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 But some of his notions are really out of date; his writing of women characters is very much the thinking of the 50s; although I can see him struggle with modern concepts of their place in changing times.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
"A point in time"
This is one of those seminal classics which deserves every respect. I understand it was included in a Library of Congress exhibition of "Books That Shaped America" so it's not to be taken lightly by any measure.
It will still divide opinions today in terms of its value and much will depend on your stance on political correctness. Me, I loved the early expressions of some of the free-thinking and libertarian views and the joyous disrespect for a lot of society's norms. I may not agreed with it all but it was good to be free of some of today's shackles on such opinions.
However, after a while it seemed to me that the author was taking it too far to be a genuinely credible attempt at social commentary. Jubal Harshaw, the main instrument for expressing these opinions went from being something of an inspirational character to something of a bore over the course of the piece.
In fact, someone like myself would probably actually benefit from something I normally avoid like the plague . . . an abridged version! (Just don't tell anyone I said that!) This is because the concept and characters are strong and I warmed to them but in an effort to be an epic it just went on too long for me and there was too much of the narrative that didn't move the story forwards in any real way or add much new to the social commentary.
It's probably one of those books you have to read and I always think that a book that divides opinion like this probably has something going for it. Especially as it continues to do so more half a century since its publication.
So, I have genuine admiration for Heinlein and his creation, it was just too long-winded in parts and a bit over the top so overall these things detracted from my enjoyment of it. I'm glad I read it but I won't be hurrying back to go through it again!
"interesting but a bit pointless"
The narration feels dated but the overall story is captivating enough. Filled with philosophy and an odd sort of wisdom. maybe we could all learn something from mike
"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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