Hey! Randy

Themes of Interest

Posted by heyrandy on February 22, 2011

Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein, 1961.

Science fiction suffers from innate hokeyness. This is an insuperable problem. So science fiction starts off with a real handicap. I think this is why there is no one who considers sci-fi to be a real art genre. The genre is ignored by all serious students of literature. Mystery novels are also ignored. They too have their share of hokeyness, but it is not as bad as sci-fi. Sci-fi would not be improved by the inclusion of French windows.

Heinlein’s book is easy to summarize: a human conceived in adultery and born on the way to Mars is the sole survivor of the ship’s crash. Orphaned on Mars, he is raised by Martians for twenty-five years until the next ship arrives. He returns to earth exercising supernatural powers and starts a quasi-religious sex cult. He dies at the hands of a mob while he tells them that “Thou art God.” Archaic English still sounds correct when used to express religious ideas.

What happens else happens is a vehicle to carry Heinlein’s libertarian philosophy to his readers. There are many hits on Christianity in particular and religion in general. The Man from Mars, Valentine Michael Smith, plays against the other major character (most likely representing Heinlein), Jubal Harshaw, lawyer, medical doctor, libertarian, and curmudgeon.

The book’s cover states that this book is “the most famous science fiction novel ever written.” The title is great, but the rest is mediocre. I was intrigued in the beginning but lost interest about half way through. I finished the book merely to see how Heinlein would end it. I will spoil the surprise: Harshaw et al live to carry on Smith’s work. I am glad it is fiction.

Heinlein give expression to property rights, personal privacy, totalitarian government (the world has united into a grand federation, like on Star Trek. Trite.) and various legal issues regarding inheritance. This is the best part of the book.

For sci-fi fans the book may be of interest, but I am not a sci-fi fan.



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