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Stranger in a Strange Land
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VINE VOICEon June 19, 2009
There is no question that Robert Anson Heinlein is one of the Fathers of Science Fiction. There is also no question that STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND is his most famous work, having been called "the most famous science fiction novel ever written." Is it his best? Perhaps not. But it is a ground breaking classic, one that I enjoy reading again and again.

STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND is the story of Valentine Michael Smith (Mike), a male born of human parents on the first Earth colony ship to Mars. Literally born as the ship landed on Mars, Mike's parents and the rest of the crew died, and Mike was raised by Martians. 25 years later, a second Earth colony ship lands on Mars, and discovers Mike, the native inhabitants of Mars, and a host of unanswered questions. Mike returns to Earth, and STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND is the detailed chronicle of his introduction to, interaction with, and transformation of human culture.

STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND was Heinlein's first truly adult science fiction novel, and he took on some pretty heady topics. Politics, religion, sex, equality, and the concept of a truly un-human culture (which happened to be superior), to name a few. Heinlein wove these themes into STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, each of which contributed to his idealistic vision of a perfect world.He intermixed shock value, logic, and plain good storytelling to get his points across, and I think he did so quite wonderfully.

1. Religion. Heinlein was not an atheist, as some have claimed. He did believe in a higher power; what he did not have any use for was organized religion. He believed in faith. If you had faith, true faith, then the trappings of religion were unnecessary and superfluous. They just did not matter. The Church of All Worlds in STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND was set up to show that no matter what the religious trapping were, it was faith that really mattered. He also created a religion where happiness and self-belief were the main drivers, rather than fire, brimstone, and fear. Makes great sense to me.

2. Sex. Contrary to popular belief, STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND did not promote promiscuity or free love. What Heinlein did was to create a world where people were open about sex, where it was enjoyable and exciting, but with it came great responsibility. In this world, sex wasn't hidden, secret, or naughty; rather it was honest and pure and fun. People who could develop this utopian attitude became happier, healthier, less jealous, more caring, and, yes, more sexual. Responsibility to partners, offspring, and an entire extended family became the norm. In his own way, by exploring sexuality, Heinlein was exploring and redefining the meaning of family. He was also trying to define sex as a miraculous union, and to show that humans should treat it as the miracle of bonding and "growing closer" that it is.

3. Equality. Before the sexual revolution and equality for women, Heinlein clearly believed in equality of the sexes, equality of the races, equality of faiths...basically the equality of all humans. Yes, he felt women should be treated with respect and reverence and be protected and nurtured because they gave birth and perpetuated the species, but he clearly believed that they were intelligent and capable. He also believed that women had sexual needs equal to those of men and had the right to pursue those needs.

4. Politics. In STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, Heinlein clearly had little use for government, politics, or politicians. He believed that government in general was a necessary evil, but preferred that it be kept small and out of his business. He didn't care what it was based on or what guided it - astrology was the ridiculous example used in STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND - as long as it left him alone. Works for me. He also had little use for entitlements, and expected human beings to work for what they received. Again, works for me.

5. Un-Human, Superior Culture. Heinlein did a remarkable and revolutionary thing when he created the Martian culture of STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND. The Martians of this novel are clearly not humanoids from another planet. They do not think like humans, act like humans, look like humans, reproduce like human, live like humans, or do anything like we do here on the planet Earth. There is nothing remotely recognizable about these Martians; they are completely alien. We can't them, and they can't understand us. They are older, more advanced, and can perceive the universe around them in ways that humans do not. But humans can, if properly taught, learn some of the things that Martians do. What a marvelous concept.

In 1962 the original version of STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND won the Hugo Award for the Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year. After Heinlein's death in 1988, his wife Virginia discovered the original uncut manuscript and arranged to have it published in 1991. It is interesting to read the two books side by side, to see the differences, and to compare them. I enjoy both versions very much, and am still not sure which is my favorite. Whatever version you choose, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND. Whether you have read it before or not, whether you love it or not, you will find it to be an interesting and thought-provoking read.
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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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on July 9, 2010
The book shown in the picture on this product page is possibly a first paper edition, printed in 1961. No, it's not the one I've just read; I had to trot to a bookstore and buy a fresh copy. But there are 500-plus reviews posted on that new edition. Most promisingly bookish young people these days have read "Stranger in a Strange Land" by age 15 or 16. I didn't have that opportunity; I was already 20 in 1961, when it was published, but I read it soon after. I hadn't looked at it since that initial reading, until I found myself "sharing water" (actually red wine) with a college mate I hadn't seen in an equally long time. He caught me using the "Martian" word GROK -- a regular item in my vocabulary -- and knew its source, and that set us talking about science-fiction in general, this book in particular.

