Robert Heinlein's Hugo Award-winning all-time masterpiece, the brilliant novel that grew from a cult favorite to a bestseller to a science fiction classic.
Raised by Martians on Mars, Valentine Michael Smith is a human who has never seen another member of his species. Sent to Earth, he is a stranger who must learn what it is to be a man. But his own beliefs and his powers far exceed the limits of humankind, and as he teaches them about grokking and water-sharing, he also inspires a transformation that will alter Earth’s inhabitants forever...
About the Author
Robert Anson Heinlein was born in Missouri in 1907, and was raised there. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1929, but was forced by illness to retire from the Navy in 1934. He settled in California and over the next five years held a variety of jobs while doing post-graduate work in mathematics and physics at the University of California. In 1939 he sold his first science fiction story to Astounding magazine and soon devoted himself to the genre.
He was a four-time winner of the Hugo Award for his novels Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), Starship Troopers (1959), Double Star (1956), and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966). His Future History series, incorporating both short stories and novels, was first mapped out in 1941. The series charts the social, political, and technological changes shaping human society from the present through several centuries into the future.
Robert A. Heinlein’s books were among the first works of science fiction to reach bestseller status in both hardcover and paperback. He continued to work into his eighties, and his work never ceased to amaze, to entertain, and to generate controversy. By the time he died, in 1988, it was evident that he was one of the formative talents of science fiction: a writer whose unique vision, unflagging energy, and persistence, over the course of five decades, made a great impact on the American mind.
Date of Birth:July 7, 1907
Date of Death:May 8, 1988
Place of Birth:Butler, Missouri
Place of Death:Carmel, California
Education:Graduate of U.S. Naval Academy, 1929; attended University of California, Los Angeles, 1934, for graduate study in physic
Read an Excerpt
HIS MACULATE ORIGIN
ONCE UPON a time there was a Martian named Valentine Michael Smith.
The first human expedition to Mars was selected on the theory that the greatest danger to man was man himself. At that time, eight Terran years after the founding of the first human colony on Luna, an interplanetary trip made by humans had to be made in free-fall orbits—from Terra to Mars, two hundred-fifty-eight Terran days, the same for return, plus four hundred fifty-five days waiting at Mars while the planets crawled back into positions for the return orbit.
Only by refueling at a space station could the Envoy make the trip. Once at Mars she might return—if she did not crash, if water could be found to fill her reaction tanks, if a thousand things did not go wrong.
Eight humans, crowded together for almost three Terran years, had better get along much better than humans usually did. An all-male crew was vetoed as unhealthy and unstable. Four married couples was considered optimum, if necessary specialties could be found in such combination.
The University of Edinburgh, prime contractor, sub-contracted crew selection to the Institute for Social Studies. After discarding volunteers useless through age, health, mentality, training, or temperament, the Institute had nine thousand likely candidates. The skills needed were astrogator, medical doctor, cook, machinist, ship’s commander, semantician, chemical engineer, electronics engineer, physicist, geologist, biochemist, biologist, atomics engineer, photographer, hydroponicist, rocketry engineer. There were hundreds of combinations of eight volunteers possessing these skills; there turned up three such combinations of married couples—but in all three cases the psycho-dynamicists who evaluated factors for compatibility threw up their hands in horror. The prime contractor suggested lowering the compatibility figure-of-merit; the Institute offered to return its one dollar fee.
The machines continued to review data changing through deaths, withdrawals, new volunteers. Captain Michael Brant, M.S., Cmdr. D. F. Reserve, pilot and veteran at thirty of the Moon run, had an inside track at the Institute, someone who looked up for him names of single female volunteers who might (with him) complete a crew, then paired his name with these to run problems through the machines to determine whether a combination would be acceptable. This resulted in his jetting to Australia and proposing marriage to Doctor Winifred Coburn, a spinster nine years his senior.
Lights blinked, cards popped out, a crew had been found:
Captain Michael Brant, commanding—pilot, astrogator, relief cook, relief photographer, rocketry engineer;
Dr. Winifred Coburn Brant, forty-one, semantician, practical nurse, stores officer, historian;
Mr. Francis X. Seeney, twenty-eight, executive officer, second pilot, astrogator, astrophysicist, photographer;
Dr. Olga Kovalic Seeney, twenty-nine, cook, biochemist, hydroponicist;
Dr. Ward Smith, forty-five, physician and surgeon, biologist;
Dr. Mary Jane Lyle Smith, twenty-six, atomics engineer, electronics and power technician;
Mr. Sergei Rimsky, thirty-five, electronics engineer, chemical engineer, practical machinist and instrumentation man, cryologist;
Mrs. Eleanora Alvarez Rimsky, thirty-two, geologist and selenologist, hydroponicist.
The crew had all needed skills, some having been acquired by intensive coaching during the weeks before blast-off. More important, they were mutually compatible.
The Envoy departed. During the first weeks her reports were picked up by private listeners. As signals became fainter, they were relayed by Earth’s radio satellites. The crew seemed healthy and happy. Ringworm was the worst that Dr. Smith had to cope with—the crew adapted to free fall, and anti-nausea drugs were not needed after the first week. If Captain Brant had disciplinary problems, he did not report them.
The Envoy achieved a parking orbit inside the orbit of Phobos and spent two weeks in photographic survey. Then Captain Brant radioed: “We will land at 1200 tomorrow GST just south of Lacus Soli.”
No further message was received.
A QUARTER of an Earth century passed before Mars was again visited by humans. Six years after the Envoy went silent, the drone probe Zombie, sponsored by La Société Astronautique Internationale, bridged the void and took up an orbit for the waiting period, then returned. Photographs by the robot vehicle showed a land unattractive by human standards; her instruments confirmed the thinness and unsuitability of Arean atmosphere to human life.
But the Zombie’s pictures showed that the “canals” were engineering works and other details were interpreted as ruins of cities. A manned expedition would have been mounted had not World War III intervened.
But war and delay resulted in a stronger expedition than that of the lost Envoy. Federation Ship Champion, with an all-male crew of eighteen spacemen and carrying twenty-three male pioneers, made the crossing under Lyle Drive in nineteen days. The Champion landed south of Lacus Soli, as Captain van Tromp intended to search for the Envoy. The second expedition reported daily; three despatches were of special interest. The first was:
“Rocket Ship Envoy located. No survivors.”
The second was: “Mars is inhabited.”
The third: “Correction to despatch 23-105: One survivor of Envoy located.”
CAPTAIN WILLEM VAN TROMP was a man of humanity. He radioed ahead: “My passenger must not be subjected to a public reception. Provide low-gee shuttle, stretcher and ambulance, and armed guard.”
He sent his ship’s surgeon to make sure that Valentine Michael Smith was installed in a suite in Bethesda Medical Center, transferred into a hydraulic bed, and protected from outside contact. Van Tromp went to an extraordinary session of the Federation High Council.
As Smith was being lifted into bed, the High Minister for Science was saying testily, “Granted, Captain, that your authority as commander of what was nevertheless a scientific expedition gives you the right to order medical service to protect a person temporarily in your charge, I do not see why you now presume to interfere with my department. Why, Smith is a treasure trove of scientific information!”
“I suppose he is, sir.”
“Then why—” The science minister turned to the High Minister for Peace and Security. “David? Will you issue instructions to your people? After all, one can’t keep Professor Tiergarten and Doctor Okajima, to mention just two, cooling their heels.”
The peace minister glanced at Captain van Tromp. The captain shook his head.
“Why?” demanded the science minister. “You admit that he isn’t sick.”
“Give the Captain a chance, Pierre,” the peace minister advised. “Well, Captain?”
“Smith isn’t sick, sir,” Captain van Tromp said, “but he isn’t well. He has never before been in a one-gravity field. He weighs two and a half times what he is used to and his muscles aren’t up to it. He’s not used to Earth-normal pressure. He’s not used to anything and the strain is too much. Hell’s bells, gentleman, I’m dog-tired myself—and I was born on this planet.”
The science minister looked contemptuous. “If acceleration fatigue is worrying you, let me assure you, my dear Captain, that we anticipated that. After all, I’ve been out myself. I know how it feels. This man Smith must—”
Captain van Tromp decided that it was time to throw a tantrum. He could excuse it by his own very real fatigue, he felt as if he had just landed on Jupiter. So he interrupted. “Hnh! ‘This man Smith—’ This ‘man!’ Can’t you see that he is not?”
“Smith . . . is . . . not . . . a . . . man.”
“Huh? Explain yourself, Captain.”
“Smith is an intelligent creature with the ancestry of a man, but he is more Martian than man. Until we came along he had never laid eyes on a man. He thinks like a Martian, feels like a Martian. He’s been brought up by a race which has nothing in common with us—they don’t even have sex. He’s a man by ancestry, a Martian by environment. If you want to drive him crazy and waste that ‘treasure trove,’ call in your fat-headed professors. Don’t give him a chance to get used to this madhouse planet. It’s no skin off me; I’ve done my job!”
The silence was broken by Secretary General Douglas. “And a good job, Captain. If this man, or man-Martian, needs a few days to get adjusted, I’m sure science can wait—so take it easy, Pete. Captain van Tromp is tired.”
“One thing won’t wait,” said the Minister for Public Information.
“If we don’t show the Man from Mars in the stereo tanks pretty shortly, you’ll have riots, Mr. Secretary.”
“Hmm—You exaggerate, Jock. Mars stuff in the news, of course. Me decorating the Captain and his crew—tomorrow, I think. Captain van Tromp telling his experiences—after a night’s rest, Captain.”
The minister shook his head.
“No good, Jock?”
“The public expected them to bring back a real live Martian. Since they didn’t, we need Smith and need him badly.”
“Live Martians?” Secretary General Douglas turned to Captain van Tromp. “You have movies of Martians?”
“Thousands of feet.”
“There’s your answer, Jock. When the live stuff gets thin, trot on the movies. Now, Captain, about extraterritoriality: you say the Martians were not opposed?”
“Well, no, sir—but they were not for it, either.”
“I don’t follow you.”
Captain van Tromp chewed his lip. “Sir, talking with a Martian is like talking with an echo. You don’t get argument but you don’t get results.”
“Perhaps you should have brought what’s-his-name, your semantician. Or is he waiting outside?”
“Mahmoud, sir. Doctor Mahmoud is not well. A—A slight nervous breakdown, sir.” Van Tromp reflected that dead drunk was the moral equivalent.
“A little, perhaps.” These damned groundhogs!
“Well, fetch him around when he’s feeling himself. I imagine this young man Smith will be of help, too.”
“Perhaps,” van Tromp said doubtfully.
This young man Smith was busy staying alive. His body, unbearably compressed and weakened by the strange shape of space in this unbelievable place, was at last relieved by the softness of the nest in which these others placed him. He dropped the effort of sustaining it, and turned his third level to his respiration and heart beat.
He saw that he was about to consume himself. His lungs were beating as hard as they did at home, his heart was racing to distribute the influx, all in an attempt to cope with the squeezing of space—and this while smothered by a poisonously rich and dangerously hot atmosphere. He took steps.
When his heart rate was twenty per minute and respiration almost imperceptible, he watched long enough to be sure that he would not discorporate while his attention was elsewhere. When he was satisfied he set a portion of his second level on guard and withdrew the rest of himself. It was necessary to review the configurations of these many new events in order to fit them to himself, then cherish and praise them—lest they swallow him.
Where should he start? When he left home, enfolding these others who were now his nestlings? Or at his arrival in this crushed space? He was suddenly assaulted by lights and sounds of that arrival, feeling it with mind-shaking pain. No, he was not ready to embrace that configuration—back! back! back beyond his first sight of these others who were now his own. Back even before the healing which had followed first grokking that he was not as his nestling brothers . . . back to the nest itself.
None of his thinkings were in Earth symbols. Simple English he had freshly learned to speak, less easily than a Hindu used it to trade with a Turk. Smith used English as one might use a code book, with tedious and imperfect translation. Now his thoughts, abstractions from half a million years of wildly alien culture, traveled so far from human experience as to be untranslatable.
In the adjoining room Dr. Thaddeus was playing cribbage with Tom Meechum, Smith’s special nurse. Thaddeus had one eye on his dials and meters. When a flickering light changed from ninety-two pulsations per minute to less than twenty, he hurried into Smith’s room with Meechum at his heels.
The patient floated in the flexible skin of the hydraulic bed. He appeared to be dead. Thaddeus snapped, “Get Doctor Noel-son!”
Meechum said, “Yessir!” and added, “How about shock gear, Doc?”
“Get Doctor Nelson!”
The nurse rushed out. The interne examined the patient, did not touch him. An older doctor came in, walking with labored awkwardness of a man long in space and not readjusted to high gravity. “Well, Doctor?”
“Patient’s respiration, temperature, and pulse dropped suddenly about two minutes ago, sir.”
“What have you done?”
“Nothing, sir. Your instructions—”
“Good.” Nelson looked Smith over, studied instruments back of the bed, twins of those in the watch room. “Let me know if there is any change.” He started to leave.
Thaddeus looked startled. “But, Doctor—”
Nelson said, “Yes, Doctor? What is your diagnosis?”
“Uh, I don’t wish to sound off about your patient, sir.”
“I asked for your diagnosis.”
“Very well, sir. Shock—atypical, perhaps,” he hedged, “but shock, leading to termination.”
Nelson nodded. “Reasonable. But this isn’t a reasonable case. I’ve seen this patient in this condition a dozen times. Watch.” Nelson lifted the patient’s arm, let it go. It stayed where he left it.
“Catalepsy?” asked Thaddeus.
“Call it that if you like. Just keep him from being bothered and call me if there is any change.” He replaced Smith’s arm.
Nelson left. Thaddeus looked at the patient, shook his head and returned to the watch room. Meechum picked up his cards. “Crib?”
Meechum added, “Doc, if you ask me, that one is a case for the basket before morning.”
“No one asked you. Go have a cigarette with the guards. I want to think.”
Meechum shrugged and joined the guards in the corridor; they straightened up, then saw who it was and relaxed. The taller marine said, “What was the excitement?”
“The patient had quintuplets and we were arguing about what to name them. Which one of you monkeys has a butt? And a light?”
The other marine dug out a pack of cigarettes. “How’re you fixed for suction?”
“Just middlin’.” Meechum stuck the cigarette in his face. “Honest to God, gentlemen, I don’t know anything about this patient.”
“What’s the idea of these orders about ‘Absolutely No Women’? Is he a sex maniac?”
“All I know is they brought him in from the Champion and said he was to have absolute quiet.”
“ ‘The Champion!’ ” the first marine said. “That accounts for it.”
“Accounts for what?”
“It stands to reason. He ain’t had any, he ain’t seen any, he ain’t touched any—for months. And he’s sick, see? If he was to lay hands on any, they’re afraid he’d kill hisself.” He blinked. “I’ll bet I would.”
Excerpted from "Stranger in a Strange Land"
Copyright © 1987 Robert A. Heinlein.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.'
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. ***
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.
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.
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.
Not was I was expecting from him, but a great read. One star off because the dialog read like one of those snappy 40’s movies. If the ideas make you a little uncomfortable I’m sure that was the point lol.
What is appealing about Stranger in a Strange Land is contained within the title. Simply, a man raised on Mars comes to Earth and learns what it means to be human. First however, he must escape the clutches of government bureaucracy. There's a lot of story in Stranger in a Strange Land, and I'm wary of giving too much away.Now, in the middle of reading this version of the book, I was admonished for not having picked up the unabridged version. So, please not that these thoughts refer only to the book as in the form of its original publication.Within the novel, without going into spoilers, Heinlein deconstructs the common codes of Western religion and then ultimately falls prey to them. For example, although the book presents a libertine attitude toward sex and the human body, its praise is reserved only for heterosexuality. In fact, in several passages, characters and narrator outright stigmatize homosexual desires and relationships. In a book so based upon uprooting social conventions, I found its homophobia both undermining and angering.I'm having a bit of difficulty succintly reviewing this novel, but I'll try to wrap it up here at the end. Stranger in a Strange Land takes a fascinating idea, throws in some readable characters and healthy doses of both cynicism and idealism, and then undoes its earned good will through homophobia and religious cliché.
Amazing, better than the cut version, remarkable the way the story moves and the things that Heinlein is trying to say about society.
The cover claims it is the "most famous science fiction novel ever written." I admit it was good, novel in concept, thought provoking, and tight in plot. I suspect it was also yet another 60's era excuse for free love and flower-child unity chants. Perhaps humans could function in such harmony if you could start over completely and manage it as it goes. The other theme was effectiveness through the full use of mind and body. Mike and his water brothers were able to heal themselves, grok anything, and make money to the point it wasn't needed. The Martians were competitive as nymphs and then united as adults. For humans, the competition begins with growth and doesn't end. Jubal Hershaw was the one human who could grok without thinking in Martian. His character was over the top, but his thoughts (as spokesman for Heinlein) were sometimes profound and often convincing.
Once regarded as a seminal work of Science Fiction, Heinlein's masterpiece comes through as dated and is downright uncomfortable to read these days. Did people really act this way?Part of the problem is Heinlein sets this in too near a future...and does not imagine the gigantic leaps technology has made in the interim. So we still have typewriters. TV is now "stereovision." We have hover cars, but we don't even have something as convenient as a mobile phone. The rest of the problem lies in the misogyny displayed by the main characters. Women not only are in secondary roles, but are often told "get back in the kitchen where you belong" or something similar. Religious cults embodied free love -- this was probably the moment Heinlein became a dirty old man -- it was a common theme in most of his remaining works.Once upon a time, there was an appealing message in this book -- about embracing an alien culture and putting aside our own sense of superiority to learn something from them (or him, in this case, there was but one "man from Mars." That message isn't at all dated...however, the delivery system is in urgent need of a tune-up. I wouldn't mind seeing a modernized version of this to restore some degree of plausibility. In the mean time, it might be a while before I go delving back in to retro-scifi, it is just often so tiresome if the entire mythos isn't created from whole cloth (see Dune).
I was drawn more to the story of Mike as he explored what it meant to be human, and how he learned to appreciate laughter than I was the political nature of this book. However, I am well aware that the story would not have been as complete without this background knowledge of the worlds around Mike as he built his following. Perhaps I might have blamed Heinlein for not giving enough depth to the setting if that were the case. As it stands though, too much depth is the only shortfall I can come up with for this story.The exploration of humanity, from an insider who was raised as an outsider, is a fascinating read, as there were moments in the book that I found myself having many of the same issues that Mike seemed to be having in dealing with the questions that surround our lives. What is the basis of all of our humor? What role can belief in ourselves and others have for the benefit of everyone? Why do seem to make choices that lead to long-term pain when other opportunities exist for us?While the relationships between characters are portrayed in a way that is not acceptable to the masses in our society (or in the world created by Heinlein for this tale), I was able to see the beauty of them. An idea that jealousy becomes scarce is one I would love to see happen in this world of high divorce rates and dissatisfaction with our partnerships. Though, there is a reason my handle is HippieLunatic. Perhaps I belong in a commune, too.