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Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)

by Robert A. Heinlein, Robert A. Heinlein

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9,066126584 (3.91)362
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.
  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)
1960s (30)
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» See also 362 mentions

English (119)  French (2)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  German (1)  Arabic (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (126)
Showing 1-5 of 119 (next | show all)
A landmark science fiction novel, but one superseded by many others. It dragged on, yet felt more like a screenplay than the novel of ideas it purports to be. The message isn't great either: an ideal of free love in a chauvinistic world. Later 60s psychological science fiction such as Dune, The Left Hand of Darkness or even The Dark Light Years work much better in depicting intelligent alien life. ( )
  jigarpatel | Jul 28, 2020 |
Too much misogyny. Too much racism.

I really wanted to like this book. The themes and concepts presented are worth exploration. But Heinlein is not my grandfather so I can't excuse his outdated language towards women and minorities. Such a disappointment. ( )
  chrisofspades | Jul 27, 2020 |
Magic off those clothes
god digs free love, thou art god
grok this to fullness. ( )
1 vote Eggpants | Jun 25, 2020 |
Valentine Michael Smith, the central character of Robert Heinlein's Stranger In A Strange Land, is an entirely unique person: the son of two space explorers on Mars who died shortly after his birth, he was raised by Martians in Martian culture. As an adult, Mike returns to Earth to explore his "home" planet. Initially hidden away in a hospital by the government, which is trying to figure out what to do with him, he's discovered by a reporter and smuggled out by a nurse. That nurse, Jill, becomes his constant companion, sheltering and protecting him as he learns about the world and becoming something of a disciple as he comes into his own and begins teaching Martian ways to his friends and, eventually, the world.

Jill and Mike are taken in, after their initial flight from authorities, by author/lawyer/doctor Jubal Harshaw, an older, cynical man who lives in a sprawling compound with three young women he employs as on-call stenographers for his writing and a handyman to keep things in good repair. This group forms the core of what becomes the Church of All Worlds, a religious movement centered on Mike and the teachings he espouses, including the deep significance ascribed to the sharing of water, the concept of "grokking", and (of course!), non-monogamous sexual relationships. The rise of this church upsets the established power structure of this future Earth, with predictable results for the figure at the center of this upset.

Smith is both human and profoundly non-human, which raises interesting questions about what exactly it means to be a person, a fairly common theme in the science fiction genre. Perhaps because it had been done before, or perhaps because he was disinclined to explore the issue, this is not the route that Heinlein chooses to go. Rather, he uses the story to explore the "Martian" philosophy on life. Which is interesting, for a while. But since the portions of the book that are effectively espousals of this philosophy actually make up a solid majority of the book, with relatively little character development, I found myself getting bored pretty quickly.

The plot is pretty straightforward: it's a messiah tale, with the kind of story progression you'd expect for this kind of tale. The prose is...not fluid. It's clunky, and the long passages of expository dialogue aren't handled with any particular deftness. While it raised some thought-provoking ideas, it never captured me as a piece of literature. I don't think there's any reason genre fiction can't be successful from a literary standpoint, but I never got wrapped up in the story this book was trying to tell me. It may be a sci-fi classic, but it didn't do it for me. I wouldn't recommend it. ( )
  GabbyHM | Jun 24, 2020 |
The best part of this book was getting it back to the library and out of my house.

Interesting concepts, but way too long. Reams of expository dialogue grated at my nerves like I was being dragged over block after city block of glass shards.

My mistake was getting the "original uncut" edition. I think I'd have genuinely enjoyed this book were it only 200 pages shorter ( )
  hatingongodot | May 3, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 119 (next | show all)
The great falling off in the quality of Heinlein's work came during the period that brought "Stranger in a Strange Land." Jubal Harshaw--who says things like "What the self-styled modern artists are doing is a sort of unemotional pseudo-intellectual masturbation"--is the first of a series of pompous libertarian windbags whose oral methane makes all of Heinlein's later tomes into rapidly emptying locker rooms.

Most of the material added to this new edition seems to consist of speeches by Jubal, and the rest of the new material includes nominally "shocking" sections that, aired in 1990, are glaringly sexist. For instance, lovable Jill volunteers the opinion that "Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it's at least partly her own fault."
added by SnootyBaronet | editLos Angeles Times, Rudy Rucker
 

» Add other authors (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Heinlein, Robert A.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Heinlein, Robert A.main authorall editionsconfirmed
Boyle, NeilCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gällmo, GunnarTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heinlein, VirginiaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holitzka, KlausCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hundertmarck, RosemarieÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hurt, ChristopherNarratorsecondary 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
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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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