Valentine Michael Smith, an earthling born and educated on Mars, arrives on Earth with superhuman powers and a total ignorance of the mores of man. On his new planet, Smith is destined to become a freak, a media commodity, a scam artist, a searcher, a sexual pioneer, a neon evangelist, a martyr, and, finally, a messiah. Stranger in a Strange Land is the most famous science fiction novel ever written. It became the bible of the "love generation" and transcended the genre to achieve the status of a modern classic.
©1961 by Robert A. Heinlein; (P)1996 by Blackstone Audiobooks
After listening to this, a part of me wanted to like it, but another part couldn't get over the blatant misogyny. At its heart this story is a passion play sci-fi style, and while it may have challenged audiences of its day with a profound and hard-to-swallow notion regarding human sexuality, today it's sadly aged. Add in terrible quality audio (I swear I could hear a dog barking in the background at times) and you have a recipe for one frustrating experience. If you're patient, well versed in 50s era telephony and gadgetry, then perhaps you'll walk away with a tear in your eye and a feeling that the world is poorer without Valentine Michael Smith. Otherwise, you'd better give this a pass. You'll just walk away feeling like you've been lectured to for hours by a balding man who has all the right answers and chip on his shoulder.
This book is a groundbreaking novel. I brought Science Fiction literature into the 60s, espousing free love and polygamous marriage years before they were recognized by the main stream.
40 years later the themes seem a little tame but that is because of the contribution this book made to the genre.
A note to other reviewers: Science Fiction is more than rocketships and rayguns. This book is a satirical social commentary.
Very well done. The voice of the reader in conveying Jubal Harshaw was great and added a lot to the story for me. I have read the book many times over the years and it simply doesn't age. This reading of the book was very well done and I enjoyed it very much!
Smoke me a kipper; I'll be back for breakfast.
There are two things that give me a unique perspective on this book that you might not find much in reviews - I am female and I didn't read this book a long time ago. Many people say they love this book but that's because they read it back in the day and can't see it unbiased.
There are many books that were important in their time because they pushed scientific viewpoints, social norms, and the like. I believe what makes this book so hard to judge is that it really was edgy and challenging during its time. I'm afraid that the shine has really worn off and in current society this book really isn't much to feel excited by.
This book definitely had potential if it would have focused more on the "man from Mars" and maybe delved more into Martian culture. Some of this is definitely present and I enjoyed that. I also enjoyed the religious parts of the book. Nothing like a crazy cult or two and very strange belief systems to poke fun or even provide meaningful commentary.
The reason I wasn't that thrilled with this book is mostly that it was so long and boring. And this is coming from someone who has read a lot of GRR Martin. Think of it this way - during this period, sci-fi authors were mostly legit scientific visionaries that then decided to write. Nowadays we have more authors that can write well and we definitely suffer for the interesting ideas not being there. So you have an author that isn't technically that good of a writer for this book. There is far too much dialogue and little forwards the themes. The author has the annoying habit of making everyone say "huh?" as a device to get the current speaker to get to say more. Another issue is that there are very few types of personalities. There is one type for males, one for females, and then the unique man from Mars.
There are two warnings to give on this book. One is that there is a "healthy" dose of casual sex in this book. It gets very boring to hear about the exact way each person kisses and who all is banging who all. He also puts in a sex cult so then it gets even more annoying. I guess he was trying to be all 60's free-love before it was hip (good use of forward thinking?).
Warning two is that this book is sexist. If you get squeemish by such things you should probably read a different book. The women are mostly useful as cooks, secretaries, nurses, and sex prophetesses (true story!). There are many bottoms smacked. Men talk to women like they are children. Women faint after kissing. You get the idea. Yes, yes, during that time people wouldn't have cared, but let's be honest, now it's annoying.
I just think that if you want to read period sci-fi there's much better choices. I do believe people that it was significant and important during its time but I think it's time to retire this tired book.
I would recommend that you choose a non-audiobook version. It was suggested to me that a better choice might be an e-book or regular book as then you can easily skip the rambling parts.
The first 2/3 of the book is a great story. He creates interesting characters and forces you to think much about what it would be like to interact with a truly alien race and way of thought. Then you get the rug pulled. The story essentially stops. For 8 hours of play time, the plot is advanced in tiny increments while chapters are spent with our characters in deep conversation, espousing personal freedom and free love. Pages and pages go by where nothing really happens at all. Conflict and struggle are neutralized by a convenient dues ex machina, and characters wander around eating, drinking, having sex, and patting one another on the back about how great everything is and how happy they are. It's really somewhat nauseating, especially when Heinlein uses the characters he spent the first 2/3 of the book crafting and making you care about to simply parrot his political and social viewpoints. (he does this in his other books as well) It gets stranger and stranger up to the end, where it finishes with a whimper. Really, Heinlein finished the book at about hour 10, but he apparently wasn't through telling us how right he is about the benefits of nudism and orgies. It's akin to listening to a "worldly" college kid scoff and condescendingly tell you, "Dude, I got some stuff you should read." I found myself hoping terrible things would happen to characters I'd previously liked, just so they (the author) would shut up. The sprinkling of wince-inducing, dated viewpoints made it that much worse. For example, and I quote, "whenever a woman gets raped it's at least partially her own fault". Wow. Add to that obvious racism, sexism, and homophobia, and you can really feel the years since publication. It was difficult to finish.