And now I've re-read Robert Heinlein's enduring 'classic' about a H. sapiens male raised by Martians (rather as Tarzan was raised by apes) and thus equipped with extraordinary powers, who returns to Earth utterly unprepared to think or act like a human. It's a great read, as people say nowadays, packed with imaginings and speculations. Some of the epiphanies almost convince me that the author had the blood of prophets. For instance, the Secretary General of the World Federation, a power-hungry but almost honorable politician of mediocre mind, is an absolute prototype of Ronald Reagan, complete with a wife who manages his decisions by consulting an astrologer, but Reagan hadn't even run for office when Heinlein wrote "SiSL". There are also scores of tech prophesies that have 'come true', but such things don't impress me as much; after all, Dick Tracy had his wrist radio in the 1940s. Heinlein does handle words very artfully; in fact, his writing style isn't a selling point, but his sentences crackle with almost hormonal excitement. It's easy to 'grok' why the book has sold a gazillion or two copies worldwide.

On the other hand, there's a lot of hokey-pokey in "Stranger in a Strange Land". The sexual escapades of Valentine Michael Smith are awfully pokey by our latter-day norms, neither sensuous nor graphic. Sexual freedom is one of the Martian's lessons for humanity, as propounded by Heinlein of course, but this jolly promiscuity (strictly hetero, by the way) is soooo 1960s! Oh well, I was in and of the '60s when I was in my twenties ... but now that I'm in my sixties, Heinlein's libidinous optimism seems mildly embarrassing. Sophomoric. Passé.

Heinlein's theological/metaphysical expatiations, which amount to more than half of the book, are also hokey/naive and his satire of religious cultism, his Fosterites, is pokey/slow. I have no idea whether Heinlein was knowledgeable about the original Giordano Bruno, but his notions of the plenitude of Life throughout the Cosmos are simplified Bruno, and his basic pantheism is much like an undisciplined extract from the thoughts of Baruch Spinoza. The Martian wisdom that Valentine Michael Smith hopes to teach Earthlings amounts to the realization that "God" is a synonym for Life, and that Life is God. But I don't want to sound too judgemental here; for a 15-year-old reader with normally uncomfortable doubts about the religious doctrines in which he's been raised, the humbug expressed in this sci-fi novel might be powerfully liberating.

The chief thing I remembered from my first reading -- the only thing I remembered, really -- was the notion of "grokking." And that notion is truly potent. GROK is a verb in Martian, for which no English verb is an adequate translation. Heinlein shilly-shallies at defining it; the first translator of Martian to English, Dr. Mahmoud, says: "Grok is the most important word in the language - and I expect to spend years trying to understand it.... You need to think in martian to grok the word 'grok." But in actual fact, even the dullest reader almost immediately grasps the simplest meaning, 'to perceive' or 'to comprehend'. It's 2010 now, and English has absorbed much of the conceptual vocabulary of modern physics, and I brashly think I can define GROK a little more clearly. Yes, it means 'perceive', but also to 'be perceived' reciprocally, empathetically, in a kind of quantum simultaneity, a timeless and total entanglement. So... does the word have a 'real' meaning? Does it represent a real occurrence? Sometimes, when I look at a full moon or a paper clip on my desk, I do have a moment of awareness that I sense to be close to grokking. I've always had a certain sense of "vocation" (I was raised as a Lutheran, and my grandmothers told me I had a vocation to become a pastor). My own first vocation, around age 16, was 'poet'. Then I felt called to be 'historian', and later to be 'social activist', and still later 'musician'. I was fooled by the latter; music became my career but if it had been really a 'vocation' I'd have written nine symphonies by now. A few years ago, for various reasons, I started to disengage from my career, to retire, to tend my garden like a rational Epicurean. That was when I discovered, at long last, my true vocation. I am a Grokker. I am called to Grokking, as some are called to preaching or martyrdom. Reading "Stranger in a Strange Land" again, after almost 50 years, has forced me to acknowledge that this pop sci-fi kid's book has probably been a formative influence on my life.
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on August 21, 2015
I read Stranger in a Strange Land when it first came out in 1961. It was the most important and influential book I ever read. It changed my life, and the lives of millions of others. Inspired by SISL, I went on to create the real-life Church of All Worlds, which is still going strong over half a century later. The 1961 edition is the essential version, edited by Heinlein himself. The later unedited version issued by his widow is a travesty, as it is sloppy, and omits the single most important line in the entire original edition--Heinlein's definition of "Love" as "That condition in which another person's happiness is essential to your own." I corresponded with Mr. Heinlein extensively in the 1970s, and here are his own words regarding these two versions of SISL:

"SISL was never censored by anyone in any fashion. The first draft was nearly twice as long as the published version. I cut it myself to bring it down to a commercial length. But I did not leave out anything of any importance; I simply trimmed all possible excess verbiage. Perhaps you have noticed that it reads “fast” despite its length; that is why. I WILL FEAR NO EVIL does not read as “fast” because it never received its final trimming; I became extremely ill and could not do it, and would not allow an editor to do it because my stories are fitted together like jigsaw puzzles and it is awfully easy, in trimming, to leave out an essential piece. So I WILL FEAR NO EVIL is not as good a story as SISL, in my opinion--too slow--even though, again in my opinion, what I have said in it is just as important. But I’m pleased enough that I was able to finish it at all; it just missed being posthumous. (Mrs. Heinlein signed the contract; I was too far gone even to write my signature.)
"The original, longest version of SISL is in a fireproof vault of the library of UCSC and can be seen there by any scholar who convinces the special collection librarian that he has a legitimate interest. But it is really not worth your trouble, as it is the same story throughout--simply not as well told. With it is the brushpenned version which shows exactly what was cut out--nothing worth reading, that is. I learned to write for pulp magazines, in which one was paid by the yard rather than by the package; it was not until I started writing for the Saturday Evening Post that I learned the virtue of brevity. (And I am still too wordy in a private communication such as this, or in conversation.)"
(--Robert A. Heinlein to Oberon (Tim) Zell, 2/28/1972, personal correspondence)
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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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on April 27, 2017
Stranger in a Strange Land was one of the first scifi books I ever read as a kid - and a bit over my head at the time! An odd mix of semi-conservative morals (there is some focus on homophobic concepts, though it seems less anti-gay and more pro-straight), religious iconography, strong liberal morals, anarchy, libertarianism, sex, and scifi advanced enough to fall under Clarke's Third Law. This has a very moving message, deeply engaging characters, a poignant and impactful story, good development arcs, great worldbuilding, and an alternative view of the world and of humanity. This is not for the squeamish; there are descriptions of death, sex (including group sex), extreme injury, dissection of religion, cannibalism, politics, polyamory/polygamy, and more. At times it is hard to say if it's a scifi story or a fantasy one - depends on your point of view. Mike and Jubal are two of the most likeable characters ever written (in my opinion) and their development over the course of the story paints it as a coming of age for both of them, in some lights. Despite the tender age at which I first read it, I would not consider this a book for children in any way, not just because of the R-rated material but also because much of the book would likely go over their heads or leave them confused. This is not a boy's adventure story like many of Heinlein's works nor does it feature incest or other strange behaviors like some of his more adult works - but it is definitely one of the most 'adult' of them all, in content but also in message and theory. This is a book I think everyone should read, even if some of it is rather dated these days. Changed my mind and life as a young thing and continues to entertain and move me now. If you can stomach the material - and unless you are very delicate you should be able to - this is not one to miss.
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on September 26, 2009
Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) is a classic SF story. It is set in the universe of Red Planet, but occurs much earlier.

In this novel, Michael Valentine Smith is a human raised by Martians. Mike's parents -- official or otherwise -- were astronauts who made the first voyage to Mars. A decade later, the second voyage discovered his presence and brought him back to Earth.

Gillian Boardman is a Registered Nurse. Jill is a floor supervisor at Bethesda Medical Center.

Ben Caxton is a columnist for the Washington Post. He specializes in government corruption.

Jubal Harshaw is a lawyer, physician and author. He is about a hundred years old and looks his age.

In this story, Michael is transferred to Bethesda when he lands on Earth. Having been born on Mars, his muscles are used to about a third of the gravity and they need to adjust to the difference. He is being treated on Jill's floor.

When Jill finds time to check on "The Man From Mars", she discovers that his doctor has ordered "No Female Visitors". After all, Michael has never seen a human female and the Martian variety is quite different. Naturally, Jill does not consider herself as a visitor.

The door to the room is guarded by two Marines who deny entrance to anyone not on the admission list. So Jill tries the watch room next door, where a physician is monitoring the instruments. The physician on watch has an urgent call of nature and gets Jill to take his place for a few minutes.

After checking the monitors, Jill goes to see the patient. Mike is pleased to see a female Man and is very curious about the differences. Jill is startled by his expressionless face and his curiosity. Then she has to return to the watch room.

Later, Ben asks Jill if she could smuggle him into the hospital so that he could interview Michael. When he learns that she has talked to him, he pesters her with questions. But he calms down after she explains the risks to her career.

Ben comes up with a different plan. He will take a lawyer and a Fair Witness with him and force the government to let him see The Man From Mars. He refuses to let Jill go with him, telling her that she is his backup. He tells her to go to Jubal if anything happens to him.

Ben then tries his frontal approach. He is met by a man from the Secretary General's office and -- after a verbal confrontation -- he and his party are taken to see The Man From Mars. But they are shown an impostor.

Ben disappears, so Jill smuggles Mike out of the hospital and gets him to Jubal's home in the Poconos. There he is adopted by the Jubal's staff. Now the only problem is retrieving Ben.

This tale introduces an alien in a human body. Earth will never be the same. Especially after he discovers religion.

The story is the obverse of Gulliver's Travels. An alien comes to Earth and observes the strange customs. The natives treat him both kindly and harshly.

This novel is the original version. The publishers thought it was too long and had the author abridge the story. I first read the abridged version, but I find this version essentially the same. Only a very skilled author could cut about a quarter of the book without losing much of the feel of the story.

Highly recommended for Heinlein fans and for anyone else who enjoys tales of xenopsychology, exotic customs, and alien perspectives on humanity.

-Arthur W. Jordin
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on July 20, 2006
I am shocked at some of the bad reviews below.... I guess the book was set up well for me because I can see how someone just picking this up at random could find it quite boring. I was suggested to read this from a friend who told me it was one of the best books she has ever read in her life, but yet one of the worst stories. I love the book, though. Jubal makes a great comment that really relates how I view "Stranger in a Strange Land"

"Anybody can see a pretty girl. An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl she used to be. A great artist can look at an old woman, portray her exactly as she is... and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be... more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo see that this lovely young girl is still alive, prisoned inside her ruined body. He can make you feel the quiet, endless tragedy that there was never a girl born who ever grew older than eighteen in her heart... no matter what the merciless hours have done."

The story and plot itself is, honestly, a boring old woman compared to other stories "meant" to excite you. I feel I see so many of the points behind the actual story itself, though. If you really analyze this book as you read (which isn't hard because Heinlein does a great job of almost forcing you to think and relate), you will see so many relevancies to so many things. Beyond that, the concept, if read and understood from start to finish, is quite genius.

Buy this book and be prepared. This is a trip and a work of art. You must treat is as a work of art and give it the attention it deserves. The more attention you put into it, the more you will get out of it at the end. Enjoy!
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on September 25, 2016
One of the most influential works of sci-fi, this is the story of the meaningfully named Valentine Michael Smith, the first human born on Mars (the love child of two astronauts). Mars is inhabited, of course (the book was one of the last written when that fantasy was still possible). Mike is brought to Earth as a young adult as a prisoner of the future UN/world government of Heinlein's cranky libertarian imagination. He escapes and is brought to shelter and acculturate at the home of the book's main character, Jubal Harshaw -- a lawyer, hack writer and libertarian hero that could have been a fantasy of Ayn Rand (and one of the most successful examples of an author writing himself into his novel without awkwardness). Through a lawyer trick, Harshaw has Mike declared the sovereign citizen of Mars, solving his political and legal troubles, and leaving him free to impregnate the female characters and start a cult religion promulgating free love and equality based on the Martian philosophy. Jubal and the other Earthbound men in the book have trouble accepting it at first, but come around because it involves lots of sex.

The book was perfectly timed, appearing at the beginning of the Sexual Revolution. In other works Heinlein anticipated the nuclear era; in Stranger, he predicted the invention of the waterbed. The novel injected a libertarian strain in the Sixties lovefest which has proved durable. Heinlein's ideological mix anticipated Reaganism -- he stood for personal liberty (and libertinism), anti-taxation, anti-communism, anti-environmentalism, and indifference to religious morality. But it somehow sounds smarter than that. Heinlein's books were bestsellers in the Eighties, and Stranger made that possible. Harshaw and his entourage had bit parts in a couple of later novels, Heinlein recognizing the character's utility as a mouthpiece.

The novel's amorality is total, but it remains a richly entertaining specimen of mid-20th century genre fiction, and even more so in its original published version. This is because the censors told Heinlein the book was too long, hoping he would cut out the sex - instead he rewrote almost every sentence in the novel to reduce unneeded verbiage, taking out 60,000 words. The result was the graceful, compulsively readable style which Heinlein would use henceforth. After his death, Heinlein's widow had the original version published and it turns out to be written in the clunkier prose of Heinlein's early novels. While both the original bestseller and the uncut release have their partisans, I recommend looking for the original (or rather, not the original).
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on July 2, 2014
How do I love ‘Stranger In A Strange Land’? Let me count the ways! This towering story by the quintessential Sci-Fi heavyweight Robert A. Heinlein is the definitive, futuristic science fiction novel that sets the standard for all science fiction writers to cling to. I first read ‘Stranger…’ in 1975. What’s most intriguing about reading ‘Stranger…,’ in 2014, however, is that it gives us the visionary Heinlein’s ingenious perception into what he believed tomorrow's world would look like when he published his majestic work of science fiction in 1961. He also dives into socio-religious and political themes that we might very well experience in the future.

‘Stranger In A Strange Land’ tells the story of Valentine Michael Smith, the first human being born on a planet that isn’t Earth. Michael is “Rescued” by the second mission to Mars, brought back to Earth, and almost immediately ensconced in a military hospital for his own “protection.” And, that’s where the fun begins. All manner of characters vie for Michael’s attention, not to mention his custody.
‘Stranger…’ is populated by an eclectic cast of personalities, to most imposing of which is my favorite lawyer, doctor, and lovable, the magnanimous curmudgeon Jubal Harshaw. Lawyer Harshaw, his associates, and a beautiful woman named Jill devote their lives to protecting Michael, while the entire government of the planet devotes all its resources to returning him to ‘custody.’ David goes up against Goliath, and it isn’t pretty.

‘Stranger In A Strange Land’ is, as I said, the definitive science fiction novel by the best science fiction writer of the 20th Century. The themes in ‘Stranger…’ include space/interplanetary travel, parentage, ownership of property, manifest destiny, science, exploration, religion, politics, law, and the right of the individual to determine his or her own destiny.
What rights does a government have over an individual’s rights to self-determination, and how that individual pursues his or her own interests? This is a central question in ‘Stranger…’ and the answer isn’t neatly tied in a pretty package everyone will love to open on Christmas or their birthday. The familiar ‘rude awakening’ lurks just under the surface. S/He who dies with the most toys wins.
Valentine Michael Smith, in the context of the overall narrative of ‘Stranger In A Strange Land’ is tantamount to the ‘everyman’ so many of us are familiar with. He’s just a young, human male living his life the way he wants, beginning on Mars, and winding up on Earth, through events out of his control, and he’s determined to take control, regardless of the consequences.

‘Stranger In A Strange Land’ is the definitive science fiction work of the 20th Century written by the greatest science fiction writer of the day. If you’re a science fiction fan who hasn’t read ‘Stranger…’ before, I encourage you to treat yourself to this magnificent book. You won’t regret it. If anything, you will grok some wonderful ideas.
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