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Stranger in a Strange Land

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  170,099 ratings  ·  4,461 reviews
This is perhaps Heinlein's most important and significant novel to date.

Entertaining, perhaps shocking, it attacks all the religious explanations of faith... undermines the idea of sexual relations based on jealousy... pokes a bitter satirical finger at the materialists and politicians.

Like '1984', like 'Brave New World', Stranger in a Strange Land is a searing indictment...more
Mass Market Paperback, 400 pages
Published 1985 by New English Library (first published 1961)
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Giuseppe Ruotolo I just remember being very intrigued by it. Might be a mess 2nd time round. I Remember reading Hold My Hand I'm Dying first time around I thought it…moreI just remember being very intrigued by it. Might be a mess 2nd time round. I Remember reading Hold My Hand I'm Dying first time around I thought it was absolutely brilliant, 2nd time I found it a bit boring. Probably because then I knew the story.(less)
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Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Mar 02, 2010 Shannon (Giraffe Days) rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Shannon (Giraffe Days) by: Science fiction and fantasy book club
Shelves: sci-fi, 2008
Apparently a classic of the sci-fi cannon, I'd never heard of this book until it came up on a book club here. It took me a long time to read only because of lack of time, and a rather annoying trait the author has that I'll go into later.

This is one of those books that tells us more about the period it was written in than anything else, so it's important to note that it was first published in 1961 and later again in 1968 - when moon fever was running high and people seemed to have high expectati...more
Christy
This is a book that it seems like I should like. It deals with issues of religion, including a strong critique of religion as we know it, presents socially progressive ideas about sex and relationships, and relies upon a fundamentally humanist, individualist philosophy.

In the end, however, I can't get past a few things to really like this book.

1. The word "grok." I understand the meaning and significance of the word within the book and I understand why Heinlein chose to create a new word to ca...more
Kelly H. (Maybedog)
Nowadays, most people seem to either love or hate Heinlein. Many read his children's books like Podkayne from Mars, Red Planet and The Rolling Stones, enjoyed the adventure and moved on to his adult stuff just to get more. The politics, sexism and lack of depth went over their young heads. To them, his books were just great adventure. And yes, for the era in which they were written, they were great adventure and less sexist than most SF at the time.

My intro to the man was a little different: I...more
Kate
Mar 07, 2007 Kate added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: NOBODY!
(Note: Original pub date is 1961)

Fuck you, Heinlein!!! That's like 3 or 4 hours of my life I'm NEVER GETTING BACK. This isn't a book, it's a pompous recitation of every one of your pet peeves and pet theories, delivered through the mouths of your utterly two-dimensional "characters" during the course of a nonexistent plot. You can throw all the orgies and kinky sex you want in there, but it doesn't make your book edgy or profound, and it sure doesn't make you a good writer.

Although, bonus hilar...more
Otis Chandler
I really enjoyed this book. The concept of a man who had grown up on Mars and never seen another human until he was in his twenties is such a fun idea - and a rich canvas. Watching Mike try to grok humans gave a Heinlein great opportunities to point out some of our faults - and our advantages.

I think my favorite part of this book is the word 'grok'. I would bet that there are deep discussions over the true meaning of this word - but I will contend that its closest meaning in English is 'to be en...more
Donovan
Oct 25, 2007 Donovan rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: zealots, believers of metaphysics
For me, it would be a more apt title if it were “Strangeness in a Strange Book.” Of all the books I’ve read on the list so far [and I’ve skipped around, been reading them as I can find them], I enjoyed this one the least. Overall, I was enjoying the ideas the book was putting forth about religion and politics and community prior to Mike’s intellectual ascent [descent?] as a Man rather than a Martian. I was extra disappointed with it because the premise the book set up in Sections One and Two see...more
Kasia
Mixed feelings here. The first half of the book reads like a suspenseful mystery/action flick with some sharp observations about language and culture clashes. And I loved it. The second half deals with whacky religion and uninhibited sex. Public nudity, open marriage, sex used for growing closer - it's all very out there and provocative, especially for 1960s. But since it's 1960 you also get a fair share of sexism. Women are often excluded from male conversations, patronised: "girl", "dearest",...more
Jason Koivu
Stranger in a Strange Land thinks more than it moves. There's tons of dialogue on philosophical topics only rarely broken up by the occasional plot-pusher. It often reminded me more of Plato's Symposium rather than the sci-fi novel I expected. I'm not saying that's bad, but sometimes when you're hit with the unexpected it throws you off and lowers the enjoyment level of the whole thing slightly. About halfway through I realized what was happening, readjusted my expectations and enjoyed the book...more
Keith
Well, I don't quite know what the hell that was. I'd gotten it into my head at some point that you weren't anything until you got reading this out of the way, but it was probably one of the most odious reading experiences I've had in my adult life -- especially for a book I volunteered to read. One bonus star for the last five pages or so being not-quite-as-totally-awful as the rest of it, and that's about it. And I feel dumb writing a bunch of obvious shit for the five people in the world besid...more
Jareed
Jun 07, 2014 Jareed rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: science fiction fanatics, philosophers
Recommended to Jareed by: Hugo Awards
“Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it’s at least partly her own fault.” (511)

Perhaps this is the single most quoted statement from this work, and also the statement by which Heinlein is critiqued and berated, the same statement by which this philosophically charged work is sullied by 1-star ratings. Whether by inadvertent straying into a faulty conception and erroneous application of intentional fallacy or the failure to recognize that Heinlein sought this work to stand as historiciz...more
GHOULIO™
seminal.

also: legit-legit crazy.

but important on too many levels to ignore.

it was the right book at the right time—fifty years ago.

it shaped my earliest musings on the nature of sexuality and the path towards a future that didn't compel me to get my dick sucked in random alleyways and decrepit porn theaters after school—while still making it back home in time for family ties; never mind the pointed exclusion of homosexuality from heinlein's philosophical flatulence.

appallingly dated ideas about...more
Jim
I just re-read for the SF & Fantasy book club. I've read it a dozen times over the years. Worth the time & was no effort. It's incredible to me that he captured the 60's so well & it was first published in 1961. It would have been a lot less shocking toward the end of that decade, but he actually foresaw so much of the societal upheaval we had.

Typical of Heinlein, one of his main characters is a crusty old genius, Jubal Harshaw, who pontificates a fair amount & he kept his sexua...more
Kristjan
Oct 13, 2008 Kristjan rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kristjan by: GR Sci-Fi & Fantasy Book Club
I seem to be hit-or-miss with Heinlein. I have read and enjoyed Starship Troopers and The Glory Road; however I couldn't finish Job: A Comedy of Justice and was not impressed with Stranger in a Strange Land (SISL) ... It is simply NOT good Science-Fiction (even if it is a fair piece of satire).

The book is divided into five (5) parts ...

Part One [His Maculate Origin] was a good Sci-Fi plot that I actually enjoyed ... the premise being that of a lost human boy raised by non-humans (in this case...more
Hope
I will try to keep this diatribe objective, but there is little chance I can conceal my loathing for this book. It's not just the author's use of faux film-noir speech, not just that he has created a speculative future that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. And frankly I think that the idea that an enlightened individual creating a highly sexual new spirituality is a fantastic idea. That's just it, though. The premise is actually outstanding. The thing that makes me recoil in revulsion is that thi...more
Bloodanna
I read this for a class (Reading in Science Fiction), with all the good reviews and the fact that it's own cover hailed it as "The Most Famous Science Fiction Novel Ever Written" I couldn't wait to read it. Now, I can read a good book in a matter of days depending on how many pages it has and what's going on; this book took me nearly six months to finish.
While it had a good idea with the character of Valentine Michael Smith and his origins, his growth, it was poorly executed. The focus should ha...more
Jason Pettus
The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write reports on whether or not they deserve the label

Essay #66: Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), by Robert A. Heinlein

The story in a nutshell:
Conceptualized in the early 1950s, but not written and published until 1961 (supposedly so that "society could catch up with it," according to the author), Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land is a classic example of a science-fiction (or SF) novel acting a...more
Robin Hobb
I will state, without apology, that I have enjoyed every Robert Heinlein book I have ever read.
Do I always agree with his philosophy or his observations on life. No.

But he tells me a story, and while he is telling it, I don't put that book down.

I don't read books to find authors who agree with me or match some political template.

I read books for stories. And diversity in story tellers is good.
Manny
Robert Heinlein was a good friend of AI legend Marvin Minsky (check out his people page! It's interesting!), and I've heard that they often used to chat about AI, science-fiction, and the connections between them. Here's a conversation I imagine them having some time between 1961, when Stranger in a Strange Land was published, and 1966, when The Moon is a Harsh Mistress appeared:

"Bob, this book's not so bad, but I felt it could have been so much better! OK, love the idea of the guy from Mars, wh...more
Arun Divakar
I am yet to read Christopher Hitchens but his reputation precedes him for his acerbic pen (& tongue !) has been celebrated and reviled in equal measure. There is this book by him named God is not great and the second line of the book's title is most apt as a summary for Heinlein's story : How religion poisons everything . Hailed as a classic, hugo award winner and quite controversial at its time of release, I found this to be filled with nothing but religious patronizing and a whole lot o...more
Paul
I read this. Yes. When I was young. At the time it appeared to be fascism for hippies. Proto-Manson, then. I'm struggling to remember anything. He comes from mars and he starts a new religion and he eats people. No - he gets eaten by people. I think that's it. A bit like Jesus. If Jesus was a fascist. You know what - I can't remember a thing. It's late.
Andrew Dugas
Wow, a lot of mixed reviews of this book here.

First, the edition referenced is the 1991 UNCUT version, which is about 33% longer than the version published in 1961. So for those of you who felt it was over long, there you have it.

Second, about those offended by the book's purported misogyny and homophobia, keep in mind it was written in the late 1950s. By the standards of the day, this book was comparatively forward-thinking. Should we fault Shakespeare for his politically incorrect foibles? Re...more
Apatt
Robert Heinlein is my favorite of the Big Three of Science Fiction (Assimov/Clarke/Heinlein), simply because I think he tells better stories and is more proficient at creating interesting characters (yes yes, YMMV!).

Stranger in a Strange Land is Heinlein at his best, creative, provocative and controversial. I may not necessarily agree with the ideas and philosophy put forward in this book but I had a blast reading about them. The protagonist Michael Valentine Smith with his weird ideas and psych...more
Kim
This book is one of those that anyone interested in science-fiction is told they must read. It's on all the lists. It's supposed to be ground-breaking, years ahead of its time. And whilst it may have been in 1961 I don't think it has weathered the years well and those reading it for the first time now and singing nothing but high praises really need to read it more carefully.

The first half of the book is the better half for me. The intrigue and conspiracy around the government trying to hide Mic...more
Bob Mayer
As another reviewer noted, I was really into this book as a teen. But as the years have gone by, it's lost its sheen. Heinlein thinly veiled his political beliefs in his writing. He is indeed one of the golden age of scifi, but then again, it was a relatively small world back then where most of them knew each other. Sadly, the scifi community still has a bit of the good old boy stigma to it, but it is changing. I prefer books by Asimov, Clark and others, even though one would think I'd be attrac...more
Rob
May 24, 2009 Rob rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: scifi completists only
In lieu of a review (because what would be the point?), a few notes intead:

(1) I can see why it's considered a science fiction classic. On an intellectual level, I "get" that part. Hence getting shelved as "important". Creating a character and a milieu and a plot to lampoon all of our socio-cultural conventions? Even cannibalism? Brilliant! But that doesn't mean I have to like it.

(2) How did this book get lauded and praised as the "bible" of the counter-culture/sexual revolution? Heinlein's narr...more
Erich Franz Guzmann
I am delightfully surprised with Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land" and the places in my mind it had taken me, placed me and left me. It is a really powerful novel; and also a very influential one as well. I can easily see how and why this novel was hip and cool to read during the so called "hippie movement" era. Which to my dismay I missed the 60's and 70's, for it was just before mine. I am very curious however, if this book is close to at all with the free lovin', peace and love ideology...more
[Name Redacted]
Yes, I gave this one star. Yes, I think this is one of Heinlein's lesser works, despite it's "classic" status. Yes, I don't think it's particularly well-written, well-plotted, or well-paced, with paper-thin characters and a surprisingly shallow "revolution". And yes, I think it's entirely too heavy-handed and evangelical -- even for Heinlein! Despite all of those factors, I have not put it on my "tripe" shelf because I also think it's a remarkably harmless evangelical tract and I appreciated the...more
Dash
Mar 06, 2008 Dash rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Amy, you've gotta read this one & tell me what you think
Recommended to Dash by: My father
Can you grok it?

I feel I should preface this review with the following information divulged upfront. This book was pushed on my by my father when I was around 16 years old. For good or bad, these were the circumstances under which I first read it, and this may have contributed to my being predisposed to enjoying the read. Before reading "Stranger" I had read half a dozen or so of Heinlein's so-called "juvenile" or "adolescent" novels, including "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel" and "Starship Galileo...more
Sandi
Oct 03, 2008 Sandi rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sandi by: Re-reading
Shelves: sci-fi, 2008
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sesana
The summary tags this as "the most famous Science Fiction Novel ever written" and that's probably true, or close enough to true. Fittingly enough, it doesn't stretch for "greatest".

The initial premise is actually a good one: a human who has been raised by Martians come to Earth. It sounds like a good way to explore our society (rather, American society in the 1960s) using a fictional society to bring it into focus. And that's where the book starts out, and where it's the strongest, when the man...more
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Robert Anson Heinlein was an American novelist and science fiction writer. Often called "the dean of science fiction writers", he is one of the most popular, influential, and controversial authors of "hard science fiction".

He set a high standard for science and engineering plausibility and helped to raise the genre's standards of literary quality. He was the first SF writer to break into mainstre...more
More about Robert A. Heinlein...
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