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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 human race.
This is a wonderful classic that I cannot say enough good things about. It is captivating and quite exceptional. Full of philosophical, spiritual, social and religious ideas...
Published on July 19 2004 by Jacob Gest

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fine yarn, but dated and self-indulgent.
-----------------------------------------------------------
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...
Published on Dec 28 2003 by Peter D. Tillman


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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
By 
Peter D. Tillman (Cambria, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Stranger in a Strange Land (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.
STRANGER was Heinlein's first crossover bestseller, becoming
something of a Sixties icon -- peace & love, y'know. Bits and pieces
were taken up in pop music and culture: "Discorporate, and you'll
be free", urged the Mothers of Invention. Grace Slick of the
Jefferson Airplane sang of "sister-lovers, water-brothers". The
ability to grok was briefly important, if mostly forgotten now.
Should you read, or reread, STRANGER? Mmmph. I don't regret
doing so, but the book stays pretty low in my mental ranking of
Heinlein novels. And if I were you, I'd hunt up the earlier edition --
the restored 70,000 words add little but bulk to the story.
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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
By 
Ritesh Laud (Houston, TX USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stranger in a Strange Land (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 Shallow, Dec 23 2003
By 
J. Vuren "James" (Seattle, WA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Stranger in a Strange Land (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. Sure we could do without religion, but religion will never be completely eradicated because the majority of humans inherently hate to feel they are alone and/or have an inborn need to believe life has some kind of meaning - that's why "spirituality" is appearing to fill the void created as organized religion slowly fades. I do believe there will eventually be real solutions to the world's problems, but as forward-looking as this book is supposed to be, it doesn't really begin to get at any of those solutions. I grok Stranger - it's not that deep.
Having said all that, there are some things I'm unclear about regarding this book. First, I'm not even sure if the 438 page paperback version I read includes the text which was originally expurgated in the 1961 version. Like the Dead Sea Scrolls, that missing text could change things. Second, I think we can assume Heinlein was okay with orgies, but was he also saying all men should sleep with each other, or only gay men? If the former, that would be a recommendation I have never heard before.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much philosophy - not enough story, Aug. 30 2003
By 
This review is from: Stranger in a Strange Land (Mass Market Paperback)
I've heard it said that if you haven't read 'Stranger in a Strange Land' you really haven't read Robert Heinlein. I've read a number of his books, and his best in my mind is probably 'Starship Troopers'. But I'd never read this one, so decided to do so. Let me say that I agree with the general reviews I've seen on here. The first 1/2 of the book is a wonderful story about a boy raised among Martians, who develops some extraordinary powers and is then brought to Earth where he struggles to understand the human race. It had so many great things about it. Suspense, Humor, Action, etc. Jubal Harshaw (my favorite character in the book) was also one of the chief reasons to like this story.
The problem is that the book just dissolves after the first 1/2. When Michael Valentine Smith leaves Jubal's home, he goes through a number of incarnations, first as a carnival huckster, then finally ending up as a 'New Age' messiah. The similarities to the life of Jesus are inescapable. My problems with this aren't merely that I strongly disagree with Mr. Heinlein's philosophies that all religions are equally valid and that all of them are 'made up' to one degree or another, but instead my problem is that he spends the better part of the book writing endless philosophical dialogues that have nothing to do with anything other than trying to force his viewpoints down our throat.
I think that everyone has a right to their opinion, and I think that Mr. Heinlein certainly had the right to put his opinions in his own novel. I can further see why this book was so popular in the 60's (especially the 'Thou art God' line). But, for me, this really wasn't a novel as much as it was a philosophy book with a bit of story thrown in as vehicle to let the author tell you what he believed. It's fine that he did so, but I think the book suffers as a result.
The 3 stars are for the first 1/2 of the book. If he had kept the rest of the book like the first, he would easily have scored 5 stars from me. But, unfortunately, the last 1/2 of the book ruined the first.
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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
By 
"jac348" (Athens, OH United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Stranger in a Strange Land (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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5.0 out of 5 stars Stranger in A Strange Land, July 19 2004
By 
Jacob Gest (Denver, CO United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Stranger in a Strange Land (Mass Market Paperback)
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 human race.
This is a wonderful classic that I cannot say enough good things about. It is captivating and quite exceptional. Full of philosophical, spiritual, social and religious ideas that are not only mind boggling but eye opening in many ways. This wonderful piece of literature delves deep into why humans act the way they do, and how society as a whole sees the world it has created.
I have very little complaints about this novel. I found some exceptionally sexist views in this book which were unsettling to me but not surprising for a book written in 1962. That is actually my only major complaint, and the passages in which this viewpoint seeps through are so short and so sparse that it did not detour me from reading the book. Oddly enough Heinlein seems to contradict himself in these viewpoints, he writes female characters that are Strong and would make any feminist proud, and then turns around and has them say something that contradicts that very character.
