Book Review: Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein (3 Stars)

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein

2.5-3 out of 5 stars

Read in October 2008

Warning: Spoilers

I read this for the GoodReads SciFi and Fantasy book club hear at GoodReads. It’s also the first Heinlein I remember reading (circa October 2008).

I found the first part of this book, probably the first half or so, to be a great story and mostly a science fiction story that I could really enjoy. An expedition to Mars ceases communicating with Earth and a rescue mission is not launched for several years. The only survivor of the original expedition isn’t even one of the original crew members, but the offspring of one of the couples. He has been raised by Martians from birth (his mother died bearing him and his father died as well). So he has no common points of references with humans. He is transported to Earth and kept under heavy guard at a medical facility until his body can acclimate to Earth’s environment and gravity.

Access to “the Man from Mars” is strictly regulated and you can start to see the political plotting and machinations within the first chapter or so. However, once the Man from Mars makes his escape from his governmental custodians, and furthers his education of all things Earth-like or human-like, Heinlein attempts to preach his vision of society. Subtle it is not.

The culmination of Mike’s teachings leads to his martyrdom but it felt dissatisfying to me, perhaps even hollow. It’s easy to change the world around you when you have unlimited wealth and unlimited power (abilities he was taught by the Martians). It left me wondering, if he had been left on a street corner with no wealth, no friends, nothing at all, would he have made any impact on our society?

Back in the early 60s, all of these new ideas about sex and religion and gender roles was probably shocking. Some of it is still a bit shocking to me, and I grew up in the 60s.

Better than 2.5 stars, but not quite a 3 star for me.  I’m glad I read this Hugo winner from Heinlein.

Update April 2013:  Since October 2008, I’ve read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Starship Troopers, both of which I enjoyed and liked much better than this novel.

One thought on “Book Review: Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein (3 Stars)”

  1. Euuuugh, this.

    I agree with this post. I enjoyed the book right up until Mike’s cult became the main focus. The book was well-written from beginning to end, but I just found the second half to be boring.

    I’ve since read The Puppet Masters, which I thought was a lot better. I will almost certainly read more Heinlein books in the future.

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