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Stranger in a Strange Land/30th Anniversary, Uncut Version [Hardcover]

Robert A. Heinlein
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (454 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 1991
Stranger in a Strange Land is the epic saga of an earthling, Valentine Michael Smith, born and educated on Mars, who arrives on our planet with “psi” powers—telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, telekinesis, teleportation, pyrolysis, and the ability to take control of the minds of others—and complete innocence regarding the mores of man.
--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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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 --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

From Library Journal

In 1939 Heinlein published his first sf short story and became one of the most prolific and influential authors in the genre. Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) is an international best seller and a landmark in more ways than one: it opened the trade best sellers lists to sf writers, breaking down longstanding barriers that will never be seen again. At the same time Stranger became an emblem of the 1960s generation in its iconoclasm and free-love themes. Telling the story of an Earth baby raised by an existing, ancient Martian civilization, the novel often reads as if it were the "Playboy Philosophy" in dialog form. The man/ Martian comes to Earth and broadcasts his ideas by forming his own Church. Heinlein has been rightly criticized for presenting as facts his opinions, which state that organized religion is a sham, authority is generally stupid, young women are all the same, and the common individual is alternately an independent, Ayn Randian-producing genius and the dull-witted part of an ignorant and will-less mob. Yet the book is hard to put down; in its early pages it is a truly masterful sf story. Every library with a fiction collection should have it. Christopher Hurt reads with authority, nicely drawing the characters via barely perceptible changes in intonation, harshness, and pacing. Highly recommended.?Don Wismer, Office of the Secretary of State, Augusta, Me.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fine yarn, but dated and self-indulgent. Dec 28 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
-----------------------------------------------------------
Heinlein conceived STRANGER in 1948, but didn't finish it until
1960. His editor asked him to cut it from 220,000 to 150,000 words; as
published it was 160,087. It was reissued from the original
manuscript in 1991, and I just got around to reading this "uncut"
edition. I first read STRANGER in the early sixties -- it's the only
"major" Heinlein I'd never reread (unless you count _To Sail the
Sunset Sea_ as major).
STRANGER hasn't aged well. Ostensibly set in the 21st century, it
reads like the 1950's. News commentators are "winchells" and
"lippmans" -- I recognize the names, but remember nothing else
about the originals; do you? The bad guys and minor characters are
purest cardboard. Women ("bims") have the "liberty permitted cats
and favorite children"; homosexuals are "poor in-betweeners". The
world beyond the USA is almost invisible.
Jubal Harshaw, the writer, patriarch and "father of all", is a self-
indulgent know-it-all given to long, hectoring speeches. The
women are quick to shed clothing and inhibitions, and couple with
any water-brother. They grow younger, more beautiful -- and more
exhibitionist -- as they learn Martian mind-control. Feh.
And yet, and yet .... STRANGER still works as a novel -- I reread it
pretty much at one go. The idea of a child raised from infancy by an
alien race ... Valentine Michael Smith's journey from innocence to
full humanity to New Messiah ... the cheerfully crass
commercialism of the Church of Foster ... the silly-but-serious
mysticism ... Heinlein, whatever his flaws, was a master story-
teller.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This wine turned into vinegar Nov. 20 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Heinlein's "masterpiece" Stranger in a Strange Land starts off brilliantly. The first 100 pages or so comprise a well-paced absorbing thriller, and even up through the 200-page mark the story remains strong. And then the protagonist Valentine Michael Smith grows up and takes charge of his own life. And the whole novel falls flat on its face and remains thus for the remaining 250 pages.
You see, in the beginning Michael is innocent and somewhat helpless. So he's powerless against his enemies and I naturally rooted for him. Then he slowly began to use his superhuman powers and I became even more absorbed and thrilled, watching him shake off his foes and emerge unscathed. Then he took asylum in a large secured residence with the evil government of the U.S. bent on capturing him and using him for their own ends. Could it get any better, I asked? This was five-star material.
Unfortunately, that's the climax of the story and it comes less than halfway through. The rest is supremely mediocre. Mike becomes a god on earth due to his invulnerability and wealth. What does he do with this status? He basically uses his powers to establish a large harem and teaches others how to do the same thing. The only interesting character in this whole charade is Jubal Harshaw, who probably represents Heinlein himself and his opinions on various matters of philosophy, sex, religion, etc. Two stars here.
