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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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Oh, and as a bonus, one of the few female characters (if we can even call her that - she's so two-dimensional) states that "Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it's partly her fault." So there's that.
Don't read this book. Don't buy this book. One star because I can't give lower than that, and the initial premise and first 50 pages are so are actually pretty interesting.
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
WOW , I was surprised because I don't read much. It was excellent.Published 23 days ago by Gordon Turner
How could I have liked this thirty years ago? Preachy beyond bearing.Published 5 months ago by J. Cote
This book is riddled with good philosophies, anecdotes, and what were likely at the time, novel ideas. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Road to Rock N' Roll
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 morePublished on May 18 2014 by Darrell Ducharme
I lost this book do to water damage and was glad this I counld get it at Amazon. Thank you.Published on Nov. 11 2013 by Robert McGraw
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 morePublished on March 1 2013 by Louis Vroomen
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 morePublished on Sept. 13 2011 by Brian MacDonald