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Stranger in a Strange Land Mass Market Paperback – May 15 1987
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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
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 the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
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Top customer reviews
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-
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.
This is definitely a book to be read, especially as a guage for what good science fiction is capable of, and to understand it's cult status within the genre. I believe, however, that you can find better more subtle, thoughtful, and sensitive work out there by writers like Samuel Delany ("Trouble on Triton" springs to mind).
Heinlein preaches heavily and at will, while the book shows its age; the points made though are still valid and topical. "God is in all of us" and religion is nothing more than a collection of charlatans and shysters. The sexual references, towards the end, are controversial to this day yet mostly on target.
And, no surprise, mankind targets the messenger when medium and target collide.
For fun look up the meaning of the names Heinlein uses for his characters.
Heinlein, the master story teller, takes us where no one else can. Into a world you want to be a part of.
My reviews are usually verbose. But how can I compete with Heinlein, my idol?
You should read this book. Over and over again. The lessons within are worth learning.
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