*** About the Book ***
*** Why I Read It ***
This book is a classic of science fiction and I’d never even heard of it until recently. It won the 1961 Hugo Award so it counts for the Mind Voyages Challenge. Plus it is one of the 1,001 Books To Read Before You Die AND it counts for the LOST Books Challenge. One book that counts for three challenges is a must-read for me. :)
*** Original vs. Revised Editions? ***
When Heinlein first wrote this book his editors insisted that he remove large chunks of it because it was so very different from what was then acceptable in science fiction, and also because some parts would be considered too scandalous. After he passed away, his original manuscript was discovered. When the time came to renew the copyright on the book, his estate decided to publish the original work instead. They reasoned that the book as originally published was completely different than Heinlein had meant for it to be, and they wanted his complete story to be told as he intended it. The revised edition, published in 1991, has almost 100,000 more words than the first edition from 1960.
*** My Thoughts ***
If you’d have asked me my opinion of this book after I’d read about 1/2 of it, I’d have said that I was really enjoying it. It is creative, fun to read, the characters are interesting, and the plot was unexpected. But then, about two-thirds of the way through, it got all preachy and utopian on me. Ugh.
There were a few flaws in this book before that point. The biggest example? The literary treatment of women left MUCH to be desired. All the women were good looking and their sexuality was an integral part of who they are. Not that there is a problem with that, but there was also much of what today we’d term sexual harassment going on, and the women were not allowed to be non-sexual (does that make sense? I’m not sure I’m getting my point across correctly.)
There were also some things that dated the book, but I rather enjoyed those. The news broadcasts in the book reminded me greatly of the radio broadcasters of the 1930s-1940s – the over-the-top personalities, programs sponsored by one product (like a particular brand of soap) with repeated mention of it throughout the show, lots of alliteration by the announcers, and so on. Plus the “newest” inventions either didn’t make sense in today’s world or were dated in other ways. But all that didn’t bother me at all; in fact I enjoyed the book more because of it.
What really bugged me was the last third of the book. Without giving any of the plot away, let’s just say that this section reminded me of a 1960s hippie commune. The book was clearly stating that this is the correct way to live, the only way to be truly fulfilled as a person. It was all a bit much for me. [And to show you how important this idea is to the whole book, and how convincing the author tried to be, there was actually a church founded on the ideas presented in the book.]
I’m really glad I read this book, even if the last section was rather disappointing. I like to be familiar with books that have made a mark on society (this IS a cult classic after all). Oh, and I now understand the work “grok” ...
*** Connection to LOST ***
I don’t recall what happened in the LOST episode entitled “Stranger in a Strange Land” but that could fit any number of situations on the show. In the book the “Man From Mars” is a complete outsider on Earth. Likewise, in the show LOST, there are many characters thrust into groups where they don’t fit or don’t belong.
Here’s what Lostpedia had to say about this book:
- The title of the book is taken in turn from the Bible passage Exodus 2:22: "And she [Zippo'rah] bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.
- Episode Summary: Jack bargains with Ben to save Juliet while Kate and Sawyer struggle with the consequences of their escape.
*** Your Thoughts ***
- Have you ever read this book – either the original or the revised version?
- Are you familiar with any of Heinlein’s MANY other works?
- Do you mind when older books are “dated” by some of the references they use?
- What is your thought on utopian-themed books?