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Stranger in a Strange Land

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  275,210 ratings  ·  8,059 reviews
The Hugo Award-winning and controversial science fiction masterpiece from Robert A. Heinlein, the New York Times bestselling author of Starship Troopers.

Valentine Michael Smith is a man raised by Martians. Sent to Earth, he must learn what it is to be human. But his beliefs and his powers far exceed the limits of man, and his arrival leads to a transformation that will al
Mass Market Paperback, 438 pages
Published April 1987 by Ace Books (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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Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Sep 29, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Shannon (Giraffe Days) 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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 07, 2007 added it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
"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
Jun 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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
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
Manuel Antão
Jul 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1995
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Not About Free Love: "Stranger in a Strange Land" by Robert A. Heinlein

“Dr. Jubal Harshaw, professional clown, amateur subversive, and parasite by choice, had long attempted to eliminate 'hurry' and all related emotions from his pattern. Being aware that he had but a short time left to live and having neither Martian nor Kansan faith in his own immortality, it was his purpose to live each golden moment as if it were eternity—without f
Sep 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
J.L.   Sutton
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
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.
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
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Very 1960s counterculture (grok, seriously?). Very weird.

Heinlein was kind of gross in his old age.
Otis Chandler
Jun 08, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Paul Bryant
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
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
Jan 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jason Koivu
May 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Olivier Delaye
Jun 09, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Julio Genao

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
Robin Goodfellow
Nov 10, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Richard Derus
Jun 24, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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:
Mixed feelings here. The first half of the book reads like a suspenseful mystery/action flick with some sharp observations about language and culture clashes. And I loved it. The second half deals with whacky religion and uninhibited sex. Public nudity, open marriage, sex used for growing closer - it's all very out there and provocative, especially for 1960s. But since it's 1960 you also get a fair share of sexism. Women are often excluded from male conversations, patronised: "girl", "dearest", ...more
Feb 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
This book is too much a product of its times for me to fully enjoy it, but that night I dreamed of Mars.
Oct 25, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: zealots, believers of metaphysics
For me, it would be a more apt title if it were “Strangeness in a Strange Book.” Of all the books I’ve read on the list so far [and I’ve skipped around, been reading them as I can find them], I enjoyed this one the least. Overall, I was enjoying the ideas the book was putting forth about religion and politics and community prior to Mike’s intellectual ascent [descent?] as a Man rather than a Martian. I was extra disappointed with it because the premise the book set up in Sections One and Two see ...more
Aug 08, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
The Captain
May 21, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
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Reading 1001: Stranger in a Strange Land - Heinlein 1 8 Sep 22, 2019 05:43PM  
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Did the sexism bother anyone else? 486 1738 Feb 13, 2019 12:48PM  
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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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