Stranger in a Strange Land

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stranger.gif

Robert Heinlein

GENRES:
Sci-Fi, Satire

SUMMARY
Valentine Michael Smith was born on Mars after a botched colonization attempt failed. He was raised by mysterious Martians and knows nothing of humans or their societies. The novel opens when Mike is "rescued" and journeys to Earth where he is essentially kept prisoner. Of course he escapes with the help of a nurse named Jill. Together they seek refuge with an eccentric millionaire, Jubal, and his odd household.

During this time at Jubal's, Mike learns some of what it means to be human. Conversely, the rest of the characters learn what it is to be Martian. With Mike's help, they learn to grok each other and their potential powers.

Eventually Jill and Mike leave the sanctuary of Jubal's so Mike can better grok humanity. They join a circus (no kidding) where they meet Patty, an aging tattooed lady. With her help and the rest of Mike's friends, they found an organization dedicated to promoting Martian philosophy and culture.

Within the pretext of a church, Mike converts hundreds of people to his way of thinking. Group sex, nudity, and telepathic powers are just some of the perks of his church. The organization eventually seems to crumble as outside persecution threatens from the rest of society, but Martian Mike has more up his sleeve.


RESPONSE:
I first read this book when I was about 13. I was entertained by the story and intrigued by the free lovin', but I didn't really understand why 'Stranger in a Strange Land' was considered a classic scifi satire.

I reread this book more recently and honestly adored it. By our responses to Mike's actions and comments, we see just how anal retentive and cynical our western culture can be. Just try not to flinch when Mike goes on about that water brother mysticism. But, if you stop to think about it, Mike's rituals are really no different than many religions. I'm sure that's not coincidence.

Jubal was by far my favorite character. He was intelligent and wise (often different things) with a spark of blunt honesty that made him witty and profound. It is through his rationale that Mike's way of life becomes truly validated.

I loved how almost every single character, even skeptic Ben, was turned over to the Martian way of thinking by the end of the novel. It left no "normal" character for the reader to identify with. Thus, you had to at least partially understand Mike's off-kilter way of thinking. In this way, everything was turned upside-down, but it seemed almost normal.

Like most of Heinlein's books, 'Stranger' is fast-paced so you won't get bored even with an attention span like mine. It's also an extremely funny satire on society, especially worship and religion. The entire story is a pretty obvious parody of many religions' absurdity and intolerance, but in case you didn't get it, the conclusion is such a blatant slap in the face that you'll either laugh your ass off or throw the book down in disgust.

POINT BLANK:
Read it. Where else can you impress your friends by discussing the social meaning behind religious orgies in a scifi book?