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

by Robert A. Heinlein

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,477100461 (3.94)259
Member:cjahnke
Title:Stranger in a Strange Land
Authors:Robert A. Heinlein
Info:
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Fiction, Mars, religion

Work details

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

  1. 20
    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. 00
    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)
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» See also 259 mentions

English (95)  Italian (2)  French (2)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (100)
Showing 1-5 of 95 (next | show all)
Why is it every time I read a "classic" book, I end up regretting it. Yeah, it's got a lot of material, a lot of questions and issues to analyze, but in the end, the trip just isn't worth it. I've gotten more out of the shorter trips that used this one as inspiration. The book barely focuses on the main character, the man from Mars. It leaves out crucial pieces of backstory, like how he grew up on Mars with the actual frickin' Martians. No, no one seems to care that there's actual extraterrestrial life. We just care about the night nurse with Florence Nightingale syndrome and a journalist who's not good at his job.

At least not compared to Jubal Harshaw. Hoo, boy, they should have a novel about him. He's like a proto-Spider Jerusalem. Sharp talking, indulgent, and crushing any enemies with the law they hide behind. I loved watching him give idiots the business, hammering them down with clever legalese. And he takes a large part of the first half, so that I thought it was going to be a legal thriller, like Fuzzy Nation.

And like most reviewers said, the second half is a total tonal shift. No more Jubal Harshaw. No more trying to stay hidden. No more learning about two different cultures. It becomes satirical and touchy-feely. The first scene of the second half is that Valentine Michael Smith and his girl are trying to learn about human culture... by being in a carnival sideshow.

And this eventually leads to Smith gaining followers of his "god is everywhere, love everyone" Martian philosophy, which turns into a religion, and into a cult, and so on. No more legal thriller. There's a lot of "explanations" which are just the author giving strawman arguments with himself. In fact, there was a lot of that in Starship Troopers too -- essays disguised as fiction. Except this time it's not about cool militarism and civics, it's about free love. Damn hippies. ( )
  theWallflower | Sep 19, 2014 |
I liked this book very much.

I didn't expect to enjoy it so thoroughly, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it was because I haven't been much of a science fiction reader since I studied "science fact" as a major in college (I was too afraid of confusing myself -- seriously). Or maybe it was because the book is older, and not all classics stand up to the test of time as well as they claim to. As for the latter, however, Stranger in a Strange Land definitely passes. Once one accepts the premise -- involving a race of humanoids living on Mars (therefore, Martians) -- it's nearly impossible to tell the book was written in 1961. There is some innate sexism among the human characters on Earth that I was surprised to read (the surprise caused by such prejudice being mixed into an otherwise modern story set in the future), but it makes sense for a book written by an American author just before the second wave of feminism in the United States.

Ultimately, Stranger in a Strange Land is a fascinating study of humanity, which is probably why it is so popular. Sci-fi fans or not, people, as a race, are narcissistic -- therefore, we enjoy reading about ourselves. :) ( )
  dysmonia | Apr 15, 2014 |
I liked this book very much.

I didn't expect to enjoy it so thoroughly, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it was because I haven't been much of a science fiction reader since I studied "science fact" as a major in college (I was too afraid of confusing myself -- seriously). Or maybe it was because the book is older, and not all classics stand up to the test of time as well as they claim to. As for the latter, however, Stranger in a Strange Land definitely passes. Once one accepts the premise -- involving a race of humanoids living on Mars (therefore, Martians) -- it's nearly impossible to tell the book was written in 1961. There is some innate sexism among the human characters on Earth that I was surprised to read (the surprise caused by such prejudice being mixed into an otherwise modern story set in the future), but it makes sense for a book written by an American author just before the second wave of feminism in the United States.

Ultimately, Stranger in a Strange Land is a fascinating study of humanity, which is probably why it is so popular. Sci-fi fans or not, people, as a race, are narcissistic -- therefore, we enjoy reading about ourselves. :) ( )
  dysmonia | Apr 15, 2014 |
Well, now I know where the hacker culture word "grok" comes from, and I suspect one of the influences behind Bowie's Ziggy Stardust character.

This is an important and influential book, but not really a good one, hence three stars. It's far too long (I read the later uncut version, perhaps the earlier shorter edition would have been better), and it seems like the author wants to push his free-love agenda a little too much.

I'm glad I read it, but probably won't want to read it again. ( )
  Pondlife | Oct 30, 2013 |
I didn't grok this ( )
  BakuDreamer | Sep 7, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 95 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert A. Heinleinprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gällmo, GunnarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lundgren, CarlCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pennington, BruceCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Santos, Domingo,Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Robert Cornog
Fredric Brown
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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.)
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Please distinguish this edited first publication of Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) from the "original, uncut" version (1991). 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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:35 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

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.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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