Stranger in a Strange Land

Heinlein, Robert. Stranger in a Strange Land. Read by Christopher Hurt. Blackstone Audio, Inc., 1996.
Heinlein, Robert. Stranger in a Strange Land. New York: Ace Books, 2003.

Reason read: July is Heinlein’s birth month. Read and listened to in his honor.

Stranger in a Strange Land is everything you would expect from a 1960s cult classic written six years before the infamous Summer of Love. Originally published in 1961 Stranger’s main character, Valentine Michael Smith, is a far out dude; literally, as he is a man raised by the inhabitants of the planet Mars. His gifts of telekinesis, telepathy, and “grokking” make him a mystic, a guru, and finally a cult leader (once humans dismiss the notion of killing him for being a freak). Being born on Mars, like any good self-respecting alien, he has issues with language barriers and differing cultures once arriving on Earth. His first conflict is not understanding a money-grubbing reporter out to sell his story. His second is not comprehending the female species…two problems that exist for some humans in this day and age. The third and most confusing barrier is understanding his own sexuality. Let me back up. When “Mike Smith” was under the threat of media exploitation, Nurse Jill and a colleague “kidnapped” him to keep him safe. Smith ended up at the home of doctor/lawyer/writer Jubal Harshaw who lives a very Charlie’s Angels kind of existence with three bubbly, beautiful secretaries (one blonde, one brunette and guessed it, redhead).  It is here, at Jubal’s estate in the Poconos mountains that Smith learns about women (after he tries to kiss Jubal and is immediately rebuffed).
A word of warning to those agnostic, atheist or otherwise unmoved by religion. After chapter part three Heinlein gets heavy with the Bible, church, the idea of sin and so forth. It’s a crucial part to the story as Mike starts his own church, becoming that cult leader I spoke of earlier.

As an aside, Jubal’s sarcasm and wit sort of reminded me of Francis Underwood in House of Cards. It didn’t help that Christopher Hurt reads with a slight southern accent.

Quote I liked (From Valentine Michael Smith), “I want to spit back at the camel and ask him what he’s so sour about” (p 383).

Author fact: Heinlein was a military man with the U.S. Navy.

Book trivia: Stranger in a Strange Land won Heinlein his second Hugo Award and is considered by most to be his “masterpiece.” Another piece of book trivia: Three years after Heinlein’s death his wife worked to get Stranger republished in its original, uncut version.

Nancy said: Heinlein is best known for Stranger in a Strange Land according to Pearl. She called it a “cult classic” (p 108).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Robert Heinlein: Too Good To Miss” (p 108).

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