February 2011 BOTM: Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A Heinlein

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Hobbit, Jan 30, 2011.

  1. Ropie

    Ropie Member of the Month™

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    :) I though that - also Martian Time Slip has a tutor robot that runs off punch card! Even Cryptonomicon is already sounding a bit dated - in 1999 a wireless internet link was something worth giving a few paragraphs to and apparently it took 2 minutes for a laptop to log on to one :rolleyes:

    Mark - I have a US edition too. I'm not still paranoid about my version of the book though, don't worry ;)
     
  2. livens

    livens Registered User

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    I read quite a bit today, and Im starting to not like it so much. Reading the dialog between the head nurse and the reporter is a pain. He starts off every sentence with "Hey doll", "shut up and listen little foots"... I understand that was acceptable back then, but I dont think people started every thing they said to a woman that way.

    Also I can see this book turning into loads of political banter. And where is the scifi? I agree with an earlier post that he might as well be from an isolated tribe in the jungle.

    Ill stick with it a while longer. But if it doesnt get better soon Im calling it quits.
     
  3. Ropie

    Ropie Member of the Month™

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    At least get to chapter 23 in the chapel. If not pure SF, it does read like a sort of fascinating and highly amusing alternate history of Western religion. I admit though, 300 pages in it's starting to drag a little and the preachy tone for which Heinlein was famous is becoming more apparent.
     
  4. Erfael

    Erfael Lemurs!!! Staff Member

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    No, Ropie, that was just a turn of phrase. I had no idea there was an actual carnival in the book.
     
  5. Flatlander

    Flatlander Registered User

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    This was the first time I've read this in over a decade, and the only thing I really remembered about it was that it was about a hundred pages longer than it should have been

    On re-reading, that impression hasn't changed. It feels as though a short sequel has been tacked onto the end detailing Smith's subsequent career as a messianic figure, and feels as though it was there merely to provide Heinlein with extra space - it doesn't really feel like it adds anything to the story, more like when somebody ends an argument or discussion by saying "I'm right, you're wrong", with a quarter of the novel devoted to saying that. It's quite a bland novel as well - very dialogue-based with not much happening, but the dialogue isn't particularly interesting. I'd be interested to read the uncut version at some stage to see what was considered "objectionable material" at the time.
     
  6. Hellions

    Hellions Felis silvestris

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    I read quite a few Heinleins in my time though mostly "juveniles" and Stranger is my first true disappointment with the usually reliable RHH. I read the old version and in retrospect it was probably for the best.

    I'll join the chorus of voices which lament the absence of plot in favor of digressions on politics, philosophy, theology... The latter were fairly interesting in themselves but they are patches rather poorly sewn together and in my opinion, the whole does not work properly as a novel.

    There's a thick ironic undercurrent throughout the book. Mike, Jubal and their entourage are hard to take seriously and I found "the most famous science-fiction novel ever written" to be rather farcical. I really could have done without Mike's superpowers which strengthened this feeling and cheapened the story.

    I did enjoy some parts however, there were quite a few great witticisms in the back and forth between Heinlein err... I mean Jubal and his conversational partner of the moment. They couldn't make up for the lack of plot unfortunately and I was glad to reach the end.
     
  7. livens

    livens Registered User

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    Ive decided to stop reading this one.

    After I found out that "The man from Mars" had Psi powers or whatever I lost what little interest I had.
     
  8. MattNY

    MattNY Registered User

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    Why?

    I just am curious, not meaning to question your decision.
     
  9. livens

    livens Registered User

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    On top of my concerns in a previous post about some of the 'over the top' dialog when women are around and the beginnings of political banter... The psi power pushed me over the edge. I am not a fan of it. Especially when it seems that one can simply be taught to do it.

    It really stopped being science fiction for me. The rest of the book promised to be earth-bound; no return trips to Mars. Am I wrong in that assumption?

    But part of me wants to keep reading. I like his prose and I would like to find out what happens and all. Its just the thought of reading through all the fluff to get to it depresses me. Add to that I'm reading the expanded version which is much longer than the original (as printed).

    I would like to add the 'dated-ness' of the book is not what put me off. I have read several older books: The Voyage of the Space Beagle by A. E. van Vogt. I really liked that one.

    So I may go back to it, maybe make a Saturday of finishing it in one go. But for now Ive picked up something else that better suits my tastes.
     
  10. psikeyhackr

    psikeyhackr Live Long & Suffer

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    Psi stuff was a way bigger deal in SF in the 50s and 60s than now. Now it is computers and Artificial Intelligence. So we get Singularity/Transhuman crap in the REAL WORLD. :D

    psik
     
  11. Ropie

    Ropie Member of the Month™

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    I agree with this. I had lost patience with the book by the final chapter anyway and just skimmed through it - whilst seemingly eloquent, Heinlein's long-winded views and opinions added nothing to what had been an interesting story. It was a disappointment and left me feeling I had not enjoyed the book, when I had obviously found a lot to enjoy in the first three quarters. I did like the poetry in the last chapters though.

    Give me a shorter Heinlein next time..
     
  12. IGrokIt

    IGrokIt New Member

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    I've actually owned this book for about two years now. I bought it immediately after finishing Contact by Carl Sagan, because that book just really made me want to dig deeper into the alien/sci-fi world, and I found that Stranger In A Strange Land had so many great reviews. I bought the expanded edition that restored the text Heinlein originally cut out. I tried reading it almost as soon as I received it but the book was just so obviously dated. The slang, the way the characters spoke... it was all kind of a turn off to me. Too 60s, I thought.

    Anyway, I only recently, as in about a week ago decided to give it another shot. After getting past the part I originally gave up on (MINOR SPOILER: Jill was at Caxton's place and Ben was trying to convince her to let him in to see Mike), the book began to grow on me. I'm at about page 307 (They're at the Fosterite service), so I'm more than halfway through it now. I gotta say, I really shouldn't have stopped reading it 2 years ago. It's great. I love reading Michael's interactions with whomever he's interacting at the time. Juball is a 'bad ass' sometimes. Jill was a nice character but later seems to be just another of Juball's errand girls.

    Great book so far and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress seems to be pretty interesting. I MAY give it a go after finishing SIATL.
     
  13. Chekhov

    Chekhov Let me be your gateway

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    The book actually felt much more 50s than 60s to me in a lot of ways. It arrived on the cusp of the sexual revolution and the hippie movement did not arrive until the second half of the decade. Much of the technology is still analog, for example.

    As far as characters go, Mike's attempts to understand (or grok, if you prefer) Earth culture were interesting and very funny. Jubal was likable but kind of a Mary Sue. I wish the story had focused more on Ben Caxton, since he made a good foil to the aforementioned two.

    Oh, and even in the original edition, the book is either too damned long or doesn't move fast enough. It got kind of boring at times when there were just chapters of one character or another railing against religious fundamentalists or sexual mores.
    Well... yes and no. One of the plot points was that Martians are completely different from humans in both physiology and culture; we have no frame of reference for comparison. What seems like magic to us is second nature to them (shades of Clarke's Third Law here).

    But should there have been more focus on technology/space travel? I think so; I would have liked to hear more about what Mars was like and what the mission did there.

    So the consensus on this book seems to be: well-written with many good ideas, but rather dated (understandable, it's half a century old) and overly long and preachy.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2011