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Stranger in a Strange Land

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  294,955 ratings  ·  8,939 reviews
NAME: Valentine Michael Smith

Valentine Michael Smith is a human being raised on Mars, newly returned to Earth. Among his people for the first time, he struggles to understand the social mores and prejudices of human nature that are so alien to him, while teaching them his own fundamental beliefs in grokking, watersharing, and love.
Paperback, 525 pages
Published October 1st 1991 by Ace (first published July 1961)
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Matt I read recently that this book took Heinlein years to write, and he wrote it roughly in two parts - I think the split is pretty identifiable, as the l…moreI read recently that this book took Heinlein years to write, and he wrote it roughly in two parts - I think the split is pretty identifiable, as the last 1/3 of the book seems completely different (and frankly, worse) than the first 2/3.

The first part is a tightly-focused adventure with a few philosophical rants from Jubal thrown in. The second part is preachy and pretentious, and just doesn't feel like the same book.(less)
Nick Valentine is human but was raised by Martians. I think Heinlein is attempting to portray the vastness of human potential as Duane said, as well as our…moreValentine is human but was raised by Martians. I think Heinlein is attempting to portray the vastness of human potential as Duane said, as well as our adaptability. Who's to say that being raised by creatures with abilities surpassing humans wouldn't open up new avenues within the human brain. We are more complex than we can ever know. The nature of the brain is largely unknown, what could we be missing due to the constraints of our surroundings? (less)

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Average rating 3.92  · 
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Sep 29, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Shannon 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
Aug 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
One must read Heinlein's signature work to understand what all the fuss is about, from both sides.

For the RAH fans and Sci-Fi crowd, this is an excellent book, a masterpiece of the genre. For the opponents, and I understand there are many, he systematically makes a lot of folks mad, from conservatives and theologians, to feminists, and even pro-government liberals. He was way ahead of his time, and yet also rooted in a pre-war mindset that was probably infuriating to young baby boomer readers a
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
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Mario the lone bookwolf
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
An innocent and naive Marsian is heavily influenced and changed by getting in contact with humankind, a weird kind of hero´s journey to the shoals of primate nature.

I would call it possibly his best work, as it deals with sexual freedom, the development of tribalistic rituals, colonialization and property rights, and has a character that goes through a development curve and isn´t kind of always the same without changes as in his other novels.

How religion, paganism, and consumerism could fuse is
Mar 07, 2007 added it
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
Robin Hobb
Mar 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Petra in 4 days may have a bf fingers crossed
"Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it’s at least partly her own fault." The most quoted sentence from this book.

He's right it is. A woman should shroud herself in black, even wear a veil over her eyes and for extra protection she should wear a big size of Doc Martin boots so it could be a man under the shroud (Michael Jackson used to do that) and always be accompanied when she goes out. Which should be rarely. Very rarely. When she is in the house (most of the time) she should have th
Leonard Gaya
Stranger in a Strange Land could have been titled more straightforwardly Jesus Christ in pre-hippie America. This hefty book is, in a nutshell, about a Man from Mars (that is: a Man from Heaven), who lands somewhere in the USA, doesn’t “grok” (that is: understand) much about human culture, but starts getting some attention, performs a couple of miracles (telekinesis, telepathy), and gathers a few followers around him. As time goes on, this small group of fans becomes a cult; the general hoi poll ...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
Sep 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 histori
Ahmad Sharabiani
Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein

The story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human who comes to Earth in early adulthood after being born on the planet Mars and raised by Martians. He struggles to understand the social mores and prejudices of human nature that are so alien to him, while teaching them his own fundamental beliefs. Though he is a man in his twenties, Smith looks at absolutely everything on this new planet through the ignorant eyes of a baby, and faces the job of learning h
Jun 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
“Democracy’s worst fault is that its leaders are likely to reflect the faults and virtues of their constituents—a depressingly low level.”

Now, why does that resonate so hard? Great line even though it is not representative of Stranger in a Strange Land’s major theme.

Stranger in a Strange Land is Heinlein’s best known and most popular book. It is not his most controversial novel but seems that way because it is the most widely read one. His later books Friday and I Will Fear No Evil are, to my
I don't even...

I might try one of these books again in the distant future, and I might try the last of this guy's classics, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress at some point. But for now I can only say that Robert A. Heinlein is one of my least favourite writers of all time.

I might write a real review, but considering that I'm not particularly fond of reviewing thoroughly negative experiences, I don't know if I can be bothered.
J.L.   Sutton
Oct 13, 2018 rated it liked it
After my latest reread of Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, it took some time for me to decide how I felt about it. On the one hand, the story is innovative and thought provoking. On the other hand, the story gets clunky and is extremely sexist (something readers of Heinlein often see in his works, but usually not quite to this degree). I might revisit Stranger again someday. I like how the Martian language is presented and the idea of grokking is really fun. 3.5 stars rounded down t ...more
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Very 1960s counterculture (grok, seriously?). Very weird.

Heinlein was kind of gross in his old age.
Robin Goodfellow
Nov 10, 2017 rated it did not like it
Overlong piece of cardboard. Absolutely terrible.

Pedantic, banal, and frequently offensive. All the characters but one were flat. The one character with any actual character was a preachy asshole who looks a lot like a mouthpiece for the author. The plot was boring and completely squandered the premise. The prose was dull and the philosophy was cynical and tyrannical.

The book is transparently a playing out of the author's junior high, male power fantasies, while trying to be religiously subver
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This one transformed and cemented me as a young adult, totally screwing me up and enlightening me at the same time, showing me that living in a crazy christian culture doesn't mean I have to stay there, or that great imagery can be used soooooo damn subversively. :)

And above or below that, it was a fantastic tale of striving for wisdom, learning that semantics MEANS something, and that I can be blown away by the fact that so much philosophy and striving and understanding, (read Grok,) could be t
Otis Chandler
Jun 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi, fiction
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
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scifi
The Hugo Award winning book, some say, the best of Heinlein's many novels. A man, Valentine Michael Smith who grew up on Mars, returns to Earth extremely wealthy (inheritances, plural) and comparatively more advanced and evolved, albeit completely new to mankind. Earth is a consumerist ridden, capitalist, soulless world. This is the story of how he acclimatizes to Earth, and how he uses Earth's consumerist tools and methods, coupled with his power and 'truths', to creates a 'religion/cult' that ...more
Paul Bryant
Oct 21, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: sf-novels-aaargh
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.


Update - for why we never have to read this one anymore, see Robin's review here

Jan 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I just re-read for the SF & Fantasy book club. I've read it a several 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. Heinlein kept his sexual revolut
Olivier Delaye
Jun 09, 2012 rated it did not like it
I'd heard about this Science Fiction classic for years before I finally decided to give it a whirl. For some reason I had always put off reading it... and to be totally honest I should have listened to what my gut was telling me. Now, I'm well aware of the fact that Stranger in a Strange Land came out in 1961, a period in time when values and mores were different, but the level of sexism and homophobia in this book is simply too much for me to bear.

Just read the following passage: "Jill had expl
donna backshall
On a mission to read all books on a "100 Best SciFi of all time" list, I came to Stranger in a Strange Land. After hearing so much about it over the decades, I figured I would love it. Drink it in. Grok it fully.

Sadly I have to admit I threw in the towel with only 20% to go, fearing it would dissolve even further into more tedious religious speculation and surprisingly uninteresting sexual exploration. (I've read sex scenes that were awkward, destructive and even gory, but "boring" sex is defini
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
Julio Genao
Aug 19, 2012 rated it liked it

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
Brett C
Nov 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science-fiction
I have heard both good and bad things about this book. Overall, I did not enjoy it. The concept started out great: a human raised by Martians who is brought to Earth. His parents were part of an expeditionary team to Mars but lost contact during the mission. Twenty-five years later the sole survivor, a boy found and raised by the Martians, is discovered by another mission team and is brought to Earth.

Once on Earth he immediately becomes challenged and is viewed as the alien. His concept of inter
Jason Koivu
May 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, sci-fi
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
Richard Derus
Jun 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
I gave it 4 stars for memory's sake. Now the folks at Syfy are adapting for TV! Amazing to me that, once considered too racy for publication unexpurgated, it's now a TV-able property. For all its many faults, I'm glad Society has caught up with Heinlein's libertarian 'tude towards sex.


I decided to give it more of a review at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud: https://tinyurl.com/hwov3qm
Aug 08, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: scifi
I know it is a classic. Still I cannot give it more than 1 star. The apologists say it had to read in early sixties, when it was written. It is probably so. For those who want to read it for the first time: do not.
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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

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