Like the other book by Philip K. Dick that I read, I felt like this book had a lot of potential but that Dick gave up at the end. He crafted a scenari...moreLike the other book by Philip K. Dick that I read, I felt like this book had a lot of potential but that Dick gave up at the end. He crafted a scenario that I thought was fascinating and which could have been explored for possibly hundreds of pages and said a lot of interesting things about the human condition. It's exactly the kind of plot setup that made me fall in love with science fiction as a genre. But rather than doing anything interesting with it, Dick just does a quick legal-drama cop-out followed by an epilogue summarizing how each of the plot threads turned out. It was extremely disappointing.(less)
I thought this was going to be a Sci-Fi book, due to the guy from Mars and all, but it turned out to be just a book about society with the guy from Ma...moreI thought this was going to be a Sci-Fi book, due to the guy from Mars and all, but it turned out to be just a book about society with the guy from Mars being used as a foil for Heinlein to present his personal philosophy. He did the whole this-guy-is-untainted-by-our-societal-craziness-and-look-what-he-therefore-believes-and-you-should-too routine with the Martian dude.
That wouldn't have been so bad if the philosophy that Heinlein then presented had been something unique or interesting, but it was just typical hippie BS about free love and sex being a way for people to connect spiritually and nobody being jealous of anybody else and all that. It was also very sexist and homophobic. It was sort of interesting to see how Heinlein tried to make homosexuality seem wrong in the context of sex being a spiritual experience, but he managed to do it by claiming some sort of fundamental spiritual difference between men and women.
Before reading the book, I'd read reviews which mentioned the sexism and I'd read that line about rape, but I don't think that fully explained the depth of the sexism. Heinlein's fundamental view of the future was one wherein the sexes had become, in his mind, pretty much equal. But it was accomplished not by recognizing that men and women are equally capable, but rather by men recognizing that cooking and cleaning were skills that are just as valuable as thinking. I tried to bear in mind that he wrote all of this many decades ago and that it maybe wasn't so bad in that context, but when the main point of the book is for the author to espouse some philosophy of life, having such a fundamental problem in the author's viewpoint is hard to get around.
As to the actual writing and plot and stuff, I thought it was a mixed bag. When he actually covered some of the sci-fi aspects of things, it was interesting. When he made fun of some of the religions of the future, it was pretty good. When he had dialog, which was most of the time since the bulk of the book was long-winded "conversations" between characters which read like horrible attempts at Plato's dialogs or something, it was pretty bad. I gave it three stars rather than two because I'm a sucker for sci-fi. (less)