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518 of 559 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Science fiction's greatest achievement
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...
Published on December 4, 2002 by Daniel Jolley

versus
250 of 273 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Kindle book is NOT the Uncut Version
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...
Published on December 29, 2011 by Michael D. Kelley


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518 of 559 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Science fiction's greatest achievement, December 4, 2002
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. Having been raised by Martians, the human experience is completely new and rather frightening to him. He has never even met a woman until nurse Jill Boardman sneaks into his room to get a glimpse of him. Fearful that the government is going to keep Michael basically imprisoned (or worse), Jill helps sneak him out of the hospital, and the two of them end up at the home of Jubal Harshaw. Jubal is an outspoken, older man who lives a thoroughly individual lifestyle, but he commits himself to helping Michael escape his perilous situation. Michael quickly begins to absorb human knowledge and, less quickly, begins to understand the confusing mentality of human beings.
Halfway through the novel, you may be asking yourself why the book was so controversial; the answer becomes clear as Michael now steps out into the wider world. He and Jill move around incognito, and Michael learns more about people. After a stint as an unsuccessful magician, he eventually decides to become a preacher. He's not preaching a religion, though; he offers humans a new way of living and thinking, one based on the Martian system he grew up in. This new lifestyle involves a lot of nudity, a lot of open fornication, and the constant repetition of a mantra of sorts naming yourself and those around you God. The "I am God, you are God" theme is essentially Heinlein's means of emphasizing the personal responsibility of each individual for his own life. It is not strictly antireligious, but certainly it is not an idea that would go over well among most fundamentalists. I say most because I am a fundamentalist myself, but I understand what Heinlein was saying and recognize the fact that, after all, this is fiction. Frankly, though, the free love theme bothers my sensibilities and causes my viewpoint of the novel to change somewhat. Even though disapproval began to temper my enthusiasm toward the end, I certainly cannot give this book less than five stars.
Science fiction readers had never read anything quite like Stranger back in 1961; its originality, bold themes, and fearless writing hit with the force of a hurricane, and science fiction has never been quite the same. The Hugo Award this novel rightfully won barely begins to give it the honor and acclaim it deserves. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough, albeit I must enclose a caveat with my endorsement. This book has the power to shock readers even today; do not let your own beliefs take away from the wonder to be found in the pages of this novel. Stranger requires and deserves a completely open mind from anyone who would approach it; it also requires multiple readings to even begin to plumb the depths of its riches.
Anyone wanting to understand and get a true appreciation of the genius of Robert Heinlein really must read Stranger, but I would not recommend picking this book up before you have sampled some of Heinlein's other wares. It would be a real shame to let any adverse emotional reaction to the themes of this novel deprive you of the joy and wonder to be found in countless other Heinlein stories and novels.
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250 of 273 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Kindle book is NOT the Uncut Version, December 29, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
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.
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152 of 174 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you are not philosophically inclined, don't read this book, October 20, 2005
By 
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.
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47 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heinlein's best novel, October 22, 1999
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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76 of 95 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fine yarn, but dated and self-indulgent., December 28, 2003
By 
-----------------------------------------------------------
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.

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.

Happy reading--
Peter D. Tillman

Review copyright 1999 by Peter D. Tillman
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars First half is great., March 2, 2012
By 
This review is from: Stranger in a Strange Land (Paperback)
Stranger in a Strange Land starts off well. It appears to be a fun science-fiction story about a human raised among the Martians that returns to Earth and has a huge cultural shock while having to deal with all of Earth's bureaucracy. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the Martian civilisation and bow it differs from ours, and the plots of the administration to make the protagonist, Valentine Michael Smith, sign over his rights. Unfortunately, this part only lasts for the first couple of hundred pages or so.

SKIP THE NEXT PARAGRAPH TO AVOID SPOILERS:

Once Valentine Michael Smith gets accustomed to Earth and its strange ways (or as the book says, once he groks Earth), he takes the logical next step of... starting a cult! Of course, this cult is the right one for Earth's people, one which teaches them awesome mind powers that means work is unnecessary and also gets rid of jealousy and possessiveness. Everyone has sex with everyone else, except of course, homosexuality is utterly wrong. The highest value in his society is "growing closer" through sex, but men get closer with other men by encouraging the women that they have sex with to have sex with other men. (Presumably Michael's amazing mind powers prevents sexually transmitted diseases, since he seems to be able to control his body utterly.) And in the end, after he sacrifices his physical form and his cult eats his flesh, he's revealed to be an incarnation of the Archangel Michael!

