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Stranger in a Strange Land (original 1961; edition 1963)

by Robert A. Heinlein

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7,899103418 (3.94)307
Member:cjahnke
Title:Stranger in a Strange Land
Authors:Robert A. Heinlein
Info:Putnam Adult (1963), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 408 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Fiction, Mars, religion

Work details

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein (1961)

  1. 30
    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein (persky)
    persky: An earlier book with a lot of parallels to this one, particularly in terms of the "Mike" protagonists.
  2. 10
    Only Begotten Daughter by James Morrow (paradoxosalpha)
    paradoxosalpha: Near-future SF centered on a Christian-type messiah from an unforeseen quarter. Both books combine satire with sentimentality, and neither caters to conventional piety.
  3. 00
    Spin by Robert Charles Wilson (hyper7)
  4. 00
    The Book from the Sky by Robert Kelly (bertilak)
  5. 00
    Steel Beach by John Varley (lesvrolyk)
  6. 01
    Perelandra by C. S. Lewis (kelliente)
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» See also 307 mentions

English (98)  Italian (2)  French (2)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (103)
Showing 1-5 of 98 (next | show all)
This was a very interesting book. It was the best story that I have read by Heinlein. The concept of a man from Mars is not interesting but Heinlein was able to provide some interesting insights on our society. He is probably right about how ritualistic and backward our culture is. I am not optimistic about improvement any time soon. ( )
  GlennBell | Sep 19, 2016 |
I read this for the Great Books discussion group. I was intrigued by the ideas that Heinlein was playing with at the beginning: It opens with a human who was raised by Martians being brought back to Earth. So, there's some Jungle Book kind of ideas going on. Heinlein, unfortunately, plays around with the Sapir-Whorf idea about language and thought. There's also some interesting space law and diplomacy in the middle third. That, however, may have been put in there to simply make Smith not have to worry about money. The last third was much less interesting to me. That's the third that most folks remember the most: that's the hippie-dippie third about religion and free-love, open-marriage sex. While reading, I kept thinking of Harshaw as Orson Welles and wonder if Harshaw is Heinlein's voice. Heinlein's women characters are very one-dimensional. Does that amount to "misogyny"? I don't know. Is it merely amplifying the attitudes of the period? Yes. Were those attitudes misogynist? Some. Is this a "Great Book"? I don't know. I'm not certain of the effect it had on discourse in SF, literature, or society.
  AmyMacEvilly | Sep 4, 2016 |
First edition, signed by Heinlein, of his most famous work. More importantly, attached to the inside cover is a "Perpetual All-Purpose Greeting Card" designed by Heinlein, with several boxes checked for Merry Christmas, Happy 4th of July).
  SteveJohnson | Jun 5, 2016 |
A deep study on how a new religion is born, a fight between the old ideology with the new ideas, human greed as the main factor of a possible extinction of humankind. ( )
  dimi777 | Apr 24, 2016 |
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

Humankind sends its first human expedition to Mars. The spaceship's crew arrives on the planet and are never heard from again. Twenty-five years later, another mission is sent, and the child of two of the first ship's crewmembers, who has been born on Mars and raised by the peculiar Martian race, is discovered and brought back to Earth. Because of various legal precedents, Valentine Michael Smith, the Man from Mars, is the inheritor to a vast fortune, and because of another precedent known as the Larkin Decision, Mike has a claim to legal ownership of the planet Mars. Therefore he has the potential to be massively influential in matters of Earth politics, and he is kept under close guard at a hospital by the leader of Earth's government, Secretary General Joseph Douglas. In the hospital, Mike slowly teaches his body to adapt to the Earth's atmosphere and he begins learning Earth culture and language, which differ enormously from Martian ways of thought.

An ambitious reporter, Ben Caxton, believes that Douglas is using Mike as a pawn in his own political power games and may be planning to kill him. Ben enlists his friend and old flame, Jill Boardman, a nurse at the hospital, to help him spy on Mike's treatment at the hospital. When Ben lets on to the authorities that he has a notion of their plans, they kidnap him. Jill sneaks Mike out of the hospital. When police officers try to kidnap them as well, Mike makes the officers disappear from existence—one of many psychic powers Mike has learned on Mars.

