Mike's Reviews > Stranger in a Strange Land

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
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Mar 01, 09


Partly because of my daughter's interest in sci-fi, I've been reading (usually for the first time) a lot of the genre's major works. Herbert's Dune is unquestionably a masterpiece. Asimov's Foundation is poor. What about Stranger in a Strange Land?

The premise is interesting enough. The first exploratory trip to Mars had no survivors, but left behind one child, Valentine Michael Smith. He is returned to Earth by a later expedition, having been reared by Martians. The original colonists all died, and while he's steeped in Martian culture, he's had no exposure to Earth culture. He's also heir to a vast fortune, and because of some questionable Earthly legal precedents, arguably King of Mars.

But that's as good as it gets. The further you read into the book, the slower and more preachy it gets. Mike the Martian establishes a cult religion, sort of a combination of Martin Buber, Hegel, and Billy Sunday, with a lot of sex (and a touch of Mormonism) thrown in. Sermon follows sermon (both pro and con); set piece follows set piece. The heroine declares that in 90 percent of rapes, the girl is at least partly to blame. The language is embarrassingly bad, as if Heinlein felt like he had to throw in lots of late fifties slang to show he knew it, but only succeeded in proving he didn't know how to use it.

There are good bits: the parody of American fundamentalism is prophetic (and still working itself out). Heinlein resists the temptation to describe the Martian life forms, who therefore come off as wonderfully strange and truly alien. But the good bits are few and far between. I rarely start a book without finishing it. I finished this one, but just barely.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Arwen (new)

Arwen Thanks for the review! It's been on my to-read list for a while, but now I can take it off :-) I've also found that a lot of the classics that Dad loved when he was young just don't hold up and seem awkwardly dated and, yes, preachy--which was perfect for the time but not so fun to read now! Let me know if you discover other gems (I also loved Dune)...


message 2: by Justin (new) - added it

Justin Dloski "Asimov's Foundation is poor". Wow. You really don't get it. Maybe you should keep reading what your daughter understands.


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