END SPOILERS

Okay, so I thought this book was a bit absurd. I did think that it was going to be hard sci-fi, and in my opinion, it wasn't (although I don't think that's what kept me from enjoying it.) Heinlein can write pretty well, as shown by the first part of the book, but the book ended up devolving into preachy philosophical monologues (all delivered by the men, while the women say "I understand now, dear! Can I get you some food?") The character of Jubal seemed like a Mary Sue stand-in for Heinlein; he's a writer who writes "bad pulp fiction" but knows that it is trash, but he's also a doctor and a lawyer and the only person that understands Valentine Michael Smith.

Also, I'm usually very forgiving of old books being representative of the prevailing morals of their time, but still, this book is incredibly sexist. Like I said above, the men always need to explain things to the women, the women spend their days mostly in swimsuits (or later, naked), the women are always concerned about providing food to the men (or are rebuked with threats of "spanking", all in good fun, of course.) There's a disturbing statement about rape ("nine times out of ten, it's the woman's fault") that's said by a woman.

The homophobia was also a disappointment. For a story that preaches free love and "sex isn't just about babies, it's to grow closer to people" to be so acutely homophobic seemed like a huge cop-out. I've heard this book described as visionary for its message of sexual liberation and anti-bigotry, but then it's homophobic! I would've forgiven it if the topic of homosexuality had not been addressed at all.

I'm glad I read it, though. It's good to read books I absolutely don't agree with, once in a while. And Heinlein is still a way better writer than Larry Niven.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A mixed novel; some originality, has not aged well, May 28, 2002
By 
Bruce H (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
This novel is probably Heinlein's most famous work. It was first published in 1961 and I think this fact is significant. Sometimes, literature does not age well. Heinlein has written other novels (e.g. "Starship Troopers" was published in 1959; still highly relevant; read my review of it) that have aged much better than this, so you may want to read one or two of his other novels before you decide whether or not you like his work.
The novel is divided into four sections that have titles that remind me of a biography of a saint or some other sort of religious figure. Part 1 is called "His Maculate Origin." Part Two is called, "His Preposterous Heritage." Part Three is called, "His Eccentric Education." Part Four is called, "His Scandalous Career." Lastly, Part Five is called, "His Happy Destiny." This gives the reader some hint about where Heinlein is taking the story and as such is somewhat helpful.
I agree with another reviewer that the initial premise of the book is very interesting both as a plot device and as a story. Michael Valentine Smith (he is the "Stranger" in a strange land) is a human raised on Mars; he is biologically human but philosophically Martian. Native Martians are never physically described but there are some hints about how their society is set up. Due to some interesting legal decisions, it is discovered the Michael is heir to a vast fortune and that he is possibly the ruler of Mars. Initially, Michael finds human culture enormously difficult to understand. However, he manages to get some help. He carries out talks with the politicians and has his rights secured.
The ideas in the novel were no doubt very popular in the 1960�s. Michael stresses what might be called �free love�, pantheism (e.g. all his disciples create each other with the phrase "Thou Art God"), religious pluralism and an incredible optimism that heaven can be created on Earth. There is also a dose of Heinlein�s trademark libertarianism in some of Michael�s views. In part Four, Michael starts up a religious institution to teach people the Martian language and the Martian way of doing things. However, as other reviewers have said, by this point, the novel seems to degenerate into a soapbox for Heinlein to voice his ideas. The way that Heinlein argues for religious pluralism is extremely weak sophistry likewise for his arguments in favor of some sort of "new sexuality" where sex bonds all sorts of different people, with no apparent rules. There is no explicit homosexuality but the new sexual morality proposed would probably admit it.
Understanding the "message" of the novel is a little tricky. There are some valid observations about how religious institutions are founded and sustained. Indeed, the Fosterite Church strikes me as the ultimate American religion. It combines the "new" revelation (an idea that Mormonism and Jehovah�s Witnesses use), an overwhelming emphasis on �Happiness� and it is extremely emotional. While there was potential for examining how Earth would react to the discovery of an alien race, it is not really explored. I think the message that Heinlein intended to communicate in the novel is that love, brotherhood etc can create a utopia but established interests will always prevent it from forming.
I personally found "Starship Troopers" a more interesting novel; the next Heinlein novel I read will probably be, "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress." My overall impression is that this novel�s story starts out well but morphs into a soapbox and that it is overrated. Yet, keep in mind, it probably one of the most popular SF novels since World War 2 and most people have extremely polarized opinions about it.
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This Kindle Version Is EDITED!!!, July 16, 2010
By 
Joseph Hurwitz "dazamo" (Illinois United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I loved the book when I first bought it in paperback years ago. I bought the Un-Edited version and as thrilled. I recently bought this version and found out it is the edited version where many parts have been chopped out or changed. I requested my money back and I was thrilled Amazon complied. I told them that this is not the same book that the kindle's book description claims it is. DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK IF YOU WANT THE UNEDITED VERSION!!!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My first exposure to Heinlein, and it's good stuff..., April 3, 2005
This review is from: Stranger in a Strange Land (Paperback)
Believe it or not, with all the reading I do I have never read any of Heinlein's stuff. Someone recommended Stranger In A Strange Land to me, and I'm impressed with the guy's writing...

