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Stranger in a Strange Land

4.0 out of 5 stars 126 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding
  • ASIN: B002LUXLDU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I'm not for a moment going to try to defend the literary merit of Heinlein's work. This is, truly, a dreadfully badly written book, a book which cries out for harsh editing. And yet I felt it necessary to write a review to counterbalance those which precede me here, because, although this is a bad book, it's a truly great bad book. It's a book that anyone interested in twentieth century popular culture should read, and a book which will remain the subject of serious literary debate long after all the Booker Prize winners are forgotten.

The reviewers who say this book is too long are right. The reviewers who say it's badly written are right. The reviewers who say it is sexist are... missing the point. Yes, one of the protagonists, who seems to be Heinlein's alter ego, is astonishingly misogynist.

But that's part of why this novel is interesting. It's a visceral satire on the values and mores of Middle America of its day - and, given that Middle America changes only slowly, it still reads true of Middle America today. Sarah Palin might burn it - and has good reason to fear it.

It's a book stuffed with ideas, many of which are very funny; and it's a book with, despite its surface misogyny, a very interesting exploration of gender relations and gender politics which still bears reading. Overall, I strongly recommend that - if you've any interest in a literature of ideas, in the tradition of satire in English letters - you read this book. It's the very best dreadful book you will ever read.
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Format: Paperback
This book is Heinlein's most famous effort, still selling very well today in both its original (1961) 'cut' version, and in the 'uncut' version (about 60,000 words longer), released after his death by his wife, Virginia Heinlein. It is an extremely complex satirical book, with multiple literary and philosophical allusions and referents, and with attacks and comments on many of the basic tenents of American life and social structure, including sex, love, marriage, politics, government, religion(s), economics, tattoos, art, writing, astrology, journalism, TV, military, inheritance laws, cannibalism, prejudice, prisons, and carnival life. Heinlein's aim was for this book to create questions about all of a reader's basic assumptions, to gore every sacred cow, to upset all the apple-carts. In some ways, he succeeded beyond his dreams, as the book was 'adopted' as their bible by many of the '60s counter-culture movement, even to the point that several churches were established with this book as their basis (most notably the Church of All Worlds). Heinlein himself was rather terrified by this use, as he never intended the book to provide answers, only to force questions.

The plot line is fairly simple: A child born to the first Martian expedition, Valentine Michael Smith ("Mike"), is raised by the Martians and brought back to Earth as a young man, where he receives a rather eccentric education into the ways of man by those who befriend him. Once he feels that he understands humanity, Mike undertakes to educate humans in the philosophy of "Thou art God" in such a way that the truth of that statement is a provable tautology. As such, he becomes a self-proclaimed messiah, with the usual fate of messiahs that upset everyone's idea of what is 'right'.
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By Daniel Jolley HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 4 Dec. 2002
Format: Paperback
Reviewing Stranger in a Strange Land is quite a challenge. Is it the best science fiction novel ever published? I would say yes. Is it my favorite? No; it's not even my favorite Heinlein novel. To add a little more irony to the pot, Heinlein himself insisted that the book is not really science fiction to begin with. Stranger really marks a huge turning point in Heinlein's career. Unhappy with the brand of "juvenile" writer and the editing that position constantly entailed, Heinlein was determined to write a truly adult novel, one with no taboos, no limits, and no restrictions of any kind. With Stranger in a Strange Land he accomplished that in spades, basically taking on the heretofore sacrosanct subjects of sexuality and religion. Heinlein was not sure that anyone would even publish this story that took him 12 years to write; what was published was a mere figment of the original manuscript, 60,000 words having been cut out. Even though Heinlein did the editing himself, it had to have felt like jabbing an ice pick into his own heart to do it. Thankfully, we can now read the complete, original manuscript the way Heinlein intended the story to be told.
The plot is deceptively simple. The first manned mission to Mars never made it home to Earth. The second mission, twenty years later, found Valentine Michael Smith, an infant born on Mars and the only surviving member of the ill-fated first mission. Having been raised by Martians, Smith is literally a stranger in a strange land when he is brought back to earth with "miraculous" abilities and a Martian philosophy of life. The Federation government basically hides him away from prying eyes, partly in fear of the legal and political dangers posed by his unique status.
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