Jill takes Mike to the only man she believes can help them, Jubal Harshaw, a famous doctor, lawyer, writer, and general cultural phenomenon. Jubal lives in a large house with three beautiful secretaries (Anne, Miriam, and Dorcas) and two male assistants (Duke and Larry). Jubal agrees to help protect Jill and Mike from the authorities. Mike learns about Earth culture at Jubal's estate, reading everything in Jubal's library and becoming fascinated with Earth religions. The police eventually discover Mike's whereabouts and come to arrest Jubal and his coterie, but at the last moment, Jubal is able to get through to Douglas personally and convince him to call off the police. Jubal also gets Douglas to rescue Ben from police captivity. Through legalistic maneuvering and rhetorical brinksmanship, Jubal is able to defuse Mike's political importance, arguing that Mike cannot be the legal owner of Mars since the Martian race inhabited it long before Mike was born. Jubal makes Douglas an ally by convincing him to become overseer of Mike's vast personal fortune.

Following up on Mike's fascination with religion, he and Jubal and Jill go to visit the headquarters of a religious group called the Fosterites. The Fosterites have aggressively built a massive following, in part by enlisting entertainers, such as football players and strippers, to deliver their message, and incorporating vices like gambling into their organization. The Fosterite Supreme Bishop, Digby, hopes to enlist Mike to lend his celebrity to their cause, but, when they are alone in a room together, a conflict arises and Mike makes Digby disappear.

Mike contemplates deeply on his action, and eventually comes to feel that he had made the best decision possible in a difficult moment. Mike is imbued with new self-confidence, and decides to set out and see the world. With Jill as his companion, Mike travels to various cities incognito, experiencing Earth culture. They develop a magician's act that exhibits Mike's powers and join a carnival, but despite Mike's amazing abilities, he lacks a sense of showmanship, and they are fired. A Fosterite tattooed lady in the carnival, Patty Paiwonski, goes to visit them at their hotel room, hoping to convert them before they leave. Mike reveals to her that he is the Man from Mars, and reveals his powers. Patty decides that Mike is a new prophet sent to Earth, as powerful as Foster himself.

Jill starts to learn the Martian language and some of Mike's psychic powers as they continue to travel together. Mike comes to grasp many human concepts that have eluded his understanding, such as desire and humor. Finally he believes he understands Earth culture and is ready to help people get past the petty fears and jealousies that enslave them. He founds a church, called the Church of All Worlds, which uses flashy salesman-like techniques much as the Fosterites do to attract new members. The church grows in prominence, and a core group of followers—the "ninth circle"—live together communally, where they all work at learning Martian and developing psychic powers. They rarely wear clothing and engage in group sex and partner swapping in a manner disconcerting to outsiders. Ben goes to visit them and is deeply unnerved by their cultish behavior and open sexuality, but soon enough he has overcome his fears and joined them as well.

Jubal—who has come to think of Mike as a son—worries about the increasing persecution Mike is facing, and wonders if Mike is not encouraging this persecution. When Mike's temple is burned down, Jubal rushes to see him. Though Jubal loves Mike, he has resisted visiting Mike's church. Jubal's philosophies are all deeply individualist, and Jubal, like Ben, is unnerved by the cultism of Mike's operation. But Jubal is comforted among Mike's flock, who all treat Jubal as a formidable father figure.

Mike wonders aloud to Jubal if his attempts to help humanity are fruitless, if his message is being lost because of an inherent need in humans to create unhappiness and strife for themselves. Jubal encourages Mike to stay true to his beliefs and ideas. An angry mob gathers outside the hotel where they are staying, and, in true showman fashion, Mike presents himself to the mob, naked and defenseless. They murder him and he ascends to Heaven where he becomes an archangel alongside such other self-made prophets as Foster and Digby. Jubal and Mike's followers forge ahead with Mike's work on Earth. ( )
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert A. Heinleinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Boyle, NeilCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gällmo, GunnarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lundgren, CarlCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pennington, BruceCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Santos, Domingo,Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warhola, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Robert Cornog
Fredric Brown
Philip Jose Farmer
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Once upon a time there was a Martian by the name of Valentine Michael Smith.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Please distinguish this edited first publication of Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) from the "original, uncut" version (1991). 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 0441790348, Mass Market 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 17:58:51 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

The epic saga of an earthling, born and educated on Mars, who arrives on our planet with superhuman powers and a total ignorance of the mores of man.

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