothing, and jealousy are strange to him, while the idea of an afterlife is a fact he takes for granted because the government on Mars is composed of "Old Ones", the spirits of Martians who have died. It is also customary for loved ones and friends to eat the spirit of the dead, ian allusion to Christianity’s Holly Communion or cannibalism. Eventually Harshaw arranges freedom for Smith and recognition that human law, which would have granted ownership of Mars to Smith, has no applicability to a planet already inhabited by intelligent life. Now free to travel, Smith becomes a celebrity and is feted by the elite of Earth. He investigates many religions. Smith also has a brief career as a magician in a carnival, where he and Gillian befriend the show's tattooed lady, an "eternally saved" Fosterite--a very powerful religion--woman named Patricia Paiwonski. Eventually Smith begets a Martian-influenced "Church of All Worlds" combining elements of the Fosterite cult (especially the sexual aspects) with Western esoterism, whose members learn the Martian language and acquire psychokinetic abilities. The church is eventually besieged by Fosterites for practicing "blasphemy" and the church building destroyed; but Smith and his followers teleport to safety. Smith is arrested by the police, but escapes and returns to his followers, later explaining to Jubal that his gigantic fortune has been bequeathed to the Church. With it and their new abilities, Church members will be able to re-organize human societies and cultures. Eventually those who cannot or will not learn Smith's methods will die out, leaving Homo superior. Incidentally, this may save Earth from eventual destruction by the Martians, who we are told were responsible for the destruction of planet five, which gave the universe meteorites. Smith is killed by a mob raised against him by the Fosterites; but speaks briefly to Jubal from the afterlife, saving him from an attempted suicide after the horror of Smith's own death. Having consumed Smith's remains in keeping with his own wishes, Jubal and some of the Church members return to Jubal's home to re-create their former conditions, and continue the work of his Church When Heinlein first wrote Stranger in a Strange Land, his editors at Putnam required him to drastically cut its original 220,000-word length down to 160,067 words. After Heinlein's death in 1988, his wife Virginia arranged to have the original manuscript published in 1991. Critics disagree over which is superior: Heinlein's preferred original manuscript or the heavily-edited version which was initially published. The reason I gave it four stars is that I though it did need some editing.
Sandy-shore More than 1 year ago
Personally, I did not like this book. There was way too much religious philosophy in it for me. I did like some of the characters. They were entertaining.
Ausonius More than 1 year ago
I was 75 years old when I first read Robert A. Heinlein's 1961 novel STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND. It did very little for this reader. But then I was an old man and I had even in high school read other didactic, even philosophical and theological novels. Why had this book so electrified early post-Eisenhower America? *** ??Then I thought more deeply into my own teens when I was simultaneously enjoying having crushes on my first girl friends while being electrified by Ray Bradbury's THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES and C. S. Lewis's trilogy: OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET, PERELANDRA and THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH. I was wild for these and other tales. Those books made me think fresh thoughts, led me to argue for my personal tastes against my far better informed Jesuit teachers in Shreveport, wonder if my points of view weren't as good as anyone else's. Those were proud rebel years! And a decade later other young people reacted similarly to Heinlein's STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND. *** ??So to be fair to people reveling in first loves, let me "grok" (a favorite word of STRANGER's hero Valentine Michael "Mike" Smith) those youngsters who fell in love with a book for the first time when reading Robert A. Heinlein. Never mind that Heinlein did what he did clumsily, verbosely and spoke through the mouths of a bunch of one-dimensional characters, including the crusty, conceited old lawyer "Jubal E. Hardshaw, LL.B, M.D., ScD., bon vivant, gourmet, sybarite ... and neo-pessimist philosopher" (Ch. 10). While Hardshaw busily tore down everything personally disagreeable in American life, Smith, a naive, innocent young human raised as a Martian by Martians was busy introducing Americans to an uplifting way to think about themselves and love one another. *** ??Mike Smith taught people to "grok" and to enjoy "grokking," reaching cores and essences of things and persons through intuitive empathy. He taught them the spirit of Martian water-sharing ritual. Smith's disciples learned to look at one another and say, "You are God" while modestly purring of themselves, "I am only an egg." In STRANGERS Heinlein deliberately weaned readers from inherited, hitherto uncriticized sacred beliefs and mores. He helped end Puritanism in America. *** ??Who can say for sure what chords the fictitious interactions of Smith, Hardshaw and other characters in STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND plucked in millions of young souls? Suddenly they felt within themselves the power of Socrates and his followers in ancient Athens. With Plato they believed they had been looking all their young lives at shadows in a dark cave when there was true light and reality outside that cave: the sun. Heinlein set them free to speak their own minds about parents, schools, religions, societies. No small achievement. And much of American society said, yes, amen. ***
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am in awe of this book. It challenges every belief known to man and is still invigorating. The imagery is surreal. Love the character of Jubal Harshaw kind of a stablizer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the books starts really good, full of suspense and fast moving plot. around the middle heinlein starts dealing with religion, anti military and sex theories. i bet that when it was first published, in the sixties, it was an inspiration for many people. but the problem is that the book just didnt age well. nowadays, the ideas in it are obsolete making large parts of the book extremely dull. overall i enjoyed reading the book because i like heinlein's work in general. but its definitely not one of his best. the moon is a harsh mistress, for example, is a masterpiece.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I stumbled onto this book after scouring the local bookstore, unsuccessfully, for an Arthur C Clarke novel. It had been recommended to me several times by friends who found it a mind-bend to read. I have to say I was ultimately left disappointed. Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke have/had the amazing ability to create and introduce characters easily, creatively and believably. I know some will claim that his one dimensional, and somewhat mysoginistic view of women was 'due to the time in which it was written' but I would refute that with the fact that other sci-fi writers at the time managed to create strong, capable women who weren't belittled by the male characters and who would never dare or even think to say that 'nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped its her fault' (304). I find Heinlein's writing style to be suprisingly poor given the accolades he is given; Jill and Mike are working in a circus -when, why and how did that happen? The storyline does not make sense in a lot of places and his characters are uncomfortable in themselves and some even ridiculous on paper. I didn't even want to finish it - which, for a voracious reader, is saying something. The story was passable but I fail to see how this book can be lauded as a classic - Stranger in a Strange Land is the Sci-Fi version Mills and Boon.
Anonymous 13 days ago
Great novel. One of the heinlein's best novels, has stood up all the years since it's been published and became a fan favorite. Well worth reading over and over again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A goodness. Reading and waiting will fill.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Started great but got really goofy. I sure don't understand all the glowing reviews. Wish i had the time & $$ back.
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Chris_Hoffman More than 1 year ago
Read this book over and over again.