Arun Divakar's Reviews > Stranger in a Strange Land

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
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Aug 30, 12

Read from August 19 to 30, 2012

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 of it too. Prime example of how a brilliant idea gets convoluted with religious claptrap.

Some books stand the test of time for it makes perfect connect with a reader who comes to it even after a good hundred years. Some other books are like a mirror that reflects the world of that day and to a person who approaches the book after a good few decades, there is no connect to speak of and the entire plot is wasted on them. I suffered a similar fate in the hands of this book. It has been some forty plus years since the age of flower power, psychedelic ways to attain nirvana, the paranoia surrounding the space race and all that circus which I can digest but not fully. It's not the first time that I have done time travel with a story and its characters ! But what completely fizzed my circuits out was Heinlein's way of infusing a messianic plot line into the whole mix.

I was very satisfied with the story until the point of religious blah blah intervening. Imagine : One man who was born and raised in Mars.The guy has unbelievable superpowers which would send Superman crying back to his mamma. The man is as naive as a newborn but slowly comes to grips with the world around him. The world is a nasty place out to take him for a ride too. He takes baby steps in this world being assisted by a few kind hearted folks and what do you know....he turns out to be a messiah ! Free sex and orgies would have been a rage years ago but it bores my pants off trying to read it now. I could see a lot of parallels with Osho in the reformed Valentine Michael Smith ( the creation of an a total style of living for the people around, belief in open and unbridled love, extreme erudition to name a few traits). Considering the fact that he travelled all over India in the 60's and obtained the stature of a love guru , my hunch grows even stronger.

A book becomes controversial when it takes up subject matter that had been delicate for the public till then and goes into territory which till then had been untouched. An onslaught of sex, gurus, cannibalism and rebellion against the system would have been controversy then but is quite archaic now. Which is to say, the only value here is its antique value ! I would have foregone all this if not for this one line in the book Nine times out of ten, when a woman gets raped ; it's partly her fault. You can offer me a thousand arguments for the inclusion of this piece of appalling junk in a book but brother, I am not buying any of them. Initially I thought of a two star rating for this book but this one line and the outstandingly irritating pest of a character named Jubal Harshaw did the job of making this a one star book.

I will read your other books Mr.Heinlein but I am not touching this one with even a ten-foot pole again !
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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Riku Sayuj One of my favs.... You just didn't grok it :(


message 2: by Arun (new) - rated it 1 star

Arun Divakar Riku wrote: "One of my favs.... You just didn't grok it :("

Heinlein writes well, with his eloquence he makes it seem that writing is a lark. What he wrote was an entirely different kettle of fish. I just couldn't grok it. Also, between you and me I would have given this book a bit more higher rating if he had dispensed with that Jubal Hershaw creature !


Riku Sayuj Arun wrote: "Riku wrote: "One of my favs.... You just didn't grok it :("

Heinlein writes well, with his eloquence he makes it seem that writing is a lark. What he wrote was an entirely different kettle of fish..."


Ha. But you got the whole comparison to Christ thing that drew flak right? I liked Jubal too... so let us nip this discussion in the bud :)


message 4: by Arun (new) - rated it 1 star

Arun Divakar Riku wrote: Ha. But you got the whole comparison to Christ thing that drew flak right? I liked Jubal too... so let us nip this discussion in the bud :)

There are some of these characters which do not sit well with us, Jubal was for me such a character. So yes, I am slightly prejudiced about this one. I tried my hand with Starship Troopers and then again felt that it missed something. I suppose I am too inclined towards Asimov and Clarke than Heinlein.


Riku Sayuj Arun wrote: "Riku wrote: Ha. But you got the whole comparison to Christ thing that drew flak right? I liked Jubal too... so let us nip this discussion in the bud :)

There are some of these characters which do..."


We are together on Starship Troopers.


Petra X "Nine times out of ten, when a woman gets raped ; it's partly her fault"

That is such a wicked statement. But not an uncommon one.


message 7: by Arun (new) - rated it 1 star

Arun Divakar Petra X wrote: ""Nine times out of ten, when a woman gets raped ; it's partly her fault"

That is such a wicked statement. But not an uncommon one."


In light of a most shameful rape case in India, I have heard this point reiterated on printed as well as visual media. It doesn't shock me anymore ! For I know that a lot of people share such sentiments. It was not just Heinlein speaking here, it was a mass of humanity !


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