In my last review I brought up a book that was an educational tool, now I will bring up a science fiction book, whose primary purpose was to entertain. First let me bring up some background about the writer. During the fourties fifties and sixties Science fiction had three greats they consisted of the following, the Russian b0rn Isaac Asimov, the British Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Heinlein. While Isaac Asimov and Arthur Clarke focused more on hard science, Heinlein focused on the social sciences. His most famous were Starship Troopers (which is nothing like the movie) Stranger in a Strange Land, and The moon is A Harsh Mistress.
I read the original uncut Stranger In a Strange Land, it has 60,000 more words. I read the majority of the cut version and found it not much more different. The original was much more clumsy so I would only recommend it to anyone who has read the edited version.
Anyway, The story is about the recovery of a man, from Mars. Even though his body is human he is Martian, he thinks like a Martian and practices Martian Religion, his name is Michael Valentine Smith. At the end of part one he is involved in a conspiracy, snuck out under guard, was chased by the mob and was revealed to have psionic powers. Also during the first book it is revealed that if a martian shares water, it means that there is complete trust among them. So in other words anyone who gives water to Michael has his complete and total trust.
Part two explores how he thinks and introduces the most interesting character Jubal Harshaw. Often said to be the alter Ego of the writer, Heinlein. Jubal is a doctor/lawyer who lives with three women. This shows how much a product of its time this book was in exploring concepts like free love. Under Jubal Michael learns about the world and understands how man lives.
In part 3 Michael and a friend of his, Jill. Try to understand the world by moving from place to place. he begins to recruit people into his religion when he travels with a circus. He then goes off and starts proselytizing everyone. People, especially followers of a religion called Fosterism eventually murder him, in the end it is revealed that Michael planned to die for his religion and to attain a higher form of being.
All in all this was an interesting story. It is definitely a product of its time. At first it has fascinating descriptions of the world and is really fun to read. The end is kind of preachy. This is Heinlein giving his own views on religion, not to mention some of his own ideas on practices of the sixties like free love,which were kind of disturbing.
In the past I have called this book the anti “Brave New World” but both are disturbing in their own ways. Brave New World is more a warning about the future, while Stranger In A Strange Land is more hopeful. While BNW is more a preaching against the future SIASL is more a lesson on how to view the universe and a presentation on one mans view of it. Considering the fact that the year is now 2011 that makes this book almost fifty years old. There are some things that everyone will take offense to in it. However I also think that this is a hidden jewel when it comes to the sixties and is often overlooked by historians or writers who reminisce about the 1960’s it has been required reading among college dorms and hippies alike. Some have considered this one of the greatest science ficiton stories of all time. I would not go that far, I would just recommend it to anyone who is curious about the sixties, Robert Heinlein, religion or anyone who just hated Brave New World.
May you never thirst.