The basic plotline is that a manned trip to Mars occurs but the ship loses contact once it gets to the surface. The thought is that everyone was killed. But a later mission reveals that there was a survivor, and it was a child that's been raised as a Martian. He's brought back to Earth, and has to understand and learn everything there is about being human, as well as learning how to control his Martian mindset.

I won't go into all the "deep significant meanings" in this book, as I don't do subtlety very well. Besides, many others have done a far better job of that than I could ever hope to. The thing that impressed me is that reading the book 45 years after it was written doesn't affect the story at all. I expected that the science part of this sci-fi novel would be rather hokey, but it all aged very well. With very few exceptions, the technology doesn't have that "futuristic" feel that you often saw in writings from that era.

Good read, and I'm definitely interested in reading more of his work...
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45 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wildly Comic, Deeply Bitter, And A Pager-Turner To The End, June 17, 2005
A great many people have read Heinlein's STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND since it was first published in 1961--but while almost everyone enjoys the story, very few seem to actually get the point or indeed even understand what the novel is.

The story concerns Valentine Smith, a child born during Earth's first and failed attempt to establish a colony on Mars. The child is raised by Martians and absorbs Martian civilization, teachings, and training as if he were of the race. When a later expedition discovers Smith, he is "rescued" and returned to earth--and promptly begins a series of adventures that would put Voltaire's CANDIDE to shame.

Given the novel's premise many have described it as science fiction, but it is really nothing of the kind; futuristic concepts play only minor roles in the construct and imaginings based on science are more minor still. In fact, STRANGER IN A STRANGER LAND is essentially a satire, and like CANDIDE it focuses upon avarice, power, ignorance, and hypocrisy--and religious hypocrisy in particular.

In short order Smith is kidnapped by the government that claims to have "saved" him--and becomes a pawn in a series of political power plays designed to strip him of both his legal rights and his inherited wealth for the benefit of the status quo. No sooner does Smith escape this ordeal than he finds himself plunged into organized religion of the most vulgar description imaginable, complete with slot machines in the narthex, bar service in the sanctuary, and a stripper in every corner.

Unable to comprehend the motives of man, Smith goes underground in an effort to more fully understand the race--and after an unexpected turn emerges as a quasi-religious figure himself, preaching a philosophy that merges Martian and Earthly thought. But Smith proves all too human and is no more immune to human vices than those whose vices he seeks to correct, and the twin demons of government authority and religious fanaticism soon rise up to meet him.

Changing mores have left STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND with a slightly dated feel, and in some respects it reads as slightly sexist and faintly homophobic. Even so, the unfolding plot, the memorable characters, and Heinlein's bold style command attention; it is a page-turner if ever there was one. And the novel's razor-like derision of man's social inventions remains as bitterly comic--and as bitterly compelling--as ever. Strongly recommended.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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Stranger in a Strange Land
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (Paperback - October 1, 1991)
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