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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.
''[D]isturbing, shocking and entertaining. . . . It sparkles and crackles and produces goose bumps of apprehension and dissatisfaction with the human race. . . . The best of his many books. . . '' --Washington Post
''[A] landmark in more ways than one. . . . a truly masterful SF story. . . . Christopher Hurt reads with authority, nicely drawing the characters via barely perceptible changes in intonation, harshness, and pacing. Highly recommended.'' --Library Journal
''A brilliant mind-bender, a thought-provoking book.'' --New York Times
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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.Read more ›
Folks, let's be clear here -- if you don't like "Stranger" but do like other Heinlein the odds are great you've never read the uncut version. I won't go into details (you can find them easily on the net) but essentially the cut down version is not written in Heinlein's "voice" but drastically cut down (by RAH) to fit into a length the publisher thought proper.
And so it does not sound like any other Heinlein novel, and this has split the "Stranger" camp right down the middle. There are those to whom the original book was bible -- and those tend not to like other Heinlein works. Those of us who love Heinlein have always felt kind of "meh" about Stranger... until the uncut version was released (in 1991).
Now, the Kindle version being sold is the cut version, so if you were a fan of that (published in 1961) you'll love this version. However, if you are not a huge fan of that version I would stay away from this Kindle version at all costs (there are easily found web versions of the uncut novel -- I'm not advocating piracy, but it's unlikely we'll ever see a Kindle uncut version as Amazon seems clueless here -- even official reviewers seem to think this version is uncut, but I can promise you it isn't, as the passages are clear and easy to find in even the sample version).
One last thing -- if you have read the cut version (either this Kindle version or otherwise) you might want to give the uncut version a try. Also, if you are new to Heinlein and want to know what all the fuss is about, definitely read the uncut version. Watered down beer tastes just like that.
This novel was way ahead of its time in many ways, and yes, stuck in the 50s in other ways. Reading some people's negative reviews here has been amusing.
Most of them presume that Heinlein was writing from their 90s or post-2000 perspective for some insane reason. Take note: He wrote this *before* the so called "free-love" movement had become widespread in the 60s. Take further note: The water-brother mini-society he created in the novel wasn't "free-love" at all, but had a quite high barrier to entry.
Other negative posters are clearly unable to escape their ethnocentric viewpoint, finding the relationships constructed by Heinlein to be distasteful based on their societal values. If you are unable to think about a society that practices polyamory without feeling embarassment or nausea, or really think that it is simply "unnatural", then don't read this book. (...)
Most of all, remember this is science fiction. It's intended to portray an alternate reality, and I think it does a fine job of that while satirizing our reality at the same time. I could go on about other particulars of the book, but I won't: In short, this is one of the finest books ever written.
When I first picked up _Stranger in a Strange Land_ I wasn't expecting much. I had read _Starship Troopers_ and _The Puppet Masters_ and thought they were O.K. But this book just blew me away. Not so much because of its science fiction extrapolations, but rather for how funny, intelligent and true the book rang. _Stranger..._ shows human beings through the eyes of one Valentine Michael Smith, a Martian with human origins. He is so child-like, so innocent, so funny and calm in every situation even though he has such awesome powers--it's amazing to read about him. Along with Gully Foyle, in _The Stars My Destination_ I think he is one of the best SF protagonists ever written. And the way he learns and evolves from the strange cast of human characters--I also really liked Patty and Jubal Harshaw--is wonderful to read. The ending is so unforgettable. And how Heinlein came up with such a cool word like grok I'll never know. Also, he brings the interesting concept of water brothers into the story, and shows how humanity should love each other without resorting to meaningless violence. Sometimes Heinlein gets a bit too wordy and some of his views about God and woman I find hard to swallow--I can see why this book is so controversial. But aside from those minor flaws, _Strange..._ is a great book to read not only because it is enjoyable by itself as literature, but also because it has the intelligence and audacity to pose such difficult questions and firm beliefs about humanity, God and our place in the universe when now such concerns are ignored by most current SF.
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