September 20, 2013

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlen

I thought this was supposed to be science fiction? Or at least, that's what everyone (including the cover says). But anyways, this is a classic in a lot of people's eyes. And since I've heard nothing but good things about it, I thought I'd give it a try.

The world is in an uproar when a space mission to Mars discovers the wrecked remains of a crew that was sent years earlier. Mainly they're in an uproar because they found the son of two of the crew living among the native Martians and very strange in his own way. He is brought to Earth, where it is thought to use him in intrigues, and possibly control him because due to inheritance, he is also very rich. But a group of people who don't want to see him disappear make plans to get him out of the government's clutches. The only thing is, they have no idea what they're in for.

Michael Valentine Smith, the "martian" is a strange character. He's not supposed to be quite human since he was raised by Martians. But he also is human, with normal human genetics. So that makes things puzzling at times. Jill is probably the other main character that travels with Mike a lot but I never felt as if she had a fully developed personality. She kind of mirrors Mike in a lot of ways, sometimes intentional, sometimes not. It's actually a flaw with most of the feminine characters in this book. And then there's Jubal, the lawyer/writer/so many other things. He's interesting, and has a sense of humor, and I actually found myself liking him even if he was somewhat chauvinistic. There were a lot of people to keep track of in the book. And since a lot of them had the same personalities, you didn't really distinguish between them. Which actually kept some complications down while reading.

I said before I thought this was science fiction. Yeah, the guy is from Mars. But honestly, the whole story could have happened with him being from Earth in any time rather than in the future and from Mars. It was more philosophical than science fiction. With some politics thrown in at the beginning. I actually did enjoy the writing. It was descriptive without being flowery and moved at a smooth pace, despite it being a long book. That being said, there was one sentence in the book that really kind of ruined it for me. "Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it's partly her fault (pg. 304)." That quote, along with the way females are portrayed in this book just made me sick to my stomach and wiped out most of the enjoyment of reading the book for me. I almost stopped reading there, and wished I would have as it just devolved into more of a theological/spiritual/alternative lifestyles experiment than a book about a guy from Mars and political book. I'm not normally against those things, but it just seemed to be a completely different story than what it started out as and going for more shock value than anything else.

A book that was sadly taken down by a few ideas I just couldn't stand. As a result I don't know if I'll be reading any more Heinlen in the near future.

A Stranger in a Strange Land
Copyright 1961
438 pages


  1. Heinlein is hard to read. While his books take place in the future, his 1950's subservient female characters anchor him in the past.
    I like his books, and I really did like Stranger in a Strange Land, but you are right that there are some problems with his character developments at times.

  2. Exactly! I was impressed with his writing itself, just not some of the themes that he used such as the subservience.