So overall this book was truly wonderful. Something I would suggest anyone and everyone read, simply because of the ideas expressed within it alone, if not for the wonderful writing and compelling story. (By the end of this book you will find need to incorporate the word "grok" into your daily vocabulary.)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Vivid and thought provoking, March 16 2004
By 
R.P. (central Illinois) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Stranger in a Strange Land (Mass Market Paperback)
I've read 4 of RAH's books, 3 of them fiction. In order from best to worst, I would rank them:
1. Starship Troopers
2. Stranger in a Strange Land
3. Farnham's Freehold
I thought RAH did a great job in describing the culture shock awaiting Smith....after all, he was coming from a clairvoyant, telekinetic, asexual society apparently communal in nature to a society of individualists, polarized between men and women with no telepathic powers. It made me wonder how I would get along if I was sent to an Amazonian or Papua New Guinean tribe with no written language or advanced arithmetic. Smith's mentor of sorts is Jubal Harshaw, a sort of poorer Hugh Hefner who has a fenced in compound, a couple handymen and 3 beautiful secretaries living with him. (Being a red-blooded American male, RAH seems to have a rakish, chauvinistic streak running through his writings) As time goes by, Smith goes from a student of human nature to a teacher. As Smith learns more of human nature and becomes comfortable in society, he starts his own church, sort of a more communal/libertarian pantheism as opposed to authoritarian Christianity. Mention is made of pre-Christian Eskimo wife-swapping, and Christian mores in general are written off as uptight, outmoded or just burdensome. I can see where hippie communes, and free-love types took cues from this book. RAH's use of language and attempts to describe the sheer difference between humanity and Martian society are very successful, I think the protagonists' pontificating on free love and the beliefs of the Church of All Worlds is more workable on paper than in the real world.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Unfortunately, Heinlein's Most Famous Work, March 13 2004
By 
Bart Leahy (Huntsville, AL) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stranger in a Strange Land (Mass Market Paperback)
If you read "Grumbles from the Grave," you'll realize that Heinlein wanted to write this book for a long time. The way he tells it, he "had to wait for the public morals to change" before he could write it. I beg to differ. I just don't think RAH could carry it off well, which is why it sat on the shelf for so long.
SIASL is a story about cultural mores, and how they are subject to change. That aspect of the story, however, does not appear until the fourth and fifth parts. The first three sections describe the experiences of a human being, Valentine Michael Smith, who was raised by Martians and now finds himself in contact with other humans. Eventually, he "figures out" humanity and sets off to change us all for the better by using a mix of Martian and human beliefs.
Along the way, Heinlein (as narrator or through his characters) takes pot shots at organized religion, politics, art, academic degrees, astrology, and just about any other topic you'd care to name. His primary mouthpiece is Jubal Harshaw, a sybaritic lawyer-doctor(?) who manages to also write fiction, own a luxurious armed compound, and have three beautiful secretaries on staff. One would guess that this is how RAH would have loved to spend his retirement. The sections of the book where Harshaw appears are probably the most fun, but seem to be a long detour to get the reader where they are supposed to go.
Smith's commune became the basis for many later aspects of the hippie movement, including Charles Manson's "family," which shared water like good Martians should. That association might have tarnished the book's reputation. I am in agreement with Brian Aldiss' assessment that Smith's cult would be completely useless and degenerate without the Man from Mars' powers. Much of the history of 1960s bears this opinion out.
There are so many other books by Heinlein that can be read and savored. It's unfortunate that this is the one the that gets the most attention. It changes tone several times, becomes needlessly preachy, and tries to do too many things at once. It is not as unified as most Heinlein works. Therefore, this one gets a "thumbs down" from an otherwise devoted fan.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Stranger in a Strange Land, Feb. 11 2004
By A Customer
Stranger in a Strange Land is a compelling novel by Robert A. Heinlein. Although the story itself may not be as interesting as possible, it's captivating descriptions make it a must read for every Science Fiction lover. For example, instead of simply stating the grass is green, Heinlein describes how the grass feels, what texture it is, and what fragrance it gives off. This type of description, using all five senses, allows the reader to feel as if they could enter the plot and experience the feelings of each character.
Heinlein's interesting choice of characters, a nurse, martin and lawyer to name some, make it difficult to grasp the storyline at times, but the enthralling portrayal of events allows the reader to understand what is happening and what each character feels about it. Stranger in a Strange Land is different from many of Heinlein's other novels in the sense that it focus's on many controversial issues, free love for example. The innocence portrayed in the characters, especially the Martian, enlightens us about how we interact with each other today.
Stranger in a Strange Land is truly a one of a kind book and I guarantee you'll be enthralled after the first page. It's fascinating characters and captivating storyline will keep you turning page after page. Once you've read this book you'll never be the same again. Get your copy today!
- Laura Hecht-Felella
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4.0 out of 5 stars A facinating view into history, Jan. 15 2004
By 
J. A Magill (Sacramento, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stranger in a Strange Land (Mass Market Paperback)
One of science fictions often overlooked values is the mirror it offers into not the future but the past. Looking at how authors write the future tells us a great deal, perhaps more, about the time that they lived then the time they are trying to create. Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land" is a case in point. Ostensively about the 21st century it offers a facinating view into the 1960's, the era in which it was first published. The fact many tarred it as scandolous at its first appearence while at the same time the book was widely read gives us powerful insights into the counter culture revolution and the radical changes in values that we feel down to this very day. Moreover, "Stranger" opened the way for serious science fiction as social comentary, a debt for which all current writers in the genre owe Heinlein mightily.
Using as his voice Michael, the sole survivor of a mars mission on which he was born, Heinlein presents powerful if somewhat data critiques of western culture, from art, to religion, to sex, to government. Raised by martians, Michael is a stranger to earth's culture and therefore an outsider. Readers with an interest in Heinlein's evolution would enjoy comparing Michael with the author's other favorite voice, the undying Lazurus Long of Methusalah's Children as well as all his later works. The difference in tone is striking, as is the fact that the ultimate cynic and the ultimate innocent come to almost all of the same conclusions, though the former has a better sense of humor.
Readers may choose between two versions of the book, the one released in 1961 and a longer (an additional 50,000+) words that was released much later. Heinlein cut the material at his editors request and in my opinion the editor was right as the longer version drags and interfers with what is already ocassionally a slow story. Still, for those who like Heinlein this work cannot be missed.
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Stranger in a Strange Land
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein (Mass Market Paperback - Jan. 11 2002)
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