Epic, entertaining, blasphemous, this is the most influential and controversial of Science Fiction novels.
Stranger in a Strange Land caused uproar when it was first published as it savaged conventional religious, sexual, and social ideals. Many years in the future, Valentine Michael Smith's upbringing is exceptional. Orphan child to two astronauts killed in space, he is raised on Mars. Twenty-five years later he is "rescued" and brought back to Earth. The initial enthusiasm of the administration in Smith's safe return is soon dampened by the realisation that they cannot control him. Possessed with superhuman skills and a unique philosophy he threatens their society - Smith must be contained.
Then a nurse helps him escape his hospital jail. Their flight becomes a journey of discovery, enlightenment and wonder. But danger is following fast behind, and there will be no escape from the final confrontation.
©1961 Robert A. Heinlein (P)2012 Hodder & Stoughton
Worryingly many of the threads of the book are still relevant today; of course, not all. It is remarkable how many things writers of that time, it was published in 1961, got predictions right - video phoning, mobile phones in cars, etc. But some of his notions are really out of date; his writing of women characters is very much the thinking of the 50s; although I can see him struggle with modern concepts of their place in changing times.
The reader does a good job with a long book. Sometimes the voices lose distinction and it is momentarily hard to work out who is speaking, but that is a minor issue. More difficult is the he uses whispering to indicate some of the "speech" which makes the dialogue un-hearable; good intentions, but doesn't work with an audiobook.
Some parts can drag on ... mainly because their novelty at the time doesn't translate to our modern times, but it's worth persevering. The original draft was 220,000 words, published in 1991, but the editors got him to cut it down to 160,067 words, 1961. I'm not sure which version this is. Received the Hugo Award for Best Novel (Wikipedia).
"equal to its fame as a defining novel"
A superb and imaginative take on the social, political and legal ramifications of colonisation propelled by a narrow cultural perspective
"From and for a bygone time"
It's hard to judge a social commentary of a book that is now 53 years old. Some ideas like free love are now dated, and probably won't shock any listener that has watched television in the last 10 years, while the proposed libertarian ideals might resonate with others.
While religion is touched a few times, I would have preferred a harder stance on either side, pro or con, but the listener is left with a weak (by today's standard perhaps) compromise on it.
Even though I'm a fan of Heinlein's Starship Troopers, I can't recommend this book, which I ascribe partially to its age, and partially to my disinterest in the aforementioned topics.
I remember reading this as a student and 'grokking' becoming part of our jargon. I should have left it there. It is not great writing and it is very much of its time. I thought I'd give it a try as it was on a BOGOF offer but I gave up and didn't get more than a sixth of the way through. It would be interesting as a piece of social history but I can't recommend it as a book.
There is no blame to the reader; he did very well with it.
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