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  1. #16
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    But with Heinlein his political and social views are rarely deconstructed. Characters go from one end of a story to the other and appear to have changed only very slightly. His stories are often a "see I told you so" kind of affair.
    Guess what, Sparrow: I agree with this!

    Jubal, for example, is not a character who changes particularly in this book, but is a character who is usually 'right' and therefore doesn't need to change. In fact, the world needs to change to see his point of view, rather than he be changed by the world around him.

    And this is an archetype of the later Heinlein writing in particular: see also Lazarus Long in the Time Enough for Love incarnation.

    What it must be to know everything and be right all the time... and having recently read the recent biography of Heinlein, I'm now getting the impression more than ever before that these characters are who Heinlein wanted to be...

    Hmm.

    So: lets deal with the big question: what is the point of Stranger in a Strange Land? What do readers get/grok from it that they didn't get before?

    Is it that alternate lifestyles are OK, that it's OK to live a life without social restrictions, or at least less than 'normal society' would suggest? That different is fine and that we are really all different? Might explain that attraction of the 1960's...

    Or is it that it points out that we're all going to hell in a handcart and that society needs to change if we are to continue/evolve?

    Thoughts please!

    Mark
    Mark

  2. #17
    Member of the Month™ Ropie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hobbit View Post
    if Smith had just been an 'outsider' from say, an unexplored area of the Amazon rainforest, would it matter?
    It may have given a different flavour, and the fact that Mike (Mike!) is from Mars allows Heinlein a free reign with regards to his special powers and (on occasion) absolute dim-wittedness which both bring in a lot of new plot devices and humour. That said, the way Mars is described does make it sound a bit like a far off region of South America! And the fact that the book doesn't really deal with tight SF ideas most of the time is not a problem for me, as long as it keeps me reading for whatever reason.

    having recently read the recent biography of Heinlein, I'm now getting the impression more than ever before that these characters are who Heinlein wanted to be...
    Yes - I don't know much about Heinlein but I get the feeling that Jubal is close to a fictionalized Heinlein in this tale.

    what is the point of Stranger in a Strange Land?
    I'm still only 2/3 of the way through so can't fully answer this. However, I have to say the first scene in the Fosterite chapel (with the fruit machine and the dancers, etc) was absolutely some of the best writing I've encountered in SF for some time. Brilliantly paced, very funny and packed full of ideas; so entertainment would figure highly as a 'point'.

  3. #18
    Member of the Month™ Ropie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erfael View Post
    I got tired of the carnival ride around that 200 page mark and put it aside.
    I have just got to the carnival chapter (I'm reading SIASL side by side with other books) but it's more like page 280 in my copy. Is this literally where you gave up, Erf?

  4. #19
    Administrator Administrator Hobbit's Avatar
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    Might be a difference in printing, Ropie? UK/US editions can vary sometimes.

    Mark
    Mark

  5. #20
    Registered User livens's Avatar
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    Wouldnt you know it, walked into my bookstore today and there was a 1991 hardback for $3... It seems they always get in the SFFWorld BOTM just in time

    So far I like the prose, but its definitely dated to the 1960's. Space travel and we're still using punch card computers lol!

    But the dated tech doesn't bother me, I think its fun to read and cool to see the 1960 perspective of things. So Ill keep reading.

  6. #21
    Member of the Month™ Ropie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by livens View Post
    So far I like the prose, but its definitely dated to the 1960's. Space travel and we're still using punch card computers lol!
    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

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

  7. #22
    Registered User livens's Avatar
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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.

  8. #23
    Member of the Month™ Ropie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by livens View Post
    Ill stick with it a while longer. But if it doesnt get better soon Im calling it quits.
    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.

  9. #24
    Lemurs!!! Moderator Erfael's Avatar
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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.

  10. #25
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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.

  11. #26
    Felis silvestris Hellions's Avatar
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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.

  12. #27
    Registered User livens's Avatar
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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.

  13. #28
    Registered User MattNY's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by livens View Post
    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.
    Why?

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

  14. #29
    Registered User livens's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MattNY View Post
    Why?

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

  15. #30
    Live Long & Suffer psikeyhackr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by livens View Post
    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.
    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.

    psik

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