Stranger in a Strange Land
is a 1961 science fiction novel by American author Robert A. Heinlein. It tells the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human who has returned to Earth in early adulthood after being raised by Martians on the planet Mars. The novel explores his interaction with—and the eventual transformation of—Earth culture. The title refers to the Biblical Book of Exodus. According to Heinlein, the novel's working title was The Heretic.
Several later editions of the book have promoted it as "The most famous Science Fiction Novel ever written."
When Heinlein first wrote Stranger in a Strange Land
, his editors at Putnam required him to drastically cut its original 220,000-word length down to 160,067 words. Scenes that might have been considered too shocking at the time were removed. In 1962, this version received the Hugo Award for Best Novel.
After Heinlein's death in 1988, his wife Virginia arranged to have the original uncut version of the manuscript published in 1991 by Ace/Putnam. Critics disagree over whether Heinlein's preferred original manuscript is in fact better than the heavily-edited version originally published. There is similar contention over the two versions of Heinlein's Podkayne of Mars
While initially a success among science fiction readers, over the following six years word-of-mouth caused sales to build, requiring numerous subsequent printings of the first Putnam edition. The novel has never been out of print in the US. Eventually Stranger in a Strange Land
became a cult classic, attracting many readers who would not ordinarily read a work of science fiction. The late-1960s counterculture, popularized by the hippie movement, was influenced by its themes of individual liberty, self-responsibility, sexual freedom, and the influence of organized religion on human culture and government, and adopted the book as something of a manifesto.