Jason Koivu's Reviews > Stranger in a Strange Land

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
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May 30, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, sci-fi
Read from May 30 to June 10, 2012

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 for what it was. So, no harm, no foul.

Sex, religion, politics...all those tasty taboos and touchy topics are discussed, dissected, and often lampooned. However, without delving too deep into spoiler territory I will at least say that going in I would've expected the examination to be centered on (view spoiler)

That being said, the book is docked one star in the rating, because in my opinion the preponderance of philosophy bandied about through out Stranger in a Strange Land is almost too much to bare. Some of it was downright delicious, some I could swallow, some I refused, while some I spat out as idealistic nonsense. Heinlein was not so naive as to believe all the dogma he wrote. He created characters to voice these disparate ideas, values, opinions, etc. Take them as you will, he seems to be saying. The important thing is that you listen with an open mind.
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Comments (showing 1-44 of 44) (44 new)

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message 1: by Bee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bee Oh dude, how I wish I were reading this for the first time! What an adventure!


Richard Derus Hadn't thought of The Symposium parallel! Iiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnteresting. *ponders*


Jason Koivu Richard wrote: "Hadn't thought of The Symposium parallel! Iiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnteresting. *ponders*"

When you read it you didn't feel like Jubal Harshaw was playing Socrates just a little bit? Maybe he wasn't exactly giving questions for answers, but as "king brain" of the group (especially during the middle section when Smith was learning everything) he definitely was reluctant to dole out intellectual commandments even though it was desired of him.


Richard Derus I do see that, and am intrigued. I'll have to re-read it with this new parallel in mind.

DAMN. YOU. ANYWAY!


Jason Koivu Richard wrote: "I do see that, and am intrigued. I'll have to re-read it with this new parallel in mind.

DAMN. YOU. ANYWAY!"


Hey, be thankful I didn't make this intriguing parallel with one of the Twilight books!


Richard Derus Heh. That would have no effect on me, except to reduce my respect for your taste to zero as it would mean you'd read and thought about a Twilight book.


Jason Koivu Richard wrote: "Heh. That would have no effect on me, except to reduce my respect for your taste to zero as it would mean you'd read and thought about a Twilight book."

The only way in which I've seriously considered the Twilight series is in the fact that my wife bought the boxed set, which sits on the shelf in its original plastic wrap taunting me with its girth and weight as our impending move into a new place approaches. I will NOT go down with a bad back because of shitty books!


Richard Derus Threaten divorce if the offending tomes are not disposed of properly, meaning "elsewhere".


Jason Koivu Richard wrote: "Threaten divorce if the offending tomes are not disposed of properly, meaning "elsewhere"."

That would be a hollow threat. She knows no one else will have me...


Richard Derus Hang around this place as a single, straight male. You will not lack for feminine companionship for very long, this I promise you.


Jason Koivu Richard wrote: "Hang around this place as a single, straight male. You will not lack for feminine companionship for very long, this I promise you."

Yeah, I've already had some "less than reputable" advances. I was surprised, what with this being a site for bookworms. Ah but this is the world wide interwebs.


Richard Derus Think about it from their perspective: A man who demonstrably isn't an idiot, cares about books, and likes girls--TARGET ACQUIRED LAUNCH SEQUENCE INITIATED WARP FACTOR TEN MR. SULU


Jason Koivu Richard wrote: "Think about it from their perspective: A man who demonstrably isn't an idiot, cares about books, and likes girls--TARGET ACQUIRED LAUNCH SEQUENCE INITIATED WARP FACTOR TEN MR. SULU"

Lol! Has your profile pic made you the target of any "misguided" missiles yet? Or is your intention to attract some young stud scud missile unaware of this "elderly" Olympic statesman? (I kid, I kid!)


Richard Derus I've never had any illicit proposals from the boys, dammit. Some several from the ladies, poor desparate lambs.

Sweetienubbins, being all of 20, keeps me fully occupied. He keeps threatening to join the site so he can monitor my doins.

Although with your impending Twilight-inspired divorce...*extra bright smile*


Jason Koivu Well I'll warn you, I'm a gold-digger, so you better be loaded!


Richard Derus LOL

If you like lint, I've got your dream pockets.


Jason Koivu Richard wrote: "LOL

If you like lint, I've got your dream pockets."


Only if it's spun from silk and gold.


Richard Derus If it was, I'd be wearing someone else's trousers.


Jemima Pett Sigh. Parallel with Twilight, eh. Hope Twilight is considered a classic of its genre in 40 years time :)

Paraphrasing what Bee said, O lucky man to be reading it for the first time. I think I read it in 1968 when it was causing a huge stir. Place the philosophy in context then, and you understand its reach. I still rate Time Enough for Love higher though.

Maybe I should read it again.


Jason Koivu Jemima, I understood that the book's philosophical stance was a big hit with the kids in the late '60s. I intentionally avoided making that connection in my review. Some "hippie" culture and ideals were good, some didn't work in my opinion, but I didn't want to turn the review into a debate on the subject. I tend to keep my reviews short, occasionally at the detriment of my own thoughts and opinions.


Jemima Pett Oh I really liked your review, don't get me wrong! It's just funny (amusing) looking at it now and in context then. It was also interesting that the Who's Tommy came out around the same time, with a similar development of the stranger+religion/cult aspect. I wonder how people will look back on Twilight and many other hits of our time?


Jason Koivu Well it seems that Stranger was vilified by the press and adored by the kids when it came out and the same happened to Twilight, so perhaps you're right. Maybe it's like the Monkees. My dad hated them and, maybe even more so, hated that I liked listening to them as a little kid in the 80s when their music to me was nothing more than fun entertainment, not the society-destroying, confectionary catastrophe he viewed them as.


Richard Derus Jason wrote: "Well it seems that Stranger was vilified by the press and adored by the kids when it came out and the same happened to Twilight, so perhaps you're right. Maybe it's like the Monkees. My dad hated t..."

So your dad and I are about the same age? Within a decade, I'd say. The Monkees strike me now as on of the signs of the Apocalypse. Then, I had my first full-blown crush on Davy Jones. Perhaps because he was so close to my height.


Jason Koivu He definitely had a hobbit-like adorableness about him. Funny thing though how the more popular of the group's songs were sung, not by the singer, but Micky, the drummer.


Richard Derus "LAst Train to Clarksville", "I'm a Believer" were Micky Dolenz (grew up on my block in Los Gatos); "Daydream Believer" was Davy; "Steppin' Stone" I don't remember who sang. I'm sure there were other hits but my brain, soi disant, can't bring them up. What's your list?


Jason Koivu Wasn't "Steppin' Stone" Dolenz as well?...Yes, I just fact-checked it. The four songs you mentioned are the big ones and predictably they're my favorites. I haven't listened to one of their albums in about 25-30 years, so I'm not a very devote fan as you can see. I'm more of an ABBA kind of man.


Richard Derus If you're all alone
when the pretty birds have flown
Honey I'm still free
take a chance on me

Gonna do my very best
and it ain't no lie
If you put me to the test
if you let me try

Oh my heck yes. Blasted that out of my aftermarket four-speaker stereo in my 1968 Bonneville.

Heh. So uncool, the Monkees and ABBA, and I never gave a rat's then, or now. Course, I also liked Pat Metheny and the Go-Gos and Genesis and Peter Gabriel.


Jason Koivu When I was a lad I used to sing "Fernando!" with such gusto and aching emotion that it later had me wondering which team I batted for...


Richard Derus Heh. An unprofitable question, that one. I guess it's important to make a choice in the world we live in, but really, shouldn't all that sex stuff be left to the mood of the moment? At least until ring exchange time. I do see the point of fidelity in new relationships, reinforcing the choice the parties have made. But after a while, whatever while there needs to be, what's the harm in some extracurricular whoopee?

Third time lucky on that, wife-wise. Now of course she's married to someone else, but it was a good run.


Jason Koivu Richard wrote: "Heh. An unprofitable question, that one. I guess it's important to make a choice in the world we live in, but really, shouldn't all that sex stuff be left to the mood of the moment? At least until ..."

"But it was a good run"...LOL! Love that phrase when it's applied to relationships. Makes it sound like horse breeding.


Richard Derus It closely resembles horse breeding, building a relationship. Considering the ancestry is an overlooked facet of determining compatibility. What was mom like? That's what a man will shop for, never mind the playtoys on the front. If he's got some self-awareness, he'll shop for the opposite. But either way, there's mom, right in the middle of his forehead.


Jason Koivu There's definitely some truth to that. I sized up my wife's parents when she and I first got together. (Her mom's 5' at the most and her dad's 6'4", so there was some literal sizing up going on as well.)


Richard Derus Heh. My parents were similarly mismatched: 5' and 6'2". He never had a wife (of five, mama first) that exceeded 5'3".


Jason Koivu Richard wrote: "Heh. My parents were similarly mismatched: 5' and 6'2". He never had a wife (of five, mama first) that exceeded 5'3"."

Five wives?! Oh I would've given up long before then.


Richard Derus I use my dad's marital history as the source of the concept "the triumph of hope over experience."


Jason Koivu Richard wrote: "I use my dad's marital history as the source of the concept "the triumph of hope over experience.""

That's a good way to put a nice spin on it. Knowing me, after the third wife, my heart would've turned into a hard, black pit.


Richard Derus I suspect his did that after my stepmother, the second. Poor old guy.


message 38: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Bodine Yep! Plato's Symposium s good description. But I would also add 'Stranger' reminds me also of a little of Mark Twain's "Letters From the Earth," and also somewhat the kinkiness and flavor of 'The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster."


Jason Koivu Mike wrote: "Yep! Plato's Symposium s good description. But I would also add 'Stranger' reminds me also of a little of Mark Twain's "Letters From the Earth," and also somewhat the kinkiness and flavor of 'Th..."

I am going to have to look into this "The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster" if for no other reason than the name. Thank you for that!


Richard Derus May His Noodly Appendage touch your very soul.

Ramen.


Jason Koivu Richard Reviles Censorship wrote: "May His Noodly Appendage touch your very soul.

Ramen."


Nice.


Richard Derus I'm an old Pastafarian.


Jeremy Maddux I think this book is a fine example to point to when referencing books that are just too talky for their own good. A book has to have heart and soul too, some kind of plot elevation, and the ending feels forced and sandwiched in.


Jason Koivu Jeremy wrote: "I think this book is a fine example to point to when referencing books that are just too talky for their own good. A book has to have heart and soul too, some kind of plot elevation, and the ending..."

I'd have to agree with you, Jeremy.


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