Average: three and a half stars but I'm knocking it down to an even three due to the unsatisfying ending.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Half good, half bad Feb. 8 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I loved the first half of this book, in which plot and character rose to the fore. Great action sequences, terrific dialogue, and tons of suspense tricked me into thinking that this was a five star novel. Jubal Harshaw in particular was--and remains--one of the most richly realized characters in contemporary fiction. Alas, the novel quickly sags beneath the weight of its own socio-political and pseudoreligious philosophies. The plot thins, the action comes to a screeching halt, the characters flatten into cardboard, and the rest of the novel becomes so self-consciously preachy and churchy and utterly unsexy (despite the frequent nudity and bedhopping) that it lost all appeal to me. Less politics, more plot. I could grok that, anyday.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shallow Dec 23 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book is too light-weight too be a classic. I admire Heinlein for being daring enough to say things in 1961 that are obvious to many of us now, e.g. most people are easily fooled, religion is ridiculous, the Bible has parts which are bizarre, all governments place preserving their power above serving their citizens, there is no absolute moral basis for monogamy, homosexuality is fine, etc. I think Heinlein understood the world fairly well. For the most part he was properly critical about it, without being universally cynical. However his statement, "Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it's partly her fault." is impossible to overlook. You can say, "Well, he was just being cynical about men and saying that any intelligent woman should be able to see how dangerous they can be and plan accordingly.", but I think that's a stretch. The Occam's Razor answer is that Heinlein was something of a misogynist. As we all know, misogynists see things in overly simple terms. This book is light-weight because it makes simplistic observations. For instance, I just don't think sexual jealousy is a major contributor to the troubles of the world. Heinlein makes shallow, impractical, utopian recommendations for how to fix things. Sure we could do without sexual jealousy but Heinlein fails to see that it can't be eradicated because it's genetic(babies get jealous). Did Heinlein really think that having us all sleep with each other would eliminate war? This reminds me of people who say that if we all smoke pot there will be no crime, war, etc. I think Heinlein was impractical about religion too. Read more ›
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange
Heinlein does not get the credit he deserves. Do you know how many movies , authors have used the phrase Stranger in a Strange Land. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Darrell Ducharme
5.0 out of 5 stars Lost And Found
I lost this book do to water damage and was glad this I counld get it at Amazon. Thank you.
Published 8 months ago by Robert McGraw
2.0 out of 5 stars A classic for some
I suppose I find myself in a minority but this "monumental" book is a complete bore. I felt that way when I first read it back in the 70's and when I tried to reread it "uncut"... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Louis Vroomen
2.0 out of 5 stars Overrated
I found this book to be overrated. Perhaps it's how dated it is, but parts of it were so sexist and homophobic as to cloud out what might have been a passable book. Read more
Published on Sept. 13 2011 by Brian MacDonald
1.0 out of 5 stars Like the Manson family, but with more funding, and a man from Mars
The men are powerful and rich, the women are willing subordinates who happen to adore nudity. Orgies ensue. This story didn't even really need a man from Mars.
Published on May 23 2009 by MC
5.0 out of 5 stars An extrodanarey and anthralling book
This is the type of book where you can read it all night and day forgeting to eat. But once your done reading it you regret not reading slower and savering it. Read more
Published on Dec 5 2005 by Trent Ziffely
5.0 out of 5 stars Stranger in A Strange Land
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein is the story of a human, Valentine Michale smith, who was born and on raised on mars, and now on earth must come to understand the... Read more
Published on July 19 2004 by Jacob Gest
1.0 out of 5 stars I finished it, but....
I just finished The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (pretty good overall), and went to SIASL because it had been recommended it to me before. Read more
Published on July 12 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars A fabulous read
Heinlein is amazing and this book is on my list of favorites forever. I recommend it to non-sci fi fans as well as sci fi lovers. Read more
Published on June 24 2004 by C. Schuster
1.0 out of 5 stars Man I hated this "classic"
I picked this up last year as part of my attempts to educate myself on the classic sci-fi novels. Before I started in on Ray Bradbury I tackled this. Read more
Published on May 25 2004 by The MacGuffin
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