Sunday, October 2, 2011

Stranger in a Strange Land

Stranger in a Strange LandStranger in a Strange Land – Robert A. Heinlein
Evan’s ESS = 6 out of 10
Erin’s ESS =  out of 10
Content = R (Adult Content, Violence, Sexual Content, Annoying Vocabulary, Water)

Why:  For almost six months it’s sat in the back of the closet, collecting dust and fallen winter coats.   Even now we wish we didn’t have to use it, especially given the high risk of aggravating our seasonal allergies.  Alas, we are left with little choice.  Pardon us for a second while we retrieve our abnormally large SOAP BOX.  Actually, this might take more than a second....

Born to humans, yet nurtured almost entirely by Martians on the planet (you guessed it) Mars, Valentine Michael Smith arrives on planet Earth to a whole lot of fan fair and speculation.   Almost immediately he’s thrust into a massive government conspiracy involving inheritance and possible ownership of the infamous red planet.  Fortunately, Mike is befriended by a couple individuals that help him navigate his celebrity status along with the tricky legal waters.  It also turns out that Mike has some pretty nifty brain superpowers that turn out to be quite useful.  If only Mike can secure his freedom, the world as we know could be his playground.            

What started as a very interesting story about blackmail, kidnapping, and the cultural differences between earth and mars, digressed into a diatribe against religion and well... religion.  The first half of Stranger in a Strange Land was seriously intriguing (top 5 science fiction ever potential) and then, as soon as Mike goes on his journey of self-exploration the train derailed.  We may be spoiling the plot here a bit, but we blame it on the whole soap box thing.  With an endless supply of cash, what does the Martian decide to do?  Yep, join the traveling circus, and when that doesn’t work out so well, he decides that his female companion should become a showgirl out west.  We’re not judging, but really?
Now, let’s take a moment to discuss a newly invented and frequently used word within Stranger in a Strange Land.  Merriam-Webster’s definition of GROK is “to understand profoundly and intuitively.”  Mike the Martian introduces this word and uses it regularly.  He even goes so far as to suggest that people of the earth do not have the ability to grok anything because they don’t have the mental capacity to do so.  Yet, near the end of the book his close circle of friends seem to grok everything without hesitation.  This might seem like a little thing, but for some reason this word really aggravated us by the end of the novel.  

Finally, we liked the fact that Stranger in the Strange Land challenged so many cultural norms, and as Christians, some of the criticism directed at established religion was fair and understandable.  But then everything got all muddled up with the advocating of free love, the glorification of pornography, and some of the demeaning attitudes towards woman.  By the end it felt like Heinlein was trying to punch holes in so many hot issues that even his credible arguments eventually lost all credibility.  More importantly they lost our interest.    

Whew, now we’re starting to sweat, which means it time to be done.  In summation, we did not grok this novel nor do we grok its widespread appeal.

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm...I always like to wonder what people in the future will say about this book if they don't have to deal with these issues themselves.