Maybe stop disguising political rants within character conversations?
Hurt's narration is fantastic. He adds life to the story that my own brain could never have equaled. His portrayal of Jubal is especially good, and he makes Heinlein's thick-and-fast dialog really pop. His delivery of Heinlein's staggering vocabulary would do any Tarantino film proud.
For the first two thirds, yes. After that I found myself sighing and rolling my eyes as if listening to an idiot politician speak endlessly on television.
If you are familiar with and share Heinlein's political views, you will enjoy this immensely. But be forewarned that the book is largely an arrogant soapbox, classic Hugo winner or no.
There are books of the same chemical composition as dynamite. The only difference is that a piece of dynamite explodes once, whereas a book explodes a thousand times. ― Yevgeny Zamyatin
The book may seem blasphemous to some. Just consider the title of Part One. His maculate conception. The protagonist's life and death are paralleled to that of Jesus Christ.
Certainly, SIASL challenged the norms and mores of society. RAH addressed morality, sexuality, religion, the establishment and power in a provoking way.
Some reviewers referred to SIASL as 'dated'. But then R. Bradbury and I. Asimov are 'dated'. What's the logic? If a book was written, say, 40 or 50 years ago, does it mean it has no value at all, be it SF or drama?! No matter how 'old' a book is, it reflected the mores and views of the time. People must learn from literature (and from history) just like from their past experiences. The esthetic value of literature is to address empathy, knowledge of human behaviour, and 'moral instruction', to name a few.
But in the end, the more you learn, the more convinced you are that things don't change that much.
I enjoyed the book and will re-read it in the future.
The narration was excellent. The actor handled male and female voices, and accents, well.The story is a strange mix of sexism, racism, hippy liberalism, and advocates patriarchy. Heinlein states "in 9 out of 10 rapes, the women is at least partly at fault" The only non-white western character is an Indian nick-named "Stinky". The female characters in the book are all sassy, submissive housewives. The last half of the book is a tedious exposition on the virtues of a male-dominated free-love hippy commune.
Yes, I will never read another Robert Heinlein novel again.
When Mike is hiding at the bottom of the swimming pool making the cops vanish.
This book has helped me understand misogyny better.
Drama teacher and Sci-Fi/Fantasy fan
I've found that you either love Robert A. Heinlein or you hate him.
I, for one, have enjoyed every book I've read by him. In fact, I get overly depressed when I think about all of the books of his that I have not read.
Is he a perfect author? Absolutely not, but perhaps it is the flawed (and sometimes dated) nature about his books that makes me enjoy his novels so much. It is undeniable that he is The Grandmaster, but none of his books illustrates this title as much as this particular novel. STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND is a thought provoking story about a human being raised by aliens. The book develops into a messianic story about a man who is stronger - both mentally and physically -- than the humans around him --- a superman with a na??vet?? that makes him both endearing and frightful. Peppered with memorable characters like Jubal Harshaw, Heinlein explores topics from sex to religion.
The audiobook is a great way to revisit this novel. However, having a copy of this book is helpful because there are several passages that are worth re-reading a number of times. I hate to make the comparison, but like a well worn bible, my copy of STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND has become a sort of palimpsest with my notes scribbled in the margins. You can see my thoughts (and weaknesses) from my teens to my twenties and on in to my thirties. You will earn your SECRETARY badge by hitting your BOOKMARK button several times. Make the notes, keep them, re-read the book in ten years. You will see how much you've grown and you'll interepret the novel in new, more mature, ways.
If you are a fan of Science Fiction, I recommend this novel simply because I feel that it holds Heinlein's soul.
At last another way to enjoy my favourite book and number 1 author it was every thing I had hoped for.Once again I can emurse myself in his amazing words and Grok it fully. This story changed me from the moment I read it and I have evolved eversince, A philosophy that blends itself to all who Grok and can see the changes to be made . Thank you Robert for your words and well done Christopher Hurt for you vocal prowes in delivering them as they were written clean clear and intuitively. I have enjoyed this Audio Book and will enjoy evry other one from the same Author . Thank you
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