Stranger in a Strange Land Mass Market Paperback – Jan. 11 2002
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- Mass Market Paperback : 448 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-0441790340
- Item Weight : 227 g
- ISBN-10 : 0441790348
- Product Dimensions : 10.64 x 2.92 x 17.48 cm
- Publisher : Ace (Jan. 11 2002)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #198,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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
“One of the grand masters of science fiction.”—Wall Street Journal
“A brilliant mind-bender...Wonderfully humanizing...The name of the leading character in Stranger in a Strange Land is as familiar to millions of literate persons as Oliver Twist or Holden Caulfield.”—Kurt Vonnegut, The New York Times Book Review
“Certainly among the most influential...science fiction novel[s] of all time.”—The Guardian
“This book was destined to become a bestseller, shaping the sensibilities of a generation.”—The Boston Globe
“One of the most popular science fiction novels ever published.”—Library Journal
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Let yourself be carried away to another land.
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Definitely not Heinlein's best, although to be fair Starship Troopers was his first book of his that I read and that set the bar VERY high.
Apart from some really outdated (at least by Western civilisations standards) ideas, I found I wasn't too offended at all.
Yes, Jubal does call his female employees 'girls' but they do give as good as they get and he clearly values them and sees them more as extended family members. There are some strong and professionally accomplished female characters at least mentioned and some sympathy for the plight of women if you read to the end: Sam in conversation with Jubal suggests that a logical outcome of Mike's teachings and methods might result in a time when 'women are free of guilt and fear'. Many of us now are but in fewer countries that you might comfortably admit. And don't think it didn't cost some 'discorporations' to get here!
Things seemed to get a little weird towards the last third of the book but actually, I didn't find it, as many have accused, a book of two halves; the latter half being ill thought out or too self indulgent. To me it seemed a natural progression of the themes and ideas introduced in the first half of the novel. Group sex is most definitely featured but not salaciously or in any kind of lurid detail. Religion is approached, really from an agnostic perspective and may offend anyone with firm religious beliefs who cannot tolerate different viewpoints. I am an atheist so for me, the spiritual element is a device or framework for wider topics relating to social and economic issues and conventions. (Or, I could just be wrong). In fact the modus operandi of pseudo religious cults is discussed and brought to mind the controversy surrounding the 'Moonies' and more recently, Scientology. Personally, I don't think the inclusion of the 'angel' scenes adds anything at all but they don't take up more than a few pages so easy to ignore.
This is my personal take on the themes, which I think are still very topical:
Imagine what an alien race would make of earth society. How would creatures who have no concept of ownership, gender or sex in a male/female sense, view the insane way we structure our cultures from politics to the absurdity of capitalism and the way we attempt to suppress our most basic drives?
What would creatures who know for a fact that corporeal existence is one part of the cycle, death being a natural step to the next phase, make of our multiplicity of faiths or as Jubal puts it: 'the capacity of a human mind to believe devoutly in what seems to me to be the highly improbable'. How would a race which embraces canabilism as a ritualistic and revered re-cycling of matter, no longer required by its previous owner, perceive our taboos? Incidentally, there is no real suggestion that the canabilism taboo does not serve humanity as a legitimate safeguard.
But I think the author is trying to challenge the reader to, in turn, challenge long held beliefs and social norms. This is what our human but Martian born and bred protagonist finally attempts to do and I think we still need to: challenge the status quo on many global social, moral, economic and religious issues.
Stranger in a Strange Land is ultimately, a call for more, 'growing closer' if you will or to give pantheism a chance and a plea for 'waiting fullness' before closing your mind to ideas that discomfit you or are at odds with your own philosophy.
For the ideas at the heart of the work; for the witty, amusing dialogue and the full fleshy character of Jubal Harshaw; for inducing via 40's/50's period dialogue, the uncommon but not unpleasant effect of reading the first 50 pages or so in black and white with Robert Mitchum narrating (that's just in my head), I am willing to forgive Robert A Heinlein for being a product of his era and let him off on the mild to moderate misogyny and bigotry charge. I wouldn't do this with a more modern or recent author but I hope anyone who has not read the novel yet and enjoys sci-fi will be able to do the same and 'grok' this novel as much as I did.
Honestly, I can forgive a lot, and I have read quite a few books that I was glad to see the end of, but I have never given up on a book partway through until today. Not an enjoyable read.