When I first picked up my copy of Stranger in a Strange Land, the first thing that caught my eye was a little blurb on the front cover. It stated ‘The most famous science fiction novel ever written.’ I was surprised to read this, mostly because until last year I’d never heard anybody talk about this book. When I hear people talk about famous science fiction they always mention Asimov’s works or Dune, never this book. A quick google search of the most famous science fiction novel showed that it was in the top ten, but never listed as number one. I’m not sure who said that it was the most famous, but I’d like to hear their reasoning. If anyone has any idea who awarded the distinction please let me know.
As for the content, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book. I must admit that it is a very detailed insight into society and religion, but the story itself fell flat for me. I felt that Heinlein just used his characters as vessels to spout his various ideologies. This was the first Heinlein book I’ve read and maybe that is typical of his works, but to me it felt a little pandering.
The story follows Michael Valentine Smith, a human being born on Mars, as he returns to Earth for the first time and must learn our customs. Michael was raised by Martians and has inhuman abilities such as telekinesis and the ability to stop and restart his heart at will. The first half of the book details the efforts of his allies to secure his inherited fortunes and guarantee his safety. This was my favorite part of the book. I enjoyed the logic exercises involved here and Jubal Harshaw is one of my favorite characters in recent memory.
The second half of the book is a full examination of religions and churches. This is the part of the book that lost my interest. Michael starts his own religion and this causes a ripple through established religions throughout the world. The insights into religion are interesting and well thought out, but this goes on for far too long.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. I found the second half a little dense and hard to get through, but the storyline driving the examinations stays interesting. If it had focused a little more on the story I would have enjoyed it a lot more.
Other than Stranger in a Strange Land, it’s pretty quiet on my science fiction front. I’ve been working on some short stories and my scifi reeducation has taken a back seat. I’m still making my way through The Clone Wars animated series and it’s still pretty great. I never expected to care about the clone army, but the series does a good job of humanizing soldiers who are portrayed as expendable in the movie series.
Anyway, if you’d like to discuss Stranger in a Strange Land or talk about how awesome The Clone Wars series is, feel free to send me a message or tweet me @left4turtle.