Craig Williams's Reviews > Stranger in a Strange Land

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
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Jun 28, 2012

Read from June 28 to August 18, 2012

I had been told by no less than three people how amazing this book was, so I made it a priority to read. I had always meant to read a little Heinlein, especially after watching Starship Troopers in high school (which hardly seems like a good example, but whatever gets the kids readin', right?). At first, I didn't grok the appeal of this book at all - the dialogue was silly and read very much like a product of the times it was written in. The characters in the book were incredibly 2-dimensional and, again, the product of the time the book was written in (although I loved Jubal Harshaw, who was obviously Heinlein writing himself in). However, fullness was still waiting for me to grok this book, for I was just an egg. About halfway through the book, it dawned on me that the appeal of the book didn't really lye in the characters or even the story, so much as the message and philosophy behind the story. What a philosophy it was too. If anyone knows where I can find a Martian cult that regularly engages in orgies, please let me know. I am ready to share water with them.

Of course, there's more to the philosophy going on here than "orgies are fun". Mike the Martian's way of life sort of boils down to Tantric Buddhism, that is, enlightenment can only be gained by sex, and sex can only lead to enlightenment when one has dropped the predilection society has imposed on itself to associate sex with something shameful and dirty. Heinlein manages to accomplish what any good sci-fi is supposed to: explore a facet of humanity, but shroud it with enough science fiction hoopla to "Trojan horse" it into the mass consciousness. People initially read this book believing to be a "fish out of water" tale about an alien trying to cope with living on Earth, and then out of nowhere, the rug gets pulled out from under them and now they're reading a "counter culture" book about sexual freedom being the key to Utopia.

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