Rindis's Reviews > Stranger in a Strange Land

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
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Jan 02, 08

bookshelves: dad, science-fiction

This is a magical, rare thing. The first half of a great book seamlessly fused with the second half of an awful book.

It has been many years since I read it, so forgive me some fuzziness here.

The first parts of the novel are well written and believable (as long as you can go with pre-space program views of Mars, and—much worse—the idea of a manned Martian expedition that should never have gotten past psychological screening and isn't followed up for 20 years), and does a wonderful job portraying a completely foreign culture.

As the main character (Mike Valentine) acculturates to Earth and starts trying to absorb what he can and fuse it with his values, the book goes steadily downhill. The author's main philosophical mouthpiece (Jubal Hershaw) presents several interesting 'narrative essays' (not uncommon with Heinlein) throughout the middle sections, and Jubal himself remains my favorite character from the book.

Mike's later views and the religion/cult he founds are where the novel falls apart. Broadly sexually utopianist in nature, it displays a fundamental lack of understanding of the human species in general, and would be unlikely to last more than a couple of years with any meaningful number of members. (Somewhat like early socialist communes which initially did well, and then fell apart.) This might not be so bad, but the entire last third of the novel is focused on this as it slowly drags into the realm of an unrealistic culture, that frankly, isn't even appealing in the first place.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Amanda Your first sentence sums it all up. By the end of this book, I wished I had a rabbit so I could line its cage with the last half of this book.


Rindis I consider Heinlein one of the most frustrating authors I've ever encountered. Not only Stranger but The Cat Who Walks Through Walls does the same thing. Just in that case it's much more abrupt. As soon as it gets tied in with his multiverse common setting (whatever it's called) the quality goes from stellar to abysmal.

Always seemed a crime that Whelan gave Cat one of his most striking covers.


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