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Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A.…
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Stranger in a Strange Land (original 1991; edition 1971)

by Robert A. Heinlein

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7,292122728 (3.83)208
Member:Skaidon
Title:Stranger in a Strange Land
Authors:Robert A. Heinlein
Info:New English Library Science Fiction, reprint 1971
Collections:Your library
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Work details

Stranger in a Strange Land (Uncut Edition) by Robert A. Heinlein (1991)

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    emf1123: If you're in your late teens, reading both of these books back to back (stranger in a strange land, zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance) is a good quality mindfuck. I doubt that either have the same influence as one ages, though.
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“Dr. Jubal Harshaw, professional clown, amateur subversive, and parasite by choice, had long attempted to eliminate “hurry” and all related emotions from his pattern. Being aware that he had but a short time left to live and having neither Martian nor Kansan faith in his own immortality, it was his purpose to live each golden moment as if it were eternity—without fear, without hope, but with sybaritic gusto.”

In "Stranger in a Strange Land" by Robert A. Heinlein

I believe it was Spider Robinson who once wrote "There's a special word that authors use to describe someone who thinks that every character is speaking for the author himself. That word is 'idiot'. " An actor isn't the role he plays. Most people understand that. Why do they assume an author necessarily agrees with everything his characters say in his books? The trouble with trying to nail down the politics of a prolific writer of fiction is the tendency to forget that writers of fiction explore themes, not necessarily manifestos. What Heinlein set forth in any one book would have been an exploration of one of a variety of ideas that would have informed his entire philosophy. What some critics get wrong is in forgetting that a man who writes convoluted murder plots is not in favor of murder. The great writers get out of their own heads and into someone else's. I never ascribed any particular belief to Heinlein, just as I do not ascribe any character in a movie to the actor who plays the role. It's make-believe. It's not real. Heinlein was simply a great story-teller. And he wasn't even trained as a writer. He was just trying to make some extra money. When he quit one publishing house for another, I don't think it was about standing up for what was right. He just wanted the freedom to write his books his way, without the damned censorship. What writer wants to be trapped into hackneyed themes and plots? Anyone who took or takes "Stranger in a Strange Land" to be a paean about free love doesn't really understand the written word and projected their own desires onto the page. "Thou art God" was the ultimate message and the ultimate levying of personal responsibility. And what was "Starship Troopers" but another message of being personally responsible? "Stranger in a Strange Land" is not a hippie free love "Tune in, turn on, drop out" novel. It is an examination of American culture from an alien viewpoint à la "Gulliver's travels". As such it presents important and insightful criticism of our institutions and mores. The headlines alone are worth the price of the book! People who knew Heinlein personally have stated that he was dismayed by the adoration of the hippies. But I'm not aware of a single instance where hippies got anything right. I'm not sure there's anything to "get" politically about Heinlein. His claim to fame rests on his artistry, especially in his short-fiction, not analogies to real world politics in his stories. As intriguing backdrops to his stories his governmental systems are fun but ultimately it's his ability as a story-teller in the context of speculative fiction that works. The guy had a very active and aggressive mind and that type of authority and confidence goes a long ways in fiction, especially when you can seemingly effortlessly back it up time and again. If we truly understood what makes Heinlein tick we could duplicate it, and we can't. Burroughs is the same way. For all the talk about his lack of writing skills, no one ever successfully duplicated what he did, and a lot of people tried. Heinlein was an unabashed patriot, both of the founding precepts of the United States and of the right of human beings to a Manifest Destiny among the stars. He is unapologetic about the primacy of the human species and would proudly go down fighting for it. Saving the snail darter? Not so much. And for that he will always be hated and despised. And anything taught about him must be in the worse possible light. And the thing about "Stranger In A Strange Land" is that it really shows how hard it is for people to 're-map' their language when their environment changes. "Stranger In A Strange Land" was an exploration of the issues that might arise if "the soul" was not only known to exist, but that existence was as commonplace and mundane as groceries. What happens to religion? What happens to politics, the economy, relationships and so on, when people find out 'they' are immortal, and their bodies are merely vehicles they ride in? But since he used the words church and spirit, and talked about life after 'death' people forgot that he wrote Speculative Fiction, and used his musings to justify the discarding of the morality they were raised in. Some self-professed intellectuals, standing atop the molehills of their insular knowledge, critique the world they view below them after analyzing it with less mental rigor than that employed by someone flipping through a Sears catalog while in the bathroom. It never occurs to them to look upward. If they did, they would be dismayed to learn that they in fact are far below the summit of the mountain of Philosophy. Their feelings would be further hurt to see that Heinlein is much closer to that summit. No. It's far better to preserve their sense of superiority and to be content with shooting fish in a barrel, ridiculing Southerners, Fundamentalist Christians, the Military, etc., for being "stupid" for not embracing the said self-professed intellectuals unquestioned assumptions. They dismiss (and hate) Heinlein because THEY cannot reconcile all of his ideas into a consistent whole without FIRST abandoning their own cherished mental trinkets. Thus he is (to them) "illogical". I'd say they don't grok Heinlein. I'm also not sure the Millenniums are equipped to understand "Stranger in a Strange Land" in this day and age (I might be wrong; no data to decide on it). Or maybe that's just me being my usual obnoxious self. I think they are too distant from the formative conflicts in life that were taking place at the time to have a points of reference to hang their ideas on (e.g., NASA, WW2, The Moonshots, and a world that still contained some vestiges of hope for the future – not the navel gazing, self-absorbed, masturbatory drive for immediate-or-sooner self-gratification of our current society.) ( )
  antao | Aug 8, 2018 |
Classic science fiction, ’nuff said. Dated concepts, but fascinating ideas, deep conversation, while being quick-witted, and carrying interesting characters and plot. A man named Valentine Michael Smith was born and raised on Mars, by Martians, though of Earth heritage. He must understand Earthly concepts and navigate the foibles of life, including love, religion, death, and all the deep philosophical questions we struggle with at one time or another. Valentine has been taught the Martian concepts of each of these, but now must adjust and “relearn” to the Earthly way of thinking which, in most cases, seems completely cruel and skewed. Of course, being Martian, Valentine has developed “super” powers which other humans do not possess, and eventually he uses these to his benefit all in the name of “greater understanding” while by the end, becomes a seeming crusade against organized religion, while encompassing all the characteristics of it himself. ( )
  Eric_J._Guignard | Jul 26, 2018 |
Ouch! Sexist. Good ideas but not well fleshed out. Writing quality is spotty. I guess it is difficult for me to see the groundbreaking nature of this writer. There’s a lot of Hefner-envy going on, but I guess the earliest sci-fi was built that way. ( )
  LaurelPoe | Dec 25, 2017 |
I know this is supposed to be a classic, but this is far from my favorite Heinlein novel. ( )
  greeniezona | Dec 6, 2017 |
This was my first time reading anything by Heinlein. I really enjoyed the first half, and I was pleasantly surprised by how readable and entertaining it was, but I disliked the second half quite a bit.

The main premise is that there is life on Mars, and humanity has only just begun to travel there. As a result of the first trip, a baby is born on Mars, his parents die, and he is raised by Martians. When the book begins, Mike, the baby in question, is now an adult and he has just traveled back to Earth to meet his race.

I thought the first part was great. It was a bit dated in some of its attitudes and beliefs, but the story was interesting and I really liked how Heinlein built up this alien culture which looks at things so differently from humans, to the point that some things simply can’t be translated in terms humans can understand and vice versa. The characters were relatively interesting and likeable. Even Jubal was likeable at first. I had the impression, without knowing anything about Heinlein’s personality or beliefs, that Jubal was Heinlein’s voice in this book, representing the ideal older man and expressing the ideas that Heinlein wanted to convey to his readers.

The second half devolved into mysticism, orgies, and, worst of all, monologues, and I didn’t care for the ending. But my biggest complaint was with the monologues. They weren’t terribly long, but they were frequent. The author, usually through Jubal, seemed to have a lot of opinions on religion, philosophy, families, and cultural taboos that he wanted to express. My problem really wasn’t with the opinions themselves. I agreed with some and disagreed with others. I was horrified by a few and amused by others. It’s just that they were presented in a manner that felt too preachy, and that pulled me out of the story. And at that point, the story itself became less interesting and everything felt like a vehicle to deliver the monologues.

I have a couple of Heinlein’s other books on my reading list, and I’ve seen them compared more favorably to this one, so I intend to cycle back around and give him another try eventually. When he was just telling me a story and not trying to preach at me, I enjoyed his writing style. On the sites where I can give half stars, I’m rating this as 2.5. On Goodreads, I decided to round up to 3 based on the first half and parts of the second half. ( )
1 vote YouKneeK | Sep 10, 2017 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert A. Heinleinprimary authorall editionscalculated
Heinlein, VirginiaPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hundertmarck, RosemarieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schumacher, RainerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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FOR
ROBERT CORNOG
FREDRIC BROWN
PHILLIP JOSE FARMER
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Once upon a time when the world was young there was a Martian named Smith.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Please distinguish this "original, uncut" version of Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land (1991) from its edited first publication (1961). This would be ISBN #s 0-399-13586-3, 0-450-54267-X and 0-441-78838-6 and Science Fiction Book Club editions of 1991 (#17697 and a leather bound edition). There is a 60,000 word difference between the two. Thank you.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0441788386, Paperback)

Stranger in a Strange Land, winner of the 1962 Hugo Award, is the story of Valentine Michael Smith, born during, and the only survivor of, the first manned mission to Mars. Michael is raised by Martians, and he arrives on Earth as a true innocent: he has never seen a woman and has no knowledge of Earth's cultures or religions. But he brings turmoil with him, as he is the legal heir to an enormous financial empire, not to mention de facto owner of the planet Mars. With the irascible popular author Jubal Harshaw to protect him, Michael explores human morality and the meanings of love. He founds his own church, preaching free love and disseminating the psychic talents taught him by the Martians. Ultimately, he confronts the fate reserved for all messiahs.

The impact of Stranger in a Strange Land was considerable, leading many children of the 60's to set up households based on Michael's water-brother nests. Heinlein loved to pontificate through the mouths of his characters, so modern readers must be willing to overlook the occasional sour note ("Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it's partly her fault."). That aside, Stranger in a Strange Land is one of the master's best entertainments, provocative as he always loved to be. Can you grok it? --Brooks Peck

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:20 -0400)

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A young man from Mars comes to Earth & must learn our strange ways. Annotation. One of the greatest science fiction novels ever published, Stranger in a Strange Land's original manuscript had 50,000 words cut. Now they have been reinstated for this special 30th anniversary trade edition. A Mars-born earthling arrives on this planet for the first time as an adult, and the sensation he creates teaches Earth some unforgettable lessons. "A brilliant mind-bender".--Kurt Vonnegut